Samuel Taylor COLERIDGE
BIOGRAPHY - Born in Devonshire in 1772, Samuel Taylor Coleridge didn’t graduate at school, but he was very influenced by ideals of French Revolution, and became a republican. He planned to found a utopian community called Pantysocracy in which there was no private ownership and every economic activity was done in common. This project failed. In 1797 he met William Wordsworth and settled in Somerset (S-W England) and here he composed his most famous works:
• The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (his masterpiece, written in 1798 - first poem of the collection Lyrical Ballads);
• Christabel, unfinished poem: settled in Middle Ages, it was about a young girl under a witch’s spell;
• Kubla Khan, unfinished as well, a 54-line fragment published in 1816.
In 1779 he joined Wordsworth and his sister in the Lake District, then he went to Malta and returned in England and began an activity about lecturing and journalism. When he settled in London, he wrote Biographia Literaria, a text of literary criticism and autobiography. Here he explained the dual task of Lyrical Ballads. He died in 1834.
IMAGINATION - He gave importance to the role of IMAGINATION = Faculty which is the sovereign of creative power.
• PRIMARY - Connected to human perceptions and individual power to produce images. It is the ability to perceive elements of world and give order to their chaos. Everybody has it but uses it unconsciously;
• SECONDARY IMAGINATION - Voluntary and used consciously. “It dissolves to re-create”. Men can build new worlds by using the data of reality. Every human being can re-create reality in a different way - in fact, art is personal, unique. Men do not simply reproduce reality like before, now they re-create it. Wordsworth’s spontaneous overflow of natural feelings and emotion recollected in tranquillity are equivalent to Coleridge’s primary imagination; Wordsworth’s “emotion copy” product after the tranquil contemplation, is parallel to secondary imagination (the echo of primary one).
FANCY - Mechanical ability that makes the poet use devices (metaphors, alliterations) to express his ideas. Fancy enables the poet to blend various elements into beautiful images.
NATURE - As he was a strong Christian, he didn’t identify nature as divine; he adopted a Platonic view of nature as reflection of the perfect world of ideas. Material world is the projection of the “real” world of ideas in the flux of time.
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
CONTENT - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is made up by 7 parts and settled in a limitless sea, with days of cruel sun and nights lit by the moon. It is introduced by an Argument, containing a short summary of the whole poem, that consists of two narratives: one made by the captions of the stanzas, the other is the poem itself.
ATMOSPHERE AND CHARACTERS - The atmosphere is charged by mystery, because of the combination of supernatural and commonplace, dreamlike elements and visual realism. The Mariner and his comrades are personifications more than human beings: they are not characters in a dramatic sense. The Mariner is passive in guilt and remorse; he acts blindly, under stimulus. The Mariner gains his authority during the drama, and Coleridge makes him both an actor and a spectator → in this way he narrates terrifying events with calm and lucidity.
THE RIME AND TRADITIONAL BALLADS - This poem contains a lot of features traditionally associated with Ballads:
• Combination of dialogue and narration; • Alliterations and internal rhymes;
• 4-line stanzas; • Theme of travel and wandering;
• Frequent repetitions; • Supernatural elements.
Anyway, the Rime is different from Ballads because of the presence of a moral at the end → DIDACTIC AIM.
INTERPRETATIONS - The poem has been interpreted in many ways:
• THE DESCRIPTION OF A DREAM, which allows the poet to relate supernatural and the less conscious part of his psyche to a familiar experience. In fact, it moves in abrupt stages, just like a dream, each of which has his personal character. Things move in a mysterious way, but always with connecting relations;
• AN ALLEGORY OF THE LIFE OF SOUL, for the passage from crime to redemption, through punishment;
• (Most relevant) THE DESCRIPTION OF THE POETIC JOURNEY OF ROMANTICISM. The Mariner is the poet, driven by his guilt (origin of poetry). It is a regret for loss innocence with Industrial Revolution, or a try to rediscover it.