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A young Coleridge: from a Crayon Drawing by an unknown artist - Full size image=31K SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772- 1834)
Born on October 21st, 1772, in Ottery St. Mary, Devonshire, England, and died July 25, 1834, Highgate, near London.

English lyrical poet, critic, and philosopher.

Possibly the three best known works of poetry are: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Christabel"and "Kubla Khan" - all three present the supernatural, the world of fantasy and of dreams, but each presents it in its own distinctive way. However, many others, particularly his descriptions of the natural world, contain beautiful imagery and are well worth investigating.

His Lyrical Ballads, written with William Wordsworth, heralded the English Romantic movement, and his Biographia Literaria (1817) is the most significant work of general literary criticism produced in the English Romantic period.

There is much discussion on whether Coleridge's work has been properly understood - read these three different reviews....

First, by Shelley ...


    You will see Coleridge - he who sits obscure
    In the exceeding lustre and the pure
    Intense irradiation of a mind,
    Which, with its own internal lightnings blind,
    Flags wearily through darkness and despair.

Secondly, by William Morris.....
    "Coleridge was a muddle-brained metaphysician, who by some strange freak of fortune turned out a few real poems amongst the dreary flood of inanity which was his wont. It is these real poems only which must be selected, or we burden the world with another useless book... There is no difficulty in making the selection - the difference between his poetry and his drivel is so striking."

and finally, from a recent (1994-Penguin Classics) book on Coleridge by Richard Holmes.....
    "Richard Holmes' radical division of the poems into eight categories of theme and genre casts a fresh light on the whole structure of Coleridge's work. It dispels the myth of the "metaphysical dreamer" who wrote poetry only for a few ephemeral months of inspiration".

In the "Introduction" to his book....
"Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Selected Poems" Richard Holmes states :-


    "Coleridge is a great and daring poet. His presence is felt echoing through the English language by anyone who has heard the magical names of "Kubla Khan" or "Christabel" or "The Ancient Mariner". But he is also an unknown poet, much of whose range and skill has never been properly appreciated.
    ................
    It was held that much of his best poetry was fragmented or unfinished. The critic, I. A. Richards even went so far as to say that Coleridge wrote "no completed poem to match his fragments". It was generally considered that his inspiration died at the age of thirty in 1802, after he had written "Dejection: An Ode". Coleridge, in other words, was a sort of poetic star-shell or firework, who lit up the sky for one brilliant bursting moment, then dropped back to earth, burnt out and blackened into prose, conservatism and apologetic piety.

    This selection sets out to prove otherwise. It offers a new way into the intellectual scope, the beauty and the fine workmanship of Coleridge's poetry over his whole lifetime."

More on Coleridge in a future update....

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