S.T. Coleridge & Romantic Movement

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"As a first generation Romantic, S.T. Coleridge defined many of the movement's characteristics." Discuss with reference to the four poems.


Coleridge, as a first generation Romantic, defined many of the movement’s characteristics by detailing the Romantic paradigms of Individual experience, nature & idealism with the imagination function as a mediator with reason to achieve unity. Four of Coleridge’s Poems; ‘Frost at Midnight’, ‘This Lime Tree Bower My Prison’, ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ & ‘Kubla Khan’ focus on a specific area of Romanticism, too which served as paradigms for the movement. His poetry was heavily influenced by his context which included the Industrial Revolution, French Revolution & spread of Napoleons Tyranny throughout Europe. In actual fact, his poetic form and meters mirror the revolutionary surge, as he does not subscribe to any conventions of poetry.

The poem ‘Frost at midnight’ is a conversational poem that outlines many beliefs of the Romantic Movement. His poem is centred on Rousseau philosophy, in that “'everything is good when it leaves the creator; everything degenerates in the hands of men.” To convey ideas relating to the central themes, ‘Frost at Midnight’ relies on a highly personal form of expression whereby the reader follows the progression of the thoughts of the speaker.

The objects surrounding the speaker become metaphors for the work of the mind and the imagination, so that the fluttering film on the fire grate turns him towards recollection of his childhood. Coleridge says that sympathises with the 'film’ and further goes on to say 'with me who live'. Film (In this case it is ash) is something that is burnt and, was most likely, wood before it was burnt. This symbolises the Industrial Revolution and the people (including Coleridge) who were affected by it. His memory of feeling trapped in school naturally brings him back into his abrupt surroundings with a sudden rush of emotion for his “cradled infant”. His final reflection on his son’s future becomes mingled with his Romantic interpretation of nature. This connection of nature and the mind expresses itself in two ways. The landscape was on one hand regarded as an extension of the human personality, capable of sympathy with man’s emotional state. This can be seen in ‘Frost at Midnight’ when Coleridge says that his son will someday ‘wander like a breeze’, enjoying the kind of freedom the wind ‘enjoys’ in the world. The delights of unspoiled scenery and the innocent life of countryside people were popular Romantic themes, and it is for this reason that in ‘Frost at Midnight’ Coleridge explicitly states that he hopes his child will enjoy a youth spent in the countryside where he will be, in effect, at one with nature (and so one with divinity). One of the fundamentals of Romanticism is the belief in the natural goodness of man (and hence further establishing his connection too Rousseau), the idea that in a state of nature people would behave well but are hindered by civilisation. It is against this barrier that Coleridge writes in ‘Frost at Midnight’ and the idea of man’s natural goodness and the importance of emotion also contributed to the development of Romantic individualism.

Additionally, ‘This Lime Tree Bower My Prison’, like ‘Frost at Midnight’ belongs to the conversational group, which maintain intimate internal dialogue. Highlighting Romantic Idealism, ‘This Lime Tree Bower my Prison’ idealises Coleridge & his friends along with his surroundings (the lime tree bower) as part of the assembly that value individual experience, Nature and the Imagination as opposed to social materialism of the 18th Century. Physically limited to the lime-tree bower as his friends have left him and gone gallivanting, the narrator uses the imaginative journey as an escape from constraints of reality (addition showing the ability to “transcend”...
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