S.T. Coleridge: A Poet
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the greatest romantic poets of England. He was not only a poet but a great literary critic and philosopher. He along with William Wordsworth wrote Lyrical Ballads. English Romantic Movement started with this fantastic composition. As a poet he showed his poetic talent in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Frost at Midnight and Dejection: An Ode. His Biographia Literaria appeared as the most important work of general literary criticism.
Coleridge was born on 21 October, 1772 at Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England. He completed his secondary education from Christ’s Hospital in London. From his childhood he was a voracious reader. For higher education he went to Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1791. As a student he faced great financial difficulties. He left Cambridge and became a public lecturer at Bristol. In October 1795 he married Sara Fricker. In the same year he became familiar with William Wordsworth. Together they started the most influential creative period of English Literature.
As a poet Coleridge developed an informal mode of poetry. It was completely a new mode. In this informal mode he used a conversational tone and rhythm to give unity to his poem. His poems directly and deeply influenced nearly all the major poets of the age. Even great poet like William Wordsworth was dependent on his professional advice. It is said that William Wordsworth became so famous because he accepted Coleridge’s idea of utilising common, everyday language to express profound poetic images and ideas.
The notable poetic works of Coleridge are The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, Kubla Khan, Frost at Midnight and Dejection: An Ode. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is Coleridge’s chief contribution to the Lyrical Ballads that was published in 1798. It is the masterpiece of the poet. This masterpiece is about a seaman who is on a voyage. It narrates the tale of the misfortunes of that seaman who commits a sin of killing an innocent albatross on the way. The albatross has been one of God's beloved creatures. It means he commits a sin against both Nature and God. For this sin he spends the rest of his life in repentance. Thus the major themes of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are sin and repentance. This long poem is rich in its meter, rhyme, and melody.
Kubla Khan is a very popular poem by Coleridge. It was published in 1816. This poem is based on poet’s dream. It is considered as a fragment. The interaction between man and nature is a major theme of this poem. This poem describes Xanadu, the palace of Kubla Khan, a Mongol emperor. The dream-like atmosphere of this poem makes it a fantastic romantic poem. Fancy and imagination are at the centre of the poem. The first part of the poem deals with the description of Kubla Khan’s pleasure dome and the second part of this poem deals with the creative power of a poet.
Full of strange melody, Christabel is a long narrative ballad by Coleridge. It is the story of a young girl named Christabel. It deals with this young girl’s encounter with a stranger called Geraldine, a lady in distress. Christabel deals with the theme of sin versus religiosity, evil versus devoutness, and sexuality versus purity. Here the central character Christabel represents purity, religiosity and devoutness whereas Geraldine symbolizes evil, sin and sexuality.
Coleridge celebrates nature in his poems. His beautiful poem Frost at Midnight is a thoughtful meditation on nature. It presents an account of the quiet frosty night in Somerset. Coleridge’s tone is melancholy and somber in his poetry. His melancholy tone can easily be seen in the poem Dejection: An Ode. It also appears in the first part of Frost at Midnight.
The writing style of Coleridge is praiseworthy. It is satisfying. The events in the poems of this poet are not unconnected like dreams or hallucinations. The poet has introduced supernatural elements in his poetry. He also has introduced the willing suspension of disbelief. He has employed magic realism. The elements of medievalism are also present in the poems of Coleridge. The use of conversational style is a significant part of his writing style. Most of the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is lyrical. His poetry has song-like qualities.
No doubt, Coleridge is one of the most significant poets of English literature. He established himself as one of the leading poets of the eighteenth century.