Showing posts with label Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Show all posts

The Rime of The Ancient Mariner: A Critical Analysis of Coleridge's Romantic Imagery

In 1797 and 1798 Coleridge wrote 3 poems which had no equal and which he himself was never again to equal or approach: "Christabel," "Kubla Khan" and "The Ancient Mariner." These three poems are concerned with the supernatural. Both "Kubla Khan" and "Christabel" are fragments while the Ancient Mariner is complete.

Coleridge had a difficult task; he must produce a poetry of the supernatural which should be as human and as compelling as Wordsworth's poetry. In "The Ancient Mariner" he presents a series of incredible events through a method of narration and this makes them not only convincing but in some sense a criticism of life. In his conquest of the unknown, Coleridge went outside the commonplace thrills of horror. The weird adventures of the Mariner take place on a boundless sea and not in a trite Gothick setting of a medieval castle. His characters are not of the same breed as Geraldine. They are spirits and they are transformed by Coleridge into powers who watch over the good and evil actions of men and give them the appropriate rewards and punishments. This new setting and new persons give the supernatural a new character. Instead of confining himself to phantoms, he moves over to a wider range of emotions (guilt, remorse, grief, joy, suffering, and relief...)

The first problem for any poet of the supernatural is to relate it to familiar experience. But Coleridge could not rely on his reader's feeling at home with his unfamiliar theme. He must relate his theme to something which they knew and understood, something which touched their hearts and imaginations, and he did this by using some characteristics of the dream. Dreams can have a curiously vivid quality which is often lacking in waking impressions. They have, too, a power of stirring elementary emotions, such as fear and desire. The Mariner commits a hideous crime when he shoots the albatross. He is haunted by the presence of his dead comrades, and he carries a gnawing memory to the end of his days. His comrades were doomed to die because they helped him in his crime when they said the imaginary world has its own rules which are different from ours. They are more convincing than most events in dream. The Ancient Mariner has its own casual relations between events and lives in its own right as something intelligible and satisfying.

It is clear that Coleridge felt about the creations of his imagination something similar to what he felt about dreams. When we have them, we don't question their reality. However unnatural his events may be, they are derived from natural elements, and that is why we believe in them. We may even be at home with them because their constituents are familiar and make a direct, natural appeal. Once we enter this imaginary world, we do not feel that it is unreachable, but rather we respond to it as we would to actual life. 

In other words, though Coleridge begins by appealing to our experience of dreams, he uses it as to present something which is more solid and more reasonable and more human than the most haunting dreams. He uses the atmosphere of dreams to accustom us to his special world, and then he proceeds to create freely within his chosen limits. At each step he takes pains to see that his eery subject is real both for the eye and for the emotions, that it has both the attraction of visible things and the significance which belongs to actions of grave import. His natural background, for instance, could have been fashioned only by a man who had learned about nature from loving observation and shared the Wordsworth's devotion to it. Amid all these strange happenings nature remains itself, and its perseverance in its own ways sometimes comes in ironical contrast to what happens on the ship, as when, at the moment when the Mariner is haunted by the look in his dead comrades' eyes, the moon continues her quiet, unchanging course: 

The moving Moon went up the sky,
And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside.

Even when nature breaks into more violent moods, it is still itself, and each touch of description makes it more real, as when Coleridge sketches a storm with something of Turner's delight in wild effects of sky and cloud: 

 The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.

In such scenes there is no indeterminacy of dream. Each detail comes from the known world and gives a firm background to the supernatural events which accompany it. Coleridge has his own realistic treatment of the setting which is matched by the appeals he makes to our emotions in handling his human persons. The Mariner and his comrades are hardly characters in any dramatic sense. They lack lineaments and personality. But what touches us in them is the basic humanity of their sufferings. Their agonies are simply and universally human. What happens to them might in similar circumstances happen to anyone and we respond to their pathos and their misery. Physical sensations play a large part in dreams, but Coleridge describes them as we know them in a waking state. He handles them in a lively way which creates a powerful emotional effect. What is true of physical sensation is no less true of mental state. The Mariner is indeed in a fearful plight alone on a ship surrounded by the dead bodies of his comrades. Coleridge describes his state by drawing attention to his sense of helplessness and solitude:

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony

This is the real anguish of a man who feels himself abandoned both by God and man and faced with the emptiness of his guilty and tormented soul. Conversely, when the ship at last comes to land, the Mariner sees angels standing by the dead bodies and feels an intimate relief. The very silence of the celestial presences fills him with hope and joy:

This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart 
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.

Coleridge understood the extremes of despair and of joy, and he distilled them into these brief moments. Because his poem moves between such extremes it has a certain spaciousness and grandeur and reflects through its variations the light and the shadow of human life. 

Coleridge expects us to believe that his situations are real, and to have some kind of human feelings about them. This is easy if they belong to the ordinary experience, but when supernatural takes place it demands a more unusual art. Then Coleridge makes the supernatural look as natural as possible because, however strange it may be, he forms it from elements which are in themselves familiar. 

Coleridge's realism is of course much more than an art of circumstantial details. It is a special form of poetry, the reflection of his love for the sensible world and his sensitiveness to its lights, shades, colors, and sounds. He possessed to a high degree that cardinal quality of poetry which he calls "the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature." And he has more than "faithful adherence." He is by no means photographic or merely descriptive. His eye for nature is for its more subtle charms and less obvious appeals. In his choice of details we can see his affinity with the Wordsworth's, but there is much that is indisputably his own, especially in the richer and more luxurious pleasure which he takes in some natural things. Nature was no moral teacher for Coleridge; he preferred to bask in its favors and enjoy them without any ulterior satisfaction that it was doing him good. Moreover, he was bolder than Wordsworth in describing scenes which he himself never saw. Wordsworth was perhaps capable of doing this, but he was too conscientious to try. Coleridge, for whom the contents of books had a vivid reality, was able to see with the mind's eye, as if objects were literally in front of him. More, too, perhaps than Wordsworth, he evokes the magical associations of sound, whether it be an angel's song or the pleasant noise of the sails: 
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month if June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.

The Romantics knew how to use their senses, and Coleridge, despite his love of metaphysical abstractions, was in this respect a true member of their company. He used nature to give color and music, solidity and perspective, to his creations, and it is one of the chief means by which he sustains the enchantment of his poem.

When Coleridge wrote the Ancient Mariner, he believed in the imagination as a vehicle of truth. Coleridge thought that the "secondary imagination" with which poetry is concerned, is itself concerned with eternal values. For Coleridge a symbol is something which presents the eternal in a temporal, individual shape. He means by eternal belonging to the world of the absolute values, a symbol's task is to present in poetry an instance of universal truth. "The Ancient Mariner" passes beyond its immediate purview to something remote and vague. In other words, "The Ancient Mariner" is a myth. It presents in an unusual and lively form certain issues with which we are all familiar and forces us to look afresh at them. It draws attention to neglected or undiscovered truths. This is what Coleridge believed to be the task of poetry. Through creation the poet reveals the secrets of the universe, especially in the sphere of absolute values. The myth is only one kind among many kinds of poetry, but it is specially adapted to Coleridge's outlook because it can deal with the supernatural issues. It is an extension of the use of symbols. In "The Ancient Mariner," he shapes these symbols into a consistent whole, and subordinates them into a consistent whole, and subordinates them into a single plan, so the poem is in the first place a story which we enjoy for its own sake, but in the second place a myth about the dark and troubling crisis in the human soul.

"The Ancient Mariner" is a tale of crime and punishment. It falls into seven sections. What matters is the imaginative and poetical effect, the emotional impression which the words make on us. Coleridge in his myth shows the essential qualities of crime and punishment. He shows what they are and what they mean. He goes to the heart of the matter in its universal character. In the first section, Coleridge tells the actual crime. To use the shooting of the bird may seem a normal act, but to Coleridge it is significant in two ways. First, he does not say why the Mariner kills the albatross. The Mariner may be annoyed or angry, but what matters is the uncertainty of the Mariner's motives. Secondly, this crime is against nature, against the sanctified relations of guest and host. The bird, which has been hailed in God's name "as if it had been a Christian soul," and is entirely friendly and helpful, is wantonly and recklessly killed. At that time Coleridge was obsessed by the Neo-Platonic ideas of the brotherhood of all living things. Perhaps he was, but it does not matter. What matters is that the Mariner breaks a sacred law of life. In his action we see the cruelty of many crimes against humanity and the ordered system of life and the killing of the albatross as symbolical of them.

In the second section, the Mariner begins to suffer punishment for his crime. Coleridge transfers to the physical world the corruption and the helplessness which are the common attributes of guilt. The world which faces the Mariner after his crime is dead and loathsome. The immediate results of crime are portrayed in the image of a universe dying of thirst and haunted by menacing phantoms. The third section shows the repentance of the guilty soul and its isolation in the world. The Mariner begins to realize the consequence of his action. The phantom ship decides his doom:

The Night-mare LIFE-IN-DEATH was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.

The night in which the Mariner's companions die symbolizes the darkness in his soul. The fourth section focuses on the sense of solitude and loneliness. The guilty soul is cut off not only from any human intercourse but also from any consoling friendship of nature which mocks it with majestic detachment. Then there is a turning point for the better. When the Mariner, unaware, blesses the water snakes, he begins to re-establish relations with the world of affections. This opens the way to the future. Instead of being dead, the spirit shows some small signs of that love which holds life together. The fifth section continues the process of the soul's revival. Before he can be fully healed, the Mariner must establish relations not merely with men but with God, and this is what he begins to do. In the sixth section the process of healing seems to be impeded. The Mariner is haunted by the presence of his dead comrades and feels that he is pursued by some fearful power of vengeance:

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread. 

In this figure of the Mariner, Coleridge gives his special symbol of remorse. But because remorse brings repentance and humility, this section closes with the vision of angelic forms standing by the dead-sailors. The forgiveness of God awaits even the most hard-hearted sinners if they will only be ready to receive it.  In the last section, the end comes, the guilty man has been shriven and restored to a place among living men. Most of the visible traces of his crime have been erased, but the punishment of life-in-death is still at work. Since he has committed a hideous act, the Mariner will never be the man that he once was. He has his special past and his special doom. At times the memory of what he has done is so insistent that he must speak of it:

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

The Mariner's need to confess is appropriate, because by forcing others to listen to him he regains some of that human converse of which his crime has robbed him. Coleridge doesn't tell the end of the story, but leaves us to suppose that the Mariner's sense of guilt will end only by his death. 

"The Ancient Mariner" is a myth of guilt and redemption. Though Coleridge has his own poetry of a guilty soul, it is not comparable in-depth or in insight with the poetry of some other men who have given the full powers of their genius to writing about crime and the misery it engenders. Much of the magic of "The Ancient Mariner" comes from its blend of dark and serious issues with the delighted play of creative energy. Coleridge fashioned his poem in this way for two reasons. In the first place, the combination of different themes responded to his own complex vision of existence. For him life had both its dark and its bright sides. He saw that the two were closely interwoven and he must introduce both into his poems. In the second place, he saw life not analytically but creatively, and he knew that any work of creation must itself be an extension and enhancement of life.

In creating "The Ancient Mariner" in this way Coleridge obeyed the peculiar and paradoxical nature of his genius. In him the poet and the metaphysician were uneasily blended, and the creative spirit worked most freely when it was free from metaphysical speculations. His three great poems owe nothing to his study of philosophy or his own conscious theories about the universe. Only when he was free from the topic which engaged his philosophic curiosity was he able to release all his imaginative powers. 

In the Ancient Mariner he does indeed treat a subject of universal interest, about which philosophers have had something to say, but he succeeds in making it poetry just because he keeps at some distance from his habits of abstract thought. Coleridge felt the attraction of the supernatural. What touched his genius was his sense of mystery at unknown forces at work in life, and to keep this mystery intact he needed some subject which was in itself mysterious. He saw strange powers behind the visible world, and he believed that men were moved and directed by them. To show this he needed characters and circumstances in themselves strange and arresting. Once he found a subject of this kind, his creative imagination set freely to work and built its own system. There is nothing to hamper the free play of his gifts, and he felt at home in the incredible and the unknown. What Wordsworth found in the world of vision, Coleridge found in the supernatural. He was both fascinated by the unknown and in some sense afraid of it. It gave him the thrill of excitement which he needed before he could concentrate his mind on a subject, and through it he sharpened his vision and purified his mind of many disturbing and distracting elements. 

Like all great poetry, "The Ancient Mariner" suggests prospects and possibilities beyond its immediate subject. Indeed, it is a great poem largely because it does this. In creating this imaginary world Coleridge offers an alternative to familiar existence which is at the same time an illuminating commentary on it. Both in the main plan of the Mariner's crime and in the spiritual forces who battle over him, Coleridge emphasizes the state of man between persecuting horrors and enchanting beauties. "The Ancient Mariner" is his greatest poem because he put most of himself into it and in it spoke most-fully from his inner being. The brilliant reality which he gives to this invention of his imagination comes from his prophetic insight into himself. His poem creates not a negative but a positive condition, a state of faith which is complete and satisfying because it is founded on realities in the living world and in the human heart.

*The supernatural element appealed to him with a special power and was responsible for his finest work. He had a remarkable sensibility for the physical world. 

The Romantic Imagination

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, imagination was not a cardinal point in poetical theory. For Pope and Johnson, as for Dryden before them, it has little importance, and when they mention it, it has a limited significance. What matters in poetry according to them is the truth to the emotions, or, as they prefer to say, sentiment. They prefer to speak in general terms and not to indulge themselves in creating new worlds.

For a whole century English philosophy had been dominated by the theories of John Locke who assumed that in perception the mind is wholly passive, a mere recorder of impressions from without, "a lazy looker on the external world." Both Locke and Newton found a place for God in their universes, the former on the ground that the works of nature in every part of them sufficiently evidence a deity, and the latter on the principle that the great machine of the world implies a mechanic. 

Tom Paine, a well known thinker and a close friend to William Blake, assumed that the creations of the imagination are mere fantasies and, as such, divorced from life. In addition, William Shakespeare shows his acquaintance to this belief along with approval of an Italian philosopher called Picodella Mirandola, who thought that the imagination is almost a diseased faculty. Moreover, Francis Bacon in turn regarded imagination as a harmless and not an unpleasant activity, but not more. The position stated above is plainly unsatisfactory for poets who believe that the imagination is a divine faculty concerned with the central issues of the whole being, and it is extremely fundamental because without it there is no poetry. 

English Romantics gave a great importance to imagination, so they were interested in images (visual impressions and metaphors).  For the English Romantics, the belief in imagination was like the belief in individual self ; they admired sentiments. The mind is the central point and governing factor. The most vital activity of mind is imagination, and the source of spiritual energy is divine. They believed when they exercised imagination that they partake of the divine activity of God. Blake and Coleridge were the pioneers who insisted that the most vital activity of the mind is imagination, and they were hostile to the whole system of Locke and Newton.

For Blake the world of imagination is infinite and eternal whereas that world of generation, of vegetation, is finite and temporal. He also claimed that the imagination is nothing less than God as he operates in the human soul. It follows that any act of creation performed by the imagination is divine and that in the imagination man's spiritual nature is fully and finally realized. 

As to Coleridge it is true that he regards poetry as a product of secondary imagination, but since this differs only in degree from the primary it remains clear that to him imagination is of first importance because it partakes the creativity (divine activity) of God. To him, imagination is related to truth and reality, and it is connected with a special insight. It sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind. Insight and imagination are inseparable, for they complete each other. Insight awake the imagination to work and is sharpened by it when it is at work.

Romantics combine imagination and truth because their creations are inspired and controlled by a peculiar insight. What matters to them was an insight into the nature of things. They refused Locke's limitation of perception to physical objects because it robbed the mind of its most essential function (perceive and create). It was this search for an unseen world which awakened the inspiration of the Romantics and made poets of them. However, imagination can't be considered an escape from life. Coleridge believed that imagination working with intuition can make discoveries on matters which really concern us. 

The Romantics wanted to explore the world of spirit, so visible things aren't every thing unless they are related to an embracing power. They believed that through imagination and insight they could understand the things of spirit and present them in poetry. Apprehension of spiritual issues differs from scientific apprehension of natural laws or philosophical grasp of general truths. These laws and truths are stated in abstract words, but spiritual powers must be introduced through particular examples. When imagination is on them, we begin to understand their significance. In nature, Romantic poets found their initial inspiration. It wasn't everything to them, but they would have been nothing without it.

Coleridge had a deep trust in imagination as something which gives a shape to life. He believes that nature lives in us, and it is we who create all that matter in her. Although Coleridge is a little hampered by the presence of an external world, he feels in some way he must conform to it. Yet, when his creative genius is at work, it brushes these hesitations aside. Because he was fascinated by the notion of unearthly powers, he believed that the task of poetry is to convey the mystery of life, and it was their influence he sought to catch. Moreover, he believed that life is ruled by powers which can't be fully understood, so the result is a poetry more mysterious.

Wordsworth agreed with Coleridge on the distinction between imagination and fancy, for he believes that imagination is the most important gift a poet can have. Wordsworth didn't relate reason to anything, but he insisted that the inspired insight is itself rational. However, he differs from Coleridge in his conception of the external world; he accepts its independent existence and insists that imagination must in some sense conform to it. Moreover, he believes that imagination must somehow be related to the external world because that world is not dead but living and has its own soul and distinct from the soul of man, and man's task is to connect with this soul; man's life is shaped by nature . Wordsworth believed that he helped this soul of nature to become closer to man and could show how the external world and the individual mind fits each other. As concerning nature, it was the source of his inspiration. Wordsworth sought for a state in which the soul of nature should be united with the soul of man.

As for Shelley, he was also attached to imagination, but he saw that reason must somehow be related to imagination and believed (unlike Wordsworth) that its special task is to analyze the given and to act as an instrument for the imagination. Shelley calls poetry the "Expression of Imagination" because in it divers things are brought together instead of being separated through analysis. In his "Defense of Poetry" he claimed that the poet has a special kind of knowledge, a sear, gifted within a peculiar insight into the nature of reality. For him the ultimate reality is the eternal mind, so he believed that the task of imagination is to create shapes by which this reality can be revealed.

The Romantics agreed that their task was to find through the imagination some order which explains the world of appearances, for them this reality could be spiritual. They refused to accept the ideas of other men on trust or to sacrifice imagination to argument. 

Keats had a passionate love for the visible world. To him, ultimate reality is to be found only in the imagination. He saw the imagination as a power which both creates and reveals, or rather reveals through creating. Keats accepted the works of the imagination not merely existing in their own right, but as having a relation to ultimate reality through the light which they shed on it. Through the imagination, Keats sought an absolute reality to which a door was opened by his appreciation of beauty through the senses. Through beauty he felt that he came into the presence of the ultimately real. The more intensely a beautiful object affected him, the more convinced he was that he passed beyond it to something else. The beauty of visible things carried Keats into ecstasy.

In conclusion, Coleridge, Blake, Wordsworth, Shelly and Keats were confident not only that the imagination was their most precious possession but that was somehow concerned with a supernatural order. They insisted that it reveals an important kind of truth; as it works it sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind, and that it is intimately connected with a special insight or perception or intuition.

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: A Critical Analysis

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

Kubla Khan is a poem written by Coleridge. It is a controversial poem. However, the shortcut is found in the Biographia Literaria in which the critic Coleridge reestablished a concept of poetry. In it, he made emphasis on "a semblance of truth" that is a resemblance of reality. Therefore, he is supposed, as he mentioned in his Biographia Literaria, to make a resemblance of truth which provides or procures the shadows of imagination, the willing suspension of disbelief for the moment of reading the poem which constitutes the poetic faith. In the poem, we are supposed to find objects or subjects which look like reality; however, taking in consideration that the world of the poem differs from that of reality.

There is difference between Coleridge and Wordsworth in this issue, for Coleridge criticizes Wordsworth for having too much matter of factness in his poetry. Almost, reality is found in the poetry of Wordsworth, where as Coleridge believes that there must be a resemblance only in the matter of the chosen topics for poetry. Moreover, Coleridge believes that informative poetry such as that of Wordsworth, is a product of fancy. He divides the imagination into two parts: secondary and primary. The primary imagination is that power in man which perceives and recognizes objects; the secondary imagination acts on these initial perceptions to produce new thoughts:"It dissolves, diffuses, disciples in order to recreate". In addition, Coleridge regards poetry as a product of the secondary imagination which only differs form the primary in degree. Therefore, according to Coleridge, Wordsworth's poetry is rather a descriptive one since the distance between the world of reality and the world of poetry is small.

Coleridge has once said that the poem "Kubla Khan" is a product of a dream. Many critics also consider it as a product of a dream since Coleridge used to be an opium addict. They believe that he used to go to sleep, wakes up having the lines in his head. However, this is not true. Yet, there exists some reasons for which these critics believe that it is a product of a dream. First, the poem is a fragmentary; there exists no coherence and unity in the lines of the poem. Second, their knowledge of his being an opium addict, and his own notes in which he says that the poem is a product of revere. Therefore, the suggestion that the poem is a product of a dream indicates that it is not a product of a conscious will or consciousness. In order to examine whether this is true or not, we have to analyze the lines of the poem closely. On one hand, we find that the poem has a factual reference in a book written some three hundred years before in 1160 named the "Pilgrimage" for Purchase. In this book, the reader would have to come across the following "ten miles from Xanado a dome of pleasure was built..." This is an indication that the poem has a factual reference outside the poem. Therefore, knowing that some of the details and pictures inside the poem have a factual reference is a reason for many critics to believe that it is not a product of a dream. However, this is not sufficient enough in order to say that it is not a product of a dream. Yet, the evidences or reasons for such a claim are not poetic and they don't exist outside the poem, but rather inside it. Thus, having a factual reference may still keep the possibility of being a product of a dream since the atmosphere, the critical one, tends to believe that it is a product of a dream. So, it is not easy to consider the poem as one part, and an effort must be exerted because there is no unity. Even thematically speaking, discontinuity exists, for there is no thematic progression. For example, considering the lines from the beginning of the poem:"Sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice..." we could find some thematic unity; however, after these lines, there is no continuity, so, if there is a theme, it is not a unified one. Moreover, we have after words-"A damsel with a dulcimer"- this has no thematic relation for what proceeded. Then, the poem doesn't grow through its theme. Another example is the line "A damsel with a dulcimer", "Could I revive within me".  It appears that we have shifted into another thematic level. Therefore, thematically, there is no unity in the poem, yet, structurally speaking, the poem is one. There is a systematic rhyme scheme in the lines although the poem is not made up of stanzas and is easily observed through out the poem. It is obvious that the poem is not a product of a dream since there is coherence in the lines.

Moreover, one reason for which the critics believe that this poem is a product of a dream might be the title itself in addition to Coleridge's own confession that it is a product of revere. However, the title doesn't form a clue that proves the poem to be a product of a dream because the poem is not about the title. For, although the title seems exotic, it was already mentioned before in purchase's book. Therefore, the title is a vibrant element in the poem used to add the supernatural aspect to the poem. Coming back to Coleridge's conception of poetry, he said that the subject matter could be the supernatural. Because the title is exotic, some critics found this a reason to believe that the poem is a product of a dream. However, it is not since it is a technical element that provides the poem with the supernatural element as well as to add the atmosphere of strangeness to the poem.

On the other hand, there is a coherence in the poem, a solid coherence, for example, if we consider the lines "I would build that dome in air" we could notice that "That" is a definite article, grammatically speaking; therefore, the dome is a specific one which was mentioned and described many times before that through out the poem. It has been described as the dome of pleasure decreed by Kubla Khan. It has a form of half circle shape indicating fulfillment and satisfaction. Moreover, the statement "Could I revive within me" implies a needed answer which could be yes or no. Yet, these are many reasons for which we could consider the answers to be yes. Because he would not add another adjective for the dome if it weren't achieved at first "And all should see them there", this implies that the dome is accomplished and it does exist; therefore, the tendency of the poem is rather a positive one. In addition, "He on honey dew has fed", Paradise, the sunny dome, and the dome of pleasure are all positive achievements. Therefore, the tendency of the poem is a positive enhanced by the almost systematic scheme and the absence of the stanzaic form which indicates the non existence of interruptions. This tendency could not be achieved without the full intellectual efforts of the poets consciousness and not through a dream. The rhythm is rather quick indicating a forward movement. It is like a song in line 45 "That with music loud and long" for example. The scenery constructed inside the poem has no equivalence outside the poem. For, Coleridge is not objectifying a landscape. He is not imitating something or a reality outside the poem and he is not describing anything. Coleridge is creating his own nature. He is reconstructing an objective image. The existence of exotic names are no source for the suggestiveness as in themselves in the poem. They add an atmosphere of strangeness only. The Alph river is taken from Milton. The names are taken from different sources. The past tense indicated by the word "did" in part one means that things already done. The river is running to a sunless sea. The poem is not fragmentary. There is a thematic and semantic coherence. For, the river moves from the source to the sea. Coleridge, here, is abiding to the rules of nature which is a thematic coherence. He is creating a second nature that resembles the true realistic nature. For, the reference of the structure of poetry is the structure of reality. The poetic elements in poetry are the same, but what differs is the combination of these elements. The structure of the poem proves that it is not a dream for Coleridge once to build a paradise and we feel the existence of an acceleration from the start till the building of the paradise.

Coleridge's Distinction between Primary Imagination, Secondary Imagination & Fancy

Coleridge gave much thought to the Imagination. He considers poetry the product of the secondary imagination. The secondary imagination dissolves, diffuses and dissipates in order to recreate; it struggles to idealize and unify.

The two Cardinal Points of poetry according to Coleridge are: 
1) The power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature. 
2) The power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colors of Imagination. 

Primary Imagination: (Living power and prime agent of all human perception). Coleridge asserts that the mind is active in perception. This activity which is subconscious and is the common birth right of all men, is the work of the Primary Imagination, which may be defined as the inborn power of perceiving that makes it possible for us to know things. The Primary Imagination is a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal art of creation in the infinite I AM. The power of perception, Coleridge called as Primary Imagination whereas the poetic imagination as the Secondary ImaginationIt differs from the Primary Imagination in degree, but not in kind. While all men possess the Primary, only some men possess the heightened degree of the universally human power to which the poet lays claim. 

Secondary Imagination: (Echo of the Primary Imagination) differs in two important respects from Primary Imagination. First, Primary Imagination is subconscious, while Secondary Imagination coexists "with the conscious will" and involves, therefore, elements of conscious and subconscious activity. Poetic "making" blends conscious selection with subconscious infusion, some elements are intentionally chosen while others are mysteriously given or supplied from the deepness of the poet's subconscious mind. Second, the secondary Imagination is described as a power that "dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate." It dissolves and then reintegrates the components in a new way that draws attention to their coalescence. Secondary Imagination bridges the gap between the world of spirit and matter; it fuses perception, intellect, feeling, passions and memory. It struggles to idealize and unify. 

Fancy: On the other hand, is distinguished from Imagination (both primary and secondary) because it is not poetic. It differs from Imagination in kind. Fancy is merely aggregative and associative; it is a mode of memory receiving all its materials ready made from the law of association. In other words, fancy joins without blending; it works together with the pre-existing sensations without creating anything originally new, fabricates without refashioning the elements which it combines. 

To Coleridge poetry was fundamentally and formally distinct from other modes of writing, and it possesses a logic of its own, as severe as that of science, and more difficult, because more subtle, more complex, and dependent on more and more fugitive causes. Poetry could and should bring together thought and feeling; it should reconcile the workings of both the head and the heart. Coleridge says that Wordsworth had unified thought and feeling in poetic utterance; he has both realized and idealized the common place and had made the reader see man and nature as if he was seeing them for the first time. Therefore; at times he seems to be still aware of the sensationalist philosophy of his youth which from it he inherits a conception of a world of facts, an inanimate cold world in which objects as objects are essentially "fixed and dead." But as a poet his task is to transform it by the imagination. He has a deep trust in the imagination and considers it as something which gives shape to life. His dead world may be brought to life by Imagination. He believes that meaning is found for the existence through the exercise of the creative activity which is a kin to that of god. 

As a poet, Coleridge was fascinated by the notion of unearthly power at work in the world. Thus, because of his belief that life is ruled by powers which cannot be fully understood, the result is a poetry more mysterious than that of any Romantic. However, because it is based on primary human emotions, he thought that the task of poetry is to convey the mystery of life. Coleridge believes in Imagination as a vehicle for truth. He felt about the creation of his imagination something similar to what he felt about dreams. He assumes that while we have them, we do not question their reality. Coleridge believes that creation needs joy, so without joy the poet is helpless and miserable.       

A poem Coleridge defines as an organic construct which, unlike works of science, proposes for its immediate object "Pleasure not Truth." In other words, while truth is the ultimate end of poetry, pleasure is its immediate end. Coleridge's definition of the ideal poet is characterized by its emphasis on imagination. The poet described in ideal perfection, bring the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends and fuses each into each by that magical power, imagination and synthesis. In Coleridge's view, Wordsworth's particular genius was Miltonic; his strength lay, as the Prelude had demonstrated, in impressing the stamp of his own mind and character on all that he chose to write about.  

Are the Romantic Poets, Poets of Nature???

Before going into this critical discussion about Romantic poetry, let me briefly introduce romanticism and the theory of romantic poets about poetry. Romanticism comes from "romance" which is the term used by romantic poets in France who relied on their imagination that is able to create a new reality and not as a tool to escape from reality. The stress is on the individual and not on the society (believe in capacities of man). In other words, English Romantics who adopted this movement  believed that there must be a departure of the static (rigid conventions) of the 18th century. This movement is not a sudden  change it is a part of a chain, although French and German poets had a direct influence on the English romantic movement, because poetry is poetry which has roots.

The romantic movement is supported by a certain romantic theory, which backs up the romantic trend. In their theory, English Romantics gave a great importance to imagination (fundamental role). For the English Romantics the belief in imagination was like the belief in individual self. Mind is the central point and governing factor and the most vital activity of the mind is imagination. They believed when they exercised imagination, they partake of the divine activity of God. Romantics combine imagination and truth because their creations are inspired and controlled by a peculiar insight. What matters to the Romantics was an insight into the nature of things. They refused Lock's (an English philosopher) limitation of perception to physical objects because it robbed the mind of its most essential function (perceive & create). Romantics wanted to explore the world of spirit. Visible things are not everything unless they are related to an embracing power.  They believed that through imagination and insight they could understand the things of spirit and present them in poetry.  Therefore, it was this search of an unseen world which awakened the inspiration of the romantics and made poets of them. In nature Romantic poets found their initial inspiration. It wasn't everything to them, but they would have been nothing without it.

Coleridge classified imagination onto primary and secondary imagination; they differ only in degree. To Coleridge, poetry is the product of the secondary imagination. He believed that imagination partakes of the divine activity of God. Imagination is related to truth and reality and connected with a special insight. It sees things to which the ordinary intelligence is blind. Coleridge believed that insight and imagination are inseparable; they complete each other. Moreover, Coleridge had a deep trust in imagination as something which gives a shape to life. He believes that nature live in us, and it is we who create all that matter in it. Coleridge is a little hampered by the presence of an external world and feels in some way he must conform to it. But when his creative genius is at work, it brushes these hesitations aside. He thought that the task of poetry is to convey the mystery of life. He was fascinated by the notion of unearthly powers and it was their influence he sought to catch. He believes that life is ruled by powers which can't be fully understood. The result is a poetry more mysterious. 

In any study on William Wordsworth's poetry, we are faced with the following: "He is a romantic poet." In fact, he is a romantic poet, but when we say "romantic", the danger lies in   understanding that romantic means: the poet imagines, contemplates, meditates, and creates an illusion. But, when we study William Wordsworth's definition of poetry, we see that he has to abide to a theory because the poem is a practice of the theory he believes in.  Wordsworth agreed with Coleridge about the distinction between imagination and fancy. He believed that imagination is the most important gift a poet can have; he didn't relate reason to anything, but he insisted that the inspired insight is itself rational. As for Coleridge's conception of the external world, Wordsworth disagreed with him. He accepted its independent existence and insisted that imagination must in some sense conform to it. Wordsworth believed that imagination must somehow be related to the external world because that world is not dead but living and has its own soul which is distinct from the soul of man. Therefore, man's task is to connect with this soul because his life is shaped by nature. Wordsworth also believed that he helped this soul of nature to become closer to man and could show how the external world and the individual mind fits each other. As concerning nature, it was the source of his inspiration. He sought for a state in which the soul of nature should be united with the soul of man.

Many critics say  the following "William Wordsworth is the poet of nature." However, when we read his poetry, we find out that in many lines he insisted that he is the poet of men. Even when it is a question of nature, if we ask Wordsworth himself, he says: "The mind of man creates half what it sees." Therefore, when we say that he's the poet of nature, the risk would be that one may think  he is a poet who describes nature and in that he is diminishing the estimation of Wordsworth because poetry does not describe but create. Many critics think that Wordsworth is a poet of nature because he says: "I'm a worshiper of nature. Accordingly, many readers misunderstand this statement. When critics say that Wordsworth is a poet of nature, they  mislead the readers of Wordsworth's poetry. Moreover, saying that he is the poet of nature is dangerous because we will think that his poetry is about nature, or it is the mirror of nature. If we consider that the definition is true then the statement is wrong. If poetry is about nature then it is a reflection of nature. However, to Wordsworth nature was the source of his inspiration, and he could not deny to it an existence at least as powerful as man's . He didn't go so far as other romantics in relegating reasons to an inferior position. He preferred to give a new dignity to the word and to insist that inspired insight itself rational.

William Wordsworth repeatedly described all good poetry as, at the moment of composition, "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Thus, he located the source of a poem not in the outer world, but in the individual poet, and specified that the essential materials of a poem were not external people and events, but the inner feelings of the author, or at any rate, external objects only after these have been transformed or irradiated by the authors feelings. But to Wordsworth, although the composition of poem originates from "emotion recollected in tranquility," and maybe preceded and followed by reflection, the immediate act of composition must be spontaneous-that is, arising from impulse, and free from all rules and the artful manipulation of means to foreseen ends-if the product is to be a genuine poem. In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth wrote that "I have at all times endeavored to look steadily at my subject"; and in a supplementary Essay he complained that from Dryden through Pope there is scarcely an image from external nature "from which it can be inferred that the eye of the poet had been steadily fixed on his object." Therefore, because of the prominence of landscape in this period, "Romantic poetry" has to the popular mind become almost synonymous with "nature poetry." Neither Romantic theory nor practice, however, justifies the opinion that the aim of this poetry was description for its own sake. Wordsworth in fact insisted that the ability to observe and describe objects accurately, although a necessary, is not at all a sufficient condition for poetry, "as its exercise supposes all the higher qualities of the mind to be passive, and in a state of subjection to external objects." And while most of the great Romantic lyrics-Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, The Daffodils, and Ode: Intimations of Immortality; Coleridge's Frost at Midnight, Kubla Khan, and Dejection; Shelley's Ode to the West Wind, Keats's Nightingale- begin with an aspect or change of aspect in the natural scene, this serves only as stimulus to the most characteristics human activity, that of thinking. Romantic poems are in fact meditative poems, in which the presented scene usually serves to raise an emotional problem or personal crisis whose development and resolution constitute the organizing principle of the poem and not to describe this natural scene. As Wordsworth said in his Prospectus to The Recluse, not nature, but "the Mind of Man" is "my haunt, and the main region of my song."