Samuel Taylor Coleridge Questions and Answers

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Many of Coleridge’s poems feature narrators who are part of the dramatic description of the scene. How does Coleridge influence our reading of his work by tracing his speaker's thoughts? In what ways does his style create a tone of immediacy?

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Two Coleridge poems immediately jump to mind that illustrate the idea that narrators are part of the dramatic description of the scene—and in both cases, the narrator's voice seems to reach out of the poem toward the reader. This does increase our sense of immediacy by encouraging us to share the narrator's emotions. We are encouraged to put ourselves directly in his place.

In "Frost at Midnight," the narrator speaks to us from within the poem, metaphorically inviting us into his cottage, where the frost (cold weather) has kept others away. He is alone with his baby. He addresses us, the readers, in the first person:

My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. (emphasis added)

The first person voice makes the poem quite intimate. The narrator then moves from showing us his cottage home to sharing with us details of his childhood. He expresses his love for his infant son:

My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee
These simple words draw us into his emotional circle and help us share with him his hopes for his infant son's future.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a much longer poem, works within a frame narrative. A wedding guest recalls being stopped by the Ancient Mariner on his way into a wedding. He says to the Mariner:
Now wherefore [why] stopp'st thou me?
He goes on to say that "I am next of kin."

This first person narration also pulls us directly into the scene, as if we are part of it. When the imagery of the poem pulls away to speak of the wedding guest in the third person as "he," the guest is sitting as spellbound as a three year old, fixated on the Mariner's story.

This models the readers themselves—interrupted by the Mariner as much as the wedding guest and needing to drop everything and pay attention to the story the Mariner has to tell. At this point, when the Mariner takes over the narrative, we are already in our proper place as listeners and emotionally primed for his story.

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