Samuel Taylor Coleridge - 1772-1834


Completely different from Wordsworth. He was born in Devonshire, in the south-west of England, and was the tenth child of a Reverend. He received an excellent education in the classics and a religious education. He sympathized with the French revolutionaries. He planned to move to American and found a “Pantisocracy” (ideal democratic community of 12 families) but the project failed. He met Wordsworth and joined him and his sister Dorothy in the Lake District. Wordsworth with Coleridge together they devised (progettato, ideato) the Lyrical Ballads. Coleridge gradually became addicted to opium, which he had started taking as a pain reliever. He died in 1834.

The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, 1798

It is a long poem written in the form of a ballad made up of seven parts: each introduced by a short summary of the following story. The mariner tells his story to a man on his way to a wedding.
He describes how he killed an albatross: turning point.
Brings bad luck to the ship: the crew blame the mariner for their misfortunes; the good weather, then, make the crew change their minds. The ship is blocked in a calm sea, under a burning sun, the crew blame the mariner for this (again).
They hang the dead albatross around his neck.
A ship approaches: on board death, a skeleton and death-in-life are playing dice. Death-in-life wins the mariner’s soul.
By praying the mariner has partially expiated his sin
The ship sinks: the mariner is saved, everybody else dies.
He must bear the burden of guilt, forced to travel “from land to land” to tell his story to the people he meets, so that they learn to love and respect all God’s creatures.

Elements: double structure=frame story and inner story. Mixture of realistic elements and of supernatural elements.
Gothic elements.
Elements of Middle ages ballad: (the form of the Medieval ballad is used to convey new, romantic contents) the language is highly refined: he uses alliteration, onomatopoeia and word music. He uses the stanza form (mainly 4 line stanzas) and the rhyme scheme is mostly ABCB, archaisms and repetitions.

Interpretations: Christian Interpretation: The albatross as a Christ-like figure.
Final moral of the poem: the love for god is best expressed through the love for all its creatures

Killing of the albatross ( a sin against the laws of nature)
The other sailors: act in accordance to their won personal benefits, first accusing, then acquitting him and finally blaming him definitely
Punishment: the suffering of the ancient mariner and his fellows on the ship, deal with thirst, hot, lack of wind, solitude, death for all the sailors
Repentance and forgiving: the mariner unaware blessing of the water-snakes, the albatross sinks into the sea, it starts raining, the mariner can finally sleep and pray
Penance: the mariner has to travel from place to place forever and he is obliged by an inner agony to tell his story over and over again, and to teach the moral of love for very creature made by God, however small
There is no eventual redeption in the poem: as the mariner’s destiny was won by life-in-death, he will be damned to wandering eternally
Other Interpretations
Light of the sun represents rationality (negative events)
Light of the moon represents feeling (positive events)
The mariner is saved because he commits his sin without a logical reason
The Mariner As A Symbol Of The Poet
Power to keep the people’s attention, by his glittering eye and by his story-telling: his condition of outcast (emarginato) in life; poetry as a gift, unavoidable destiny and at the same time suffering.

Central to Coleridge’s poetry are his conceptions of imagination and unity which he defined in Biographia Literaria 1817:
Two kinds of imagination:

Primary

Is at the basis of the process of knowledge: thanks to this ability our perceptions are transformed into ideas, concepts and images, it gives shape and order to our perceptions

Secondary

Is set in motion by an act of conscious will, it is more powerful because it can also create new worlds

The creative power of poetic imagination may give wat to an idealized view of reality. Unity and harmony are the essence of beauty in art.

Both primary and secondary imagination differ from fancy.
Imagination: belongs to the infinite, it is close to the act of divine creation
Fancy: is only connected with things which already exist and can find connections and similarities with these things. Fancy is not a creative power

Coleridge believed the magical incidents of a supernatural world are set within the recognizable context of the natural world. His imagery varies from realistic to wildly imaginative and he includes his love for the strange, the gothic and his close attention to the details in nature.
The mariner is on the boundaries of the natural and the supernatural world: it seems that the two worlds really do exist, one beside the other. Natural world elements are transformed into supernatural pictures, and common colors assume magical shades that have a spell-binding effect (qualcosa che ti incanta) on the reader.

The captions, or summary that comments on the story through the point of view of an external narrator, keeps the story in a fixed framework.
- The captions might represent an older Coleridge who added them some years after the 1st edition of the Ballad (more moralistic meaning to his poem)
- Or they might be the echoes of the numerous listeners who have been mesmerized (ipnotizzato) by the mariner since their first encounter with him
- We, the reader, are asked to give in to “poetic faith” (it is attainable only if we believe in the unbelievable and “suspend disbelief (incredulità)”) so that we can appreciate the point of this beautiful poem

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