S.T. Coleridge is one of the remarkable poets of Romantic period. He was a most intimate friend of Wordsworth and their influence on one another was most productive. In Coleridge we find the rare combination of the dreamer and the profound scholar.
Coleridge is remembered not only as a poet but also as a critic and a philosopher. He lived a period where science, religion and politics were at variance. As a scholar, he aimed at bringing them into unity.Biographia Literaria is a remarkable work of Coleridge’s literary criticism. In this work he has anticipated the modern philosophical and psychological criticism of the arts. He also defined the nature of Wordsworth’s poetry.
The Aids of Reflection is Coleridge’s most profound philosophical work. It had a wide popularity in the nineteenth century. In this work he attempted to distinguish between understanding which gives us a known of the ordinary world and reason which guide us towards the ultimate spiritual truths.
Besides these considerable contributions to criticism and philosophy, his contributions in poetry are most memorable . His notable poetic works are The Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, and Christabel. Coleridge would have liked to have been himself such a poet, gathering the meaning of life as he saw it. Within Coleridge there was a strange territory of memory and dream, of strange birds, Phantom ships, Arctic seas, caverns, the sounds of unearthy instruments and haunted figures. He imagined a world beyond the control of reason in where magic reigned.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is Coleridge’s chief contribution to the Lyrical Ballads. It was published in 1798. It is possibly one of the world’s masterpieces. When we go through the poem, it introduces us to a supernatural realm, with a phantom ship, a crew of dead men, the overhanging curse of the albatross, the polar spirit, and the magic breeze. Though it presents a supernatural world before us, it nevertheless manages to create a sense of absolute reality concerning these manifest absurdities. All the mechanisms of the poem such as its meter, rhyme, and melody are perfect. Some of its description of the lonely sea have never been equaled to any others. In this poem Coleridge attached a lesson at the end of the narrative where all moves in weird and unexpected sequence.
Kula Khan is a dream picture of the populous Orient. It, though sometimes considered as a fragment, is best considered as complete poem and almost as a definition of the magical elements in Coleridge’s poetry. The whole poem came to Coleridge one morning when he had fallen asleep and upon awakening he began to write hastily. He was interrupted after fifty-four lines were written, and never finished the poem.
Christabel is also a fragment work. It was planned as the story of a pure young girl who fell under the spell of a sorcerer, in the shape of the woman Geraldine. It is full of a strange melody, and contains many passages of exquisite poetry.
Coleridge’s poems are far removed from the gravity and high seriousness of Spenser, Milton or Wordsworth. Much modern poetry has followed Coleridge in this manner, removing verse from its older and more normal purposes.