Imagery is description using any of the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell. Coleridge uses a wide range of imagery by employing the different senses and describing both dream and waking states to create the evocative world of his poem.
Most writers and poets rely on visual imagery. Coleridge, however, varies the imagery to include most of the senses. There is, for example, the crowing of the cock or rooster that opens the poem in line 3:
This is auditory imagery that employs onomatopoeia or words that mimic the sounds of what they mean to convey.
Coleridge also uses touch imagery so that we can feel the cold and stillness of the scene, such as in the passage below:
The night is chill; the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?
There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek.
The imagery of stillness and chill creates a feeling of anxious anticipation: we seem to be at the moment of eerie calm before something happens. We can also experience in the passage the range of imagery that Coleridge weaves together: touch, sound—the wind "moaneth"—and sight. This puts us fully in the scene and helps convince us of the reality of this supernatural tale.
Coleridge also uses dream imagery in the poem. For example, the speaker explains that Christabel
is in the forest and praying in the middle of the night because she has had dreams of her "betrothèd knight," dreams that have apparently made her worried about his safety. The word knight
conjures a man in armor.
Imagery plays a powerful role in engaging readers in this poem and its fantastic, medieval world.