Last Updated on July 10, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1110
Quotes by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"The Foster-Mother's Tale" tells the story of a boy found abandoned in the woods:
And so the babe grew up a pretty boy,
A pretty boy, but most unteachable—
And never learnt a prayer, nor told a bead.
The boy's aversion to authority causes him to be imprisoned; on his escape, he travels to the new world alone, where he
set sail by silent moonlight
Up a great river, great as any sea,
And ne'er was heard of more: but 'tis supposed,
He lived and died among the savage men.
In "The Dungeon," Coleridge contrasts imprisonment with the healing power of nature. The prisoner stagnates in
friendless solitude, groaning and tears.
And savage faces, at the clanking hour,
Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,
By the lamp's dismal twilight!
On the other hand, nature (addressed as "thou") replaces cruelty with a kind of natural expansion of the soul:
Thou pourest on him thy soft influences.
Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sheets,
Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
Till he relent, and can no more endure
To be a jarring and a dissonant thing . . .
In "The Nightingale," Coleridge takes exception to the poetic appropriation of the nightingale's song as a signifier of melancholy. As with the previous two poems, nature is essentially a force for good—something that children, who have yet to be contaminated by civilization, can intuit. The poem ends with the poet thinking about his infant son, vowing that he should learn that even in the melancholy of the nightingale there is joy:
But if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate joy.
"Love" is a story about how the poet woos his lover, Genevieve, by singing a song about a mad knight who is nursed to health by the lady he saves from outlaws. "Love" introduces the theme of the power of poetry, although it is not clear what Coleridge's attitude to that "power" is. The poet's performance has a great effect on Genevieve:
She wept with pity and delight,
She blush'd with love, and virgin-shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.
However, there is a difference between the effect of the nightingale's song and the artifice of the poet's performance here. The poem raises the question of the relationship between nature and poetry, or about the truth-telling capacity of poetry.
One of Coleridge's most famous poems is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, in which the speaker, the ancient mariner, appears at a wedding and tells the story of his voyage. Almost every part of this poem is quotable, but the central action of the poem is the Mariner's crime against nature in killing the albatross. When it first appears, it comes as if from God:
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the Fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian Soul,
We hail'd it in God's name.
But inexplicably, the Mariner impulsively kills it:
"God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends that plague thee thus—
Why look'st thou so?"—with my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.
This act of cruelty has severe consequences for the mariner and his shipmates:
And I had done an hellish thing
And it would work e'm woe:
For all averr'd, I had kill'd the Bird
That made the Breeze to blow.
The lesson of the poem, at least in the Mariner's view, is that it is our sacred duty to love nature, lest we suffer the fate of the mariner:
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small:
For the dear God, who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
Quotes by William Wordsworth
"Lines Written at a Small Distance from My House, and Sent by My Little Boy to the Person to Whom They Are Addressed" again discusses a theme common throughout Lyrical Ballads : that is, nature's primacy over logic and other hallmarks of human civilization. The poem is addressed to "My Sister" (presumably...
(The entire section contains 1110 words.)
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Lyrical Ballads study guide. You'll get access to all of the Lyrical Ballads content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.