S.t. Coleridge: A Splendid Failure


S. T. Coleridge (1772-1834) received his early education at Christ's Hospital and Jesus College. His father was the vicar of Ottery St. Mary, Devon. His greatest works of literary criticism are ‘Biographia Literaria’ (1817) and ‘Lectures on Shakespeare and Other Poets’. Shelley (1792-1822) wrote about him:

You will see Coleridge-he who sits obscure
In the exceeding lustre and the pure
Intense irradiation of a mind,
Which, with its own internal lightnings blind,
Flags wearily through darkness and despair.

His criticism as 'chaotic and tentative' written by 'a muddle-brained metaphysician'. This is due to Coleridge’s slavery to opium. This addiction paralyzed his

energies. “The weakness of will was doubled by disease, and trebled by opium, and his poetic life, even his philosophic work was a splendid failure” (S. A. Brooke).
Coleridge defines Imagination in a very apt and lucid manner:
The Primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime Agent of all Perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the finite I Am. The Secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will…It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate, or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealise and to unify.
-Biographia Literaria, XIII.

Coleridge was not only a great critic, but also a great poet. His friendship
with Wordsworth in 1795 resulted in the publication of Lyrical Ballads (1798), which included his greatest poem ‘The Ancient Mariner’. M. R. Ridley says that ‘Ancient Mariner’ comes nearest to achieving an impossible, the impossibility of writing a genuine ballad. The poem contains the immortal lines:

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Coleridge's Kubla Khan (1798) is a masterpiece describing the poet's dream experience:

A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!

“From his childhood he hungered for eternity.” Walter Pater says, “ More than Childe Harold, more than Werther, more than Rene himself, Coleridge, by what he did, what he was, and what he failed to do, represents that inexhaustible discontent, languor, and home-sickness, that endless regret, the chords of which ring all through our modern literature.”

Article Written By peter09

peter09 is a blogger at Expertscolumn.com

Last updated on 25-07-2016 74 0

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