Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
“Dejection: An Ode” is generally considered the last of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s major poems. Coleridge wrote a draft of the poem on April 4, 1802, and published a significantly revised and shortened version in December of 1802 in The Morning Post. As its subtitle indicates, “Dejection” is an ode. The English ode from at least the time of Abraham Cowley in the mid-seventeenth century was an irregular form that generally served as a way for a poet to address interior states of mind and turns of cognitive reflection in an overall lyric frame.
Coleridge begins his poem by quoting from the medieval English ballad of Sir Patrick Spens, citing the image of the new moon rising as the last vestiges of the old moon are disappearing. This optical effect is seen by the ballad, and sailors’ lore generally, as presaging a dire storm. Coleridge’s opening thus recalls the interest in oral and popular tradition that the poet and his sometime friend, sometime rival William Wordsworth produced in their coauthored Lyrical Ballads (1798) and that, in Coleridge’s own case, influenced his best-known poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (1798). However, even as he calls on the sonorous orality of the ballad to begin his ode, Coleridge makes clear the distance of his own poem from that form.
Whereas the ballad uses simple, resonant language, Coleridge tends to use more abstract or discursive words. Indeed, the gap between the...
(The entire section is 1375 words.)
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