Treatment of Supernatural in Coleridge's Christabel

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Christabel is an unfinished poem of 677 lines written by S.T. Coleridge. Its first part consists of 337 lines, which was written in 1797 and its second part consists of 337 lines which were written in 1800, after Coleridge returned back from Germany. After this there was a decline in his poetic powers and in spite of his numerous efforts to complete the poem, he could not do so. This poem was supposed to be included in the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads, but because it was not complete its inclusion could not be possible. On 1st November 1800, Coleridge wrote a letter to Josiah Wedgwood in this context. In his letter, he wrote- “I tried to perform my promise; but the deep unutterable disgust, Which I had suffered in the translation of that accursed

Wallenstein seemed to have stricken me with bareness- for I
tried and tried and nothing would come of it. I desisted with a deeper dejection than I am willing to remember”.

Wordsworth decided not to include Kubla Khan in the Lyrical Ballads because he thought that the style of this poem was very different as compared with his style of writing and so he did not allowed the printing of this poem along with his other poems in Lyrical Ballads, though Coleridge himself thought that it was not included because of its inappropriate length. It was read and admired both by Walter Scott and Lord Byron and it was finally published by Murray in 1816 on the recommendation of Lord Byron.

In his preface to Christabel, Coleridge writes ‘‘in my very first conception of the tale, I had the whole present in my mind, with the wholeness, so less than the liveliness of a vision”. In 1815, in a letter to Lord Byron, he wrote that the poem will be written in five parts. All this shows that Coleridge had a definite plan about the narrative scheme of the poem .However, Wordsworth was doubtful about the presence of definite plan in Coleridge’s mind to write this poem. Wordsworth says that-“I am sure he never formed a plan or knew what was to be the end of Christabel and that he merely deceived himself when he thought, as he says, that he had the idea quite clear in his mind”.

Christabel was intended to be a long poem consisting of five parts but because of the decline of the poetic powers of Coleridge, he could not write beyond few lines in part three and as the poem has come down to us, it consists only of two parts. In part one, the descriptions of the landscapes are meant to create a suitable setting for the story. There is a deliberate undecidedness and vagueness about them which increases the sense of mystery and horror being woven by the poet. The first part tells us abut Sir Leoline, who was a rich Baron and who lived in a castle. He had an old, toothless bitch of a strong breed. This bitch was in the habit of uttering short and not very loud howls in answer to the castle clock. She howled once when the clock struck a quarter and twelve times when it struck an hour. It was believed that she could see the coffin in which Christabel’s dead mother was wrapped at her death. Then the focus shifts to a cold midnight. It was a full moon night but moon was hidden behind a thin cloud. Sir Leoline’s young and lovely daughter Christabel goes to the forest at midnight. All of a sudden, she hears a low moaning sound from the other side of the oak tree. This sound could not have been produced by wind because there was no wind at all. Christabel gets scared and her heart starts beating fast and she goes to the other side of the tree to see what it was . There she sees a beautiful young lady dressed in magnificent clothes. Her white neck and arms were bare and she was wearing glittering gems in her hair Christabel is astonished to see such a beautiful lady there. When she talks to this lady, she gets to know that her name is Geraldine and she is from a noble family. She was abducted by five armed warriors, the previous day and after a long ride, they had left her in the forest and they had said...
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