Context: Coleridge's writing of poetry, despite his great genius, continued for only a short time. His important works were completed within the space of a few years. In the presence of his friend Wordsworth he felt an inferiority complex, and some scholars maintain that Wordsworth discouraged his poetry writing after the publication of Lyrical Ballads (1798–1800). However, Coleridge was interested in German philosophy and literature, and when he could drag himself from his opium, and the even greater opiate of reading, he sometimes forced himself to write critical articles on that subject. Also driven to lecturing by the poverty he knew from birth to death, he discussed Shakespeare's plays and characters with great insight and the imagination of a poet. Despite advances in Shakespearean research in the century and a half since the publication of his Essays and Lectures and his Biographia Literaria (1817), his critical opinions are still worth consideration. He indulged in a number of Epigrams which could be quickly completed. When they dealt critically with literary people, like the one on Donne's poetry, they were enlightening. They were not collected until 1850. John Donne (1573–1631) was the originator of the school of Metaphysical poetry, the members of which strove to find relationships in things apparently unlike and to exercise their intelligence in combining dissimilar images. Donne headed a revolt against the sweetness of Elizabethan poetry. Instead of its delicacy and charm, he worked for intellectual intensity. Taking his qualities into consideration, Coleridge summed Donne up in four lines. There was a camel-like irregularity in the swing of Donne's lines. His love-knot for a sweetheart's hair was more likely to be iron than ribbon, and the ideas were shaped with intensity as if in a blast furnace, or pushed into form as if by a press, tightened by screws.
With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots,Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots;Rhyme's sturdy cripple, fancy's maze and clue,Wit's forge and fire-blast, meaning's press and screw.