Monday, September 20, 2010

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) was the son of an Anglican vicar, although in his rebellious youth he served as a Unitarian preacher. In 1798 the book Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and William Wordsworth established the careers of both poets, and the entire Romantic movement. He is best known for such fanciful poems as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”.

Coleridge’s marriage was not a happy one; this and his lengthy addiction to laudanum undermined his creative productivity for years. During this time he flitted from one philosophy to another. In 1814 he returned to the Church of England, and declared himself to be orthodox. Although he still permitted himself broad speculations, the doctrine of the Trinity became central to his thought. In 1817 he published Biographia Literaria, his most important work of literary criticism.

In his essay “Symbol And Allegory” Coleridge said, “It is among the miseries of the present age that it recognizes no medium between literal and metaphorical.” His “Mariner” carries significant symbolism of sin and redemption, and, as it nears its end, expresses:
-----"He prayeth best who loveth best
-----"All things both great and small;
-----"For the dear God who loveth us,
-----"He made and loveth all."
Coleridge said, “an allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into picture language.” Such picture language was his greatest poetic gift.

Epitaph (1833)

Stop, Christian passer-by!–Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seem'd he.–
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise–to be forgiven for fame
He ask'd, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca