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Sociologia Spagnolo Storia Tedesco » Umanistiche » Appunti di Inglese » Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( 1772 – 1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( 1772 – 1834)

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Scarica gratis Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( 1772 – 1834)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge ( 1772 – 1834)


Life and main works

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in Devonshire in 1772. He soon displayed prodigious talents as a natural orator and later went to study in Cambridge. He was heavily influenced by French revolutionary ideals.

After the disillusionment with the French Revolution, he planned to establish a community in Pennsylvania under the name of “Pantisocracy”, where every economic activity was done in common and private ownership did not exist, in order to provide labour and peace. This project came to nothing in the end.

In 1794 Coleridge married Sarah Fricker.

In 1797 he met the poet William Wordsworth and settled in Somerset. Most of his best poetry belongs to these years:

-      The rime of the ancient Mariner; his masterpiece, is concerned with the supernatural. It is the first poem of the collection Lyrical Ballads.

-      Christabel; an unfinished poem, set in Middle Ages, about a young girl under a witch’s spell.

-      Kubla Khan; again unfinished.

In the winter of 1798-1799 Coleridge went to Germany with Wordsworth, after his return his political inclinations became conservative. In 1799 he joined Wordsworth and his sister in the Lake District. Coleridge fell in love with Sarah Hutchinson.

The lectures he gave on Shakespeare between 1808 and 1818 laid the foundations of Shakespearian criticism.

Finally he settled in London, where he produced Biographia Literaria (1817), a classic text of literary criticism and autobiography. Here he explained the dual task which he and Wordsworth had set themselves in the Lyrical Ballads.

He died in 1834.

Prose and poetic works

The output of Coleridge was relatively small; this was due to his notoriously insecure and inconstant character.

The small number of poems he wrote has become an essential part of English literary history.

Importance of imagination

Coleridge stressed the role of imagination. He distinguished between “primary” and “secondary” imagination.

He described “primary imagination” as a fusion of perception. It was also the power to give chaos a certain order. “Primary imagination” – joining the world of thought with the world of things.

“Secondary imagination” – dissolves, diffuses, in order to re-create. It was the poetic faculty, which not only gave a shape and order to a given world, but built new worlds.

The power of fancy

Imagination was more important than fancy, was based on the power of association of material and subject to the rational law of judgement.

To the elements of fancy Coleridge added the power of associating them into a new unity. In using the secondary imagination Coleridge believed the poet was free to rise above the 18th century conventions, in order to create something in the true sense of the world.

Importance of nature

Coleridge did not view nature as a moral guide or a source of consolation and happiness. His strong Christian faith did not allow him to identify nature with the divine. He rather saw nature and the material world in a sort of neo Platonic interpretation. The material world is nothing but the protection of the real world of Ideas on the flux time.

Other themes. The language

Interest in exotic, in the medieval period, characteristic features of Romanticism. There is a archaic language, connected to the old ballads, rich in alliteration, repetition and onomatopoeia.

The rime of the ancient Mariner


-      It is introduced by an “Argument” containing a short summary of the whole poem: one is made up of the captions to the right of the stanzas, which introduce the protagonist and his listener; the other is the poem itself, which deals with the extraordinary adventures of the Mariner.

-      The ancient Mariner stops a wedding. He narrates how he and his fellow mariners reached the equator and the Polar Regions after a violent storm. An albatross was killed by the Mariner. Coleridge makes it significant in two ways: he does not say why the Mariner kills the albatross; secondly, this action is against nature and breaks a sacred law of life.

-      The Mariner begins to suffer punishment for what he has done. The world which faces the Mariner after his crime is dead and terrible.

-      The third part shows how the Mariner’s guilty soul becomes conscious of what he has done and of his isolation from the world. A phantom ship comes closer and is identified as a skeleton ship. Mariner’s fellows die all and the latter wins the Mariner’s life.

-      In the fourth part this sense of solitude is stressed and the guilty soul of the Mariner is cut off from nature. Then the Mariner blessed the water snakes and begins to re-establish a relationship with the world of nature.

-      The ship begins to move and celestial spirits stand by the corpses of the dead men.

-      In the sixth part the process of healing seems to be impeded.

-      In the last stanzas of the seventh part the Mariner gains the wedding guest’s sympathy. Coleridge does not tell the end of the story, but lets the reader suppose that the Mariner’s sense of guilt will end only with his death.

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