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Samuel Taylor Coleridge: life and works

Coleridge is the other great romantic poet of the first generation. He was still young when he met the poet Robert Southey, with whom, inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, he planned to found a community in America called “Pantisocracy”, based on Revolutionary principles such as the equality among men, the abolition of private property, that is to say an ideal communist society. This project was never realised, and then Coleridge turned to the journalism but unsuccessfully. It was in this period that he began taking opum to relieve the pain caused by his rheumatism resulting addicted to it. It was for Coleridge the friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth, which was determined for his literary carrier resulting in particular in the publication of the Lyrical Ballads. The contribution for Coleridge to the Lyrical Ballads was only four poems, including “The Rime of Ancient Mariner”, but they have got more musicality and rhythm. In the following years, back in England, he was involved in public lectures, among which the most famous were those on Shakespeare. Another important work of Coleridge was the “Biografia Literaria” in two volumes, which conteins his theories on the nature of poetry and where he analyses the role of “Imagination” considered the most important creative principles. Coleridge says that there are two types of imagination: primary and secondary imagination. The “primary imagination” is the faculty by which we perceive the world around us; it works trough our senses and it is common to all men. The “secondary imagination” is only of the poet and it is the faculty to recreate a new world associating in images and transcending the data of experience. The different role of imagination for Coleridge and Wordsworth is that, while both exalt the imagination, Wordsworth “half- created” that is modifies and transforms the data of experience (recollecting in tranquillity), Coleridge transcends the data of experience and “creates” in the true sense of the word the data of experience, making credible what is incredible.

Other works of Coleridge are “Dejection: an Ode” dedicated to Sara Hutchinson, “Cristabel”, and “Kubla Khan”, pervaded by a supernatural atmosphere. One of the most important contributions of C. to the English Romantic movement, in fact, is his idea of supernatural. The different role that nature plays in Coleridge’s poetry we find well in the “Rime of Ancient Mariner”. For him, nature is the link between man and God but also the manifestation of God’s will in punishing the mariner who had broken the balance instablished in the Universe.

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