Romantic Poets

John Keats (1795-1821)
English poet, b. London. His first volume of poems appeared in 1817. It included ” I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,” “Sleep and Poetry,” and the famous sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.” He died of tuberculosis in Rome. One of the principal poets in the English Romantic movement, who endured major criticism during his lifetime and was posthumously defended by figures like Shelley, who helps raise his status.
Works: On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer, Ode upon a Grecian Urn, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Melancholy, Endymion, The Eve of St. Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Hyperion, Cristabel
Keats’ poetry differs from Wordsworth’s ‘nature as religion,’ and instead focuses on more depressing subjects (c’mon, he died at 26). Keats felt that the deepest meaning of life lay in the apprehension of material beauty, although his mature poems reveal his fascination with a world of death and decay.
A THING of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Endymion, Keats; Told in 4000 lines of the love of the moon goddess Cynthia for the young shepherd Endymion. Written in heroic couplets (rhymed lines of iambic pentameter).
Isabella, or The Pot of Sweet Basil
Adapted from Boccaccio’s Decameron, Isabella is written in ottava rima (the stanza form that Byron brought back from Italy). Isabella and Lorenzo fall in love with each other, but he is in a society class beneath her, she is from a wealthy family and lives with her two brothers. For a while they are secretly in love, but do not speak of it. Then she falls ill and Lorenzo braves the risk of being shunned. But she is ill because she is in love with Lorenzo and is pining away. When he speaks of his love to her, her spirits are lifted and they begin to steal secret moments together. Her two brothers overhear and see them, and because he is of a lower class and unable to support her financially, they plot to murder him so that she has no chance of marrying him against their wishes.
So they slay him in the forest and bury him. Then they return to tell Isabell they had sent him on business far away. She pines for Lorenzo and after months, starts to fade in beauty because of her loss of love and life without Lorenzo. One night Lorenzo appears to her in a vision and tells her of his death at the hands of her brothers and where he is buried. She takes an old nurse with her and together they unearth his grave. Isabella removes his head from his body and wraps it in a scarf, then plants it in a pot and covers it with basil.
She cares for the basil with her tears and love, laments over the potted basil and grieves like a widow. The brothers are puzzled over her obsession for the basil and steal it away from her. Then they discover the secret beneath the basil, and destroy it. Isabella is destroyed as well, and cries for her sweet basil.
Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye!
They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
Without some stir of heart, some malady;
They could not sit at meals but feel how well
It soothed each to be the other by;
They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
But to each other dream, and nightly weep.
Keats, Isabella, or The Pot of Sweet Basil
Hyperion
Keats, Hyperion was planned as an epic poem, to tell of the dethronement of Saturn and the earlier gods by Jupiter and the other divinities of Olympus, and especially of the overthrow of Hyperion, the sun-god, by Apollo. Keats has to some extent imitated Milton’s style, echoed his phrases, and reproduced situations from Paradise Lost, just as Milton himself had imitated ancient epic models.
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn, (breath of morn- direct lift from Paradise Lost- lots of these)
Far from the fiery noon, and eve’s one star,
Sat gray-hair’d Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung about his head
Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs not one light seed from the feather’d grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
A stream went voiceless by, still deadened more
By reason of his fallen divinity
Spreading a shade: the Naiad ‘mid her reeds
Press’d her cold finger closer to her lips.
Hyperion
He follow’d through a lowly arched way,

Brushing the cobwebs with his lofty plume;

And as she mutter’d “Well-a’well-a-day!”

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He found him in a little moonlight room,

Pale, lattic’d, chill, and silent as a tomb.

“Now tell me where is Madeline,” said he,

“O tell me, Angela, by the holy loom

“Which none but secret sisterhood may see,

“When they St. Agnes’ wool are weaving piously.”

Keats, Eve of St. Agnes, The upheaval in Keats’ life lead him to a poetic place, and that journey is mapped within the careful story of young Madeline and her husband to be, Porphyro. The joining of the brave poetic spirit, Porphyro, with the innocent receptacle of the poet, Madeline, is found within the poem’s story. Written in Spenserian stanza (The stanza consists of eight lines of iambic pentameter followed by a single alexandrine, a twelve-syllable iambic line. The final line typically has a caesura, or break, after the first three feet. The rhyme scheme of these lines is “ababbcbcc).
Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.
Keats, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, Ballad-like. The poet meets a knight by a woodland lake in late autumn. The man has been there for a long time, and is evidently dying. The knight says he met a beautiful, wild-looking woman in a meadow. He visited with her, and decked her with flowers. She did not speak, but looked and sighed as if she loved him. He gave her his horse to ride, and he walked beside them. He saw nothing but her, because she leaned over in his face and sang a mysterious song. She spoke a language he could not understand, but he was confident she said she loved him. He kissed her to sleep, and fell asleep himself. He dreamed of a host of kings, princes, and warriors, all pale as death. They shouted a terrible warning — they were the woman’s slaves. And now he was her slave, too. Awakening, the woman was gone, and the knight was left on the cold hillside. Two different versions: (wight is the OE word for man).
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,–
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
Keats, Ode to a Nightingale, Written after Keats heard a nightingale outside his window and started musing about death. Horatian Ode with iambic pentameter lines and one with iambic trimeter.
Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn, His famous poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ was inspired by a Wedgwood copy of a Roman copy of a Greek vase. It also contains the most discussed two lines in all of Keats’s poetry – ‘”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ The exact meaning of those lines is disputed by everyone; no less a critic than TS Eliot considered them a blight upon an otherwise beautiful poem. Iambic pentameter.
(last stanza) O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn, His famous poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ was inspired by a Wedgwood copy of a Roman copy of a Greek vase. It also contains the most discussed two lines in all of Keats’s poetry – ‘”Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ The exact meaning of those lines is disputed by everyone; no less a critic than TS Eliot considered them a blight upon an otherwise beautiful poem. Iambic pentameter.
MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific’and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Keats, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Keats’ first poem. Petrarchan/Italian Sonnet (octet and sestet). The octave presents a situation, attitude, or problem that the sestet comments upon or resolves, as in John Keats’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
English Romantic poet who rebelled against English politics and conservative values. Shelley was considered with his friend Lord Byron a pariah for his life style. He drew no essential distinction between poetry and politics, and his work reflected the radical ideas and revolutionary optimism of the era. Like many poets of his day, Shelley employed mythological themes and figures from Greek poetry that gave an exalted tone for his visions. Most famous for such classic anthology verse works as “Ozymandias”, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Music, When Soft Voices Die, The Cloud and The Masque of Anarchy. His major works, however, are long visionary poems which included Queen Mab (later reworked as The Daemon of the World), Alastor, The Revolt of Islam, Adonaïs and the unfinished work The Triumph of Life. The Cenci (1819) and Prometheus Unbound (1820) were dramatic plays in five and four acts respectively.
The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark–now glittering-no”, reflecting gloom
Now lending splendor, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings 5
Of waters-with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap forever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river 10
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves…
Shelley, Mount Blanc, Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni

The highest peak in Europe, was the pinnacle of reaching the sublime. Inspired to look inward by the sight of the river valley, Shelley has a sudden and clear understanding of the workings of his mind: his mind is involved in a constant exchange of information with his environment. Shelley stresses that his mind “passively” partakes in this exchange, implying that he is, in some respects at least, merely a vehicle for the reception and transmission of information. This theme that the poetic mind acts as a passive receiver and transmitter is recurrent in Romantic poetry, most notably in the motif of the Eolian harp, a kind of wind-powered musical instrument, used by Coleridge in a poem named for the instrument and “Dejection, An Ode,” as well as by Shelley himself in “Ode to the West Wind” (Norton p. 331).

THE AWFUL shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us, visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery. (…)
Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
Tells of Shelley’s decision to devote his life to the pursuit of ideals. ‘Intellectual’ refers to the ideal Platonic spirit apprehended by the mind, over the faint and fleeting information of the senses.
Broken up into 12 line stanzas.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Shelley, “Ozymandias” (1818). An Italian sonnet on the transitory nature of things (all except poetry!)
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes! O thou
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wing’d seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Shelley, Ode to the West Wind. Actually in terza rima (interlocking rhyme). Wind as the bringer of life.
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?
Shelley, Ode to the West Wind. Actually in terza rima (interlocking rhyme). Wind as the bringer of life.
I weep for Adonais – he is dead!
O, weep for Adonais! though our tears
Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!
And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years
To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,
And teach them thine own sorrow, say: “With me
Died Adonais; till the Future dares
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity!”
Shelley, Adonais (An Elegy on the Death of John Keats)

Written in Spenserian stanzas like Keats’ ‘Eve of St. Agnes.’ It is a pastoral elegy, which is a call to mourning, invocation of the muse and the sympathy of nature with death, procession of the mourners and sorrow to consolation. Shelley did not know Keats well in life, but sympathized with his treatment by the Tory press. The last lines of the elegy take an ironic turn when Shelley’s ravaged body is found drowned and can only be identified by a copy of Keat’s 1820 volume in his coat pocket. Shelley’s heart, hardened by calcium did not burn and Mary Shelley kept it wrapped in a copy of Adonais.

The breath whose might I have invoked in song
Descends on me; my spirit’s bark is driven
Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng
Whose sails were never to the tempest given;
The massy earth and sphered skies are riven!
I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;
Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,
The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are
Shelley, Adonais (An Elegy on the Death of John Keats)

Written in Spenserian stanzas like Keats’ ‘Eve of St. Agnes.’ It is a pastoral elegy, which is a call to mourning, invocation of the muse and the sympathy of nature with death, procession of the mourners and sorrow to consolation. Shelley did not know Keats well in life, but sympathized with his treatment by the Tory press. The last lines of the elegy take an ironic turn when Shelley’s ravaged body is found drowned and can only be identified by a copy of Keat’s 1820 volume in his coat pocket. Shelley’s heart, hardened by calcium did not burn and Mary Shelley kept it wrapped in a copy of Adonais.

We have more moral, political, and historical wisdom than we know how to reduce into practice; we have more scientific and economic knowledge than can be accommodated to the just distribution of the produce which it multiplies. The poetry in these systems of thought is concealed by the accumulation of facts and calculating processes. . . . We want the creative faculty to imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we imagine; we want the poetry of life; our calculations have outrun our conception. . . . The cultivation of those sciences which have enlarged the limits of the empire of man over the external world has for want of the poetical faculty proportionally circumscribed those of the internal world; and man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave.
Shelley, A Defense of Poetry (essay). Shelley was moved to write this essay by an ironic statement made by Thomas Love Peacock in his volume The Four Ages of Poetry. Peacock stated that poetry was no longer useful because of the progress of technology and science. Shelley began his defense of poetry by distinguishing between reason and imagination, asserting that reason is a lesser faculty, having to do only with the analysis of things. He argued that imagination sees values and relationships and therefore is a creative faculty. Poetry, Shelley stated, is the expression of the imagination.
Shelley traces the development of poetry from early “savage” times to mature civilizations. He believes that the function of poetry is to give order to the world and thereby to give pleasure. Thus, poets act as legislators, inventing the “art” of life, and also as prophets, because they focus on the eternal and infinite rather than just the local and temporary. By this broad definition even philosophers like Plato or Bacon were poets, and the great poets–Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton–were philosophers.
The effect of poetry is, first of all, pleasure. But more than that, poetry makes people better by softening their natures, by enlarging their sympathies, by encouraging love, and by not being narrowly moralistic. Shelley states that the best poets do not try to teach and that society needs poets. He argues that humans have more practical and technical knowledge than they can possibly use, but that without the values embodied in poetry such knowledge is used to exploit people and cause them misery.
Shelley further proposes that poetry does not come from the reason or the will but rather form the mind in moments of inspiration. He states that the imagination creates far more beautiful images than the composing poet can record. Thus a poet is a person of greater than ordinary sensibility. The poet is happy in the operations of his own mind because he “turns all things to loveliness.”
Finally, Shelley proposes in a second part (never written) to discuss contemporary poetic practice. He felt that he was living in an era of great poetry, at a time when enormous social and political upheaval was inspiring poetry. What he called “the spirit of the age” gave power to each individual poet. Shelley concluded with the most famous phrase of the essay: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” (Also mentions Dante)
Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship, and love’s first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star whose light did shine
On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honoured poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty.
Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be.
Shelley, “To Wordsworth”
HAIL to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert—
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. 5

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Shelley, “To a Skylark” (1820). Identify Shelley by his interest in how Natural things are just manifestations of a deeper and intrinsically poetic divinity
Prometheus Unbound (1820)
Unfinished closet drama by Shelley celebrating Prometheus as a rebel against the gods–part of his larger anti-authoritarian project
Lord Byron (1788-1824)
English poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. Among Byron’s best-known works are the brief poems “She Walks in Beauty”, “When We Two Parted”, and “So, we’ll go no more a roving”, in addition to the narrative poems Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and Don Juan. He travelled to fight against the Ottoman Empire in the Greek War of Independence, for which Greeks revere him as a national hero. He died at 36 years old from a fever contracted while in Missolonghi in Greece. Byron was celebrated in life for aristocratic excesses including huge debts, numerous love affairs, rumours of a scandalous incestuous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile.
Byronic Hero
An idealised but flawed character whose attributes include:

* being a rebel
* having a distaste for social institutions
* being an exile
* expressing a lack of respect for rank and privilege
* having great talent
* hiding an unsavoury past
* being highly passionate
* ultimately, being self-destructive

Not only is the character a frequent part of his work, Byron’s own life could cast him as a Byronic hero. The literary history of the Byronic hero in English can be traced from Milton, especially Milton’s interpretation of Lucifer as having justified complaint against God. One of Byron’s most popular works in his lifetime, the closet play “Manfred,” was loosely modeled on Goethe’s anti-hero, Faust. Byron’s influence was manifested by many authors and artists of the Romantic movement during the 19th century and beyond. An example of such a hero is Heathcliff from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty…” (1814).
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-18)
Long narrative poem by Lord Byron, describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands.

Structure (on which ETS is likely to test):
The poem has four cantos written in Spenserian stanzas, which consist of eight iambic pentameter lines followed by one alexandrine (a twelve syllable iambic line), and has rhyme pattern ABABBCBCC.

The poem contains elements thought to be autobiographical, as Byron generated some of the storyline from experience gained during his travels through Portugal, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea between 1809 and 1811. In a wider sense, it is an expression of the melancholy and disillusionment felt by a generation weary of the wars of the post-Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. Contains one of the early instances of the Byronic hero.

Manfred
Byron; the dramatic poem contains supernatural elements, in keeping with the popularity of the ghost story in England at the time. It is a typical example of a Romantic closet drama.
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
Wordsworth, The World is Too Much With Us
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
Wordsworth, The World is Too Much With Us.
William Wordsworth
Know: Lyrical Ballads (pub. with Coleridge), his appreciation of rustic life and diction as a poetic subject, lucy poems
A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
– Fair as a star when only one
Is shining in the sky.
“She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways” (1800), William Wordsworth in Lyrical Ballads. Part of the series of “Lucy” poems, about the unremarked life and death of a remarkable young rural girl. Cf. Gray’s “Country Church Yard” on the theme of mortality, memorialization, etc.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets (as well as coauthor of the Lyrical Ballads!). He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, as well as for his major prose work Biographia Literaria. His critical work, especially on Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture.
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 were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree
Kubla Khan, unfinished poem by S. T. Coleridge
Look for: Abyssinian maid, Xanadu, Mount Abora, other fanciful names. Iambic tetrameter and pentameter with interlocking end rhymes
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
Coleridge, “Frost at Midnight” (1798). Note the poet’s deism showing through
Biographia Literaria (1817)
Coleridge’s thesis is that the imagination is the supreme faculty of the human intellect, and its cultivation is both a prerequisite and the aim of poetry. For him, “imagination” is the process of keenly perceiving the phenomena of the world and self, and then re-expressing phenomena through the creative faculties of the poet’s whole being, the mind and the soul, the rational and the irrational.

Be sure not to confuse this work with Addison’s “Pleasures of Imagination”–know this one by C’s use of capitals for IMAGINATION and FANCY:
“The IMAGINATION, then, I consider either as
primary, or secondary. The primary IMAGINATION
I hold to be the living power and prime
agent of all human perception, and as a repetition
in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in
the infinite I AM. The secondary I consider as an
echo of the former, coexisting with the conscious
will, yet still as identical with the primary in the
kind of its agency, and differing only in degree,
and in the mode of its operation.”

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 a 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 ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Coleridge, Kubla Khan (1797). Note this work was left unfinished by the arrival of a Person from Porlock
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free:
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). Note the unusual and recognizable metre.
Coleridge divides the poem into seven parts. Most of the stanzas in the poem have four lines; several have five or six lines. In the four-line stanzas, the second and fourth lines usually rhyme. In the five- and six-line stanzas, the second or third line usually rhymes with the final line. The meter alternates between iambic tetrameter (with four feet per line) and iambic trimeter (with three feet per line)
Figures: the Mariner, Death, Life-in-Death, the Albatross, the Sea
Coleridge, Christabel
OVERVIEW: This poem, the first part of which was written in 1797, is also a fragment. Coleridge had wanted to include it in the 1800 Lyrical Ballads, but it was not yet finished; it was still incomplete when he finally published it in 1816. As it stands, the poem is the beginning of a medieval tale about a demon or witch.’ It is writen in a strange meter of four stresses to a line, and a varying number of unstressed syllables. (Such a meter was used in medieval Anglo-Saxon poetry.)
PART 1. At the poem’s opening, it is midnight in Landdale Castle. Everyone is asleep except Christabel, the lovely daughter of Sir Leoline, the lord of the castle. Christabel is roaming in the woods, thinking about her lover, a knight to whom she is betrothed but who is now far away. Hearing a moaning coming from the other side of an oak tree, Christabel discovers a beautiful pale lady, barefoot and with jewels in her hair, who begs for help. Her name is Geraldine. She tells Christabel that she was abducted from her home by five warriors, who tied her to a white horse and brought her to this oak tree and left her, vowing to return. Geraldine begs Christabel for help. They walk back to the castle of Sir Leoline, at the entrance to which Geraldine falls down and must be lifted over the doorstep. This is the first of several hints that Geraldine is an evil spirit, because such beings cannot pass on their own through a doorway that has been blessed. Likewise, when Christabel utters a prayer of thanks to “the Virgin” that they are safe inside, Geraldine cannot join in the prayer. The old watchdog does not bark at this stranger; he only mutters in his sleep, and the ashes in the fireplace suddenly flame up as Geraldine passes by. In Christabel’s chamber the two ladies undress for sleep. They lie down together, Christabel wrapped in the arms of Geraldine. As Christabel sleeps, the guardian spirit of her dead mother is driven away by Geraldine. Thus, by the end of the first part, the poet has led the reader to the conclusion that Geraldine is entrapping Christabel or trying to seduce her, to capture her soul. But he reminds us that “saints will aid if men will call.”
PART 2. It is morning. Geraldine and Christabel rise and dress, but Christabel retains an uneasy sense of the sinister influence of Geraldine. They visit Sir Leoline, to whom Geraldine introduces herself as the daughter of Lord Roland de Vaux, a man who had once been Sir Leoline’s closest friend but had since become a bitter enemy. Captivated by the beauty of Geraldine, who embraces and kisses him, Sir Leoline tells his bard Bracey to travel to the castle of Lord Roland and invite him to come back to Langdale Castle. Meanwhile, Sir Leoline challenges the five scoundrels who abducted Geraldine to appear at a tournament one week later to defend, if they can, their honor. But, seeing Geraldine’s influence over her father, Christabel asks that the guest be sent home at once. Sir Leoline, captivated by Geraldine and in a fury at this breech of hospitality, responds angrily to his daughter. Christabel cannot explain her fears because her tongue has been bewitched by Geraldine. The second part ends with the poet’s meditation about the irrational anger of a parent toward an innocent child.
Coleridge, Kubla Khan
In his introduction to the poem, Coleridge mentions an “anodyne” which he took before he conceived it. The drug was laudanum–opium dissolved in alcohol–and the vision was an opium dream. (This explains so much.) A poem about nothing. Keywords:
–Xanadu
–pleasure dome
–Ancestral voices prophesying war
–Abyssinian maid
–Mount Abora
William Blake (1757-1827)
English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. Major works: Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The Four Zoas, Visions of the Daughters of Albion. Look for relatively simplistic, even childlike diction, structure, and imagery (a feature of the more ETS-beloved Songs)
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)
A series of texts written in imitation of biblical prophecy but expressing Blake’s own intensely personal Romantic and revolutionary beliefs. Like his other books, it was published as printed sheets from etched plates containing prose, poetry, and illustrations.Though Blake was influenced by his grand and mystical cosmic conception, Swedenborg’s conventional moral structures and his Manichean view of good and evil led Blake to express a deliberately depolarized and unified vision of the cosmos in which the material world and physical desire are equally part of the divine order, hence, a marriage of heaven and hell. The book is written in prose, except for the opening “Argument” and the “Song of Liberty”. The book describes the poet’s visit to Hell, a device adopted by Blake from Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost.
All Bibles or sacred codes, have been the causes of the following Errors.
1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul.
2. That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True.
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
2. Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3). The second set of views are spoken by the Devil, informing the speaker’s own view
I cry, Love! Love! Love! Happy, happy love, free as the mountain wind!
Can that be love that drinks another as a sponge drinks water,
That clouds with jealousy his nights, with weepings all the day,
To spin a web of age around him, grey and hoary, dark,
Till his eyes sicken at the fruit that hangs before his sight?
Such is self-love that envies all, a creeping skeleton
With lamplike eyes watching around the frozen marriage bed.
“Visions of the Daughters of Albion” (1793)
I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every black’ning Church appalls ;
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Blake, “A Little Boy Lost” (from Songs of Experience)
‘Twas on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey headed beadles walk’d before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames’ waters flow.

Oh what a multitude they seem’d, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of Heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

Blake, “Holy Thursday” (from Songs of Innocence)

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