Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poetry: British Analysis
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s major poems turn on problems of self-esteem and identity. Exploring states of isolation and ineffectuality, they test strategies to overcome weakness without asserting its antithesis—a powerful self, secure in its own thoughts and utterances, the potency and independence of which Coleridge feared would only exacerbate his loneliness. His reluctance to assert his own abilities is evident in his habitual deprecation of his own poetry and hyperbolic praise of William Wordsworth’s. It is evident as well in his best verse, which either is written in an unpretentious “conversational” tone or, when it is not, is carefully dissociated from his own voice and identity. By means of these strategies, however, he is often able to assert indirectly or vicariously the strong self he otherwise repressed.
“The Eolian Harp”
Writing to John Thelwall in 1796, Coleridge called the first of the conversation poems, “The Eolian Harp” (written in 1795), the “favorite of my poems.” He originally published it, in 1796, with the indication “Composed August 20th, 1795, At Clevedon, Somersetshire,” which dates at least some version of the text six weeks before his marriage to Sara Fricker. Since Sara plays a role in the poem, the exact date is crucial. “The Eolian Harp” is not, as it has been called, a “honeymoon” poem; rather, it anticipates a future in which Coleridge and Sara will sit together...
(The entire section is 5756 words.)
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