Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Start Free Trial

Analyze the supernatural elements in Coleridge's poetry.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are many different supernatural elements in the poetry of Coleridge. Some reflect Christian beliefs, some reflect folk traditions, and some are fantastic elements grounded in his use of opium, which produced hallucinations.

One of his poems with many dreamlike and supernatural elements is "Kubla Khan," a poem that takes the actual Mongolian historical figure Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, and uses that as a starting point for imagining a vast and supernaturally beautiful and luxurious "pleasure dome." Many of the elements of the poem, such as the phrases "demon lover", "holy dread," "sacred river," and, most importantly, "a miracle of rare device," create a supernatural atmosphere. The poem draws connections among artistic creation, the transcendent, and the supernatural as all distinct from and superior to mundane reality.

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" also has many supernatural elements, most importantly the albatross, which figures as an omen and a bird of good luck. Eventually, the albatross also figures in the curse brought down by the "hellish" deed of killing the bird. Supernatural imagery abounds, including spirits, witch oil, and, most importantly, the nightmare ship. The figure of Geraldine in "Christabel" is also one of supernatural evil.

These supernatural elements serve to distinguish the poetic world from the real one and a poetic way of thinking and imagining from uninspired literalism. They also seek to infuse the poems with an atmosphere of mystery and the sense of a dream world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Elements of the supernatural are part of Coleridge's poetry, and can easily be seen by any reader of his classic words such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" or "Kubla Khan." His poems are full of tangible examples of the supernatural, whether it be in the form of the specteral figures of "DEATH" and "LIFE-IN-DEATH" in the former or the "damsel with a dulcimer" that the speaker sees in the latter. Note the following description of these two figures from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" as they gamble for the lives of the men on the boat:

The naked hulk alongside came,

And the twain were casting dice;

"The game is done! I've won! I've won!"

Quoth she, and whistles thrice.

As a result, the other crewmen die and slump to the floor as the mariner hears their souls whizzing past him as if they were a crossbow bolt. Coleridge's poetry certainly presents him as focusing more on the supernatural aspects of Romanticism, and his purpose in writing Lyrical Ballads, the groundbreaking work of poetry that he wrote with Wordsworth, was to make the supernatural appear natural, whereas Wordsworth aimed to do the opposite. Coleridge's success can be seen in the presentation of the supernatural in the poems contained in this volume, where terrifying figures and mystical events happen as if they were part of everyday life.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial