Coleridge and 18 Thcent.Tradition Samuel Taylor Term Paper

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Coleridge & 18 thCent.Tradition

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Rebellion against 18th Century Neo-Classical Tradition in Poetry

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), along with his contemporary and artistic peer William Wordsworth, is credited with ushering in, during the final years of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th, the Romantic tradition in English poetry, a departure from18th century Neo-classicism as embodied within works by Pope; Dryden; Swift; Johnson, and others.

As Moore observes, for example:

Coleridge and Wordsworth inspired each other to new heights of achievement.

In 1798 they jointly published Lyrical Ballads, considered one of the most revolutionary volumes in English verse. During their years of close friendship,

Coleridge wrote his greatest poetry, including "The Rime of the Ancient

Mariner," "Kubla [sic] Khan," and "Frost at Midnight." (p. 10)

In essence, along with Wordsworth and others Coleridge rebelled substantively against Neo-classical 18th century poetic formalistic and moral traditions, as may be clearly observed in parts of both his Kubla Khan (1816) and his The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798). Further, as Zuk points out ("Coleridge's Blank Verse"), Coleridge is the father of blank verse within British Romantic (and other, later) poetry.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Coleridge & 18 Thcent.Tradition Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Assignment

Eighteenth century British poetry characteristically features Neo-classical forms, and themes. Echoes of works by Roman satirists Horace and Juvenal appear, often in combination, in various early eighteenth-century (Augustan) satirical works, e.g., Pope's mock epic The Rape of the Lock (1714) and Swift's essay "A Modest Proposal" (1729). The early Romantic era of British poetry (about 1785 to about 1830), on the other hand, features works by Blake; Wordsworth; Coleridge; Byron, Shelly, and Keats. Romantic poetry styles and forms are changed significantly, from Neo-classical ones, which are often replete with epic-like forms and themes, as exemplified within The Rape of the Lock, for example, to more impressionistic ones, as exemplified by early Romantic works by Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, and others. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a major contributor to distinct changes in British poetry, between the 18th and 19th centuries, that introduced, for the 19th century and beyond, a dramatic shift from Neo-classicism to Romanticism.

Within Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1714), (mock) epic tragedy and heroic couplets give that poem a distinct Neo-classical form, inflecting syllogistic progression and content. In contrast, within both Coleridge's Kublai Khan (1816) and his Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), a revival of the ballad form, e.g., short lines; quatrains; and blank verse, are instead readily apparent.

In terms of poetic voice, 18th century Neo-classical subjects are, in general, relatively detached, and therefore less impressionistic, emotionally rendered, and personal to the poet. In contrast, 19th century Romantic poetry subjects are considerably more impressionistic, emotionally wrought, and personal. Within 18th century Neo-classicism, poetry often features mainstream experiences and values, and moralistic tones. (Byron even called Pope 'the moral poet of all civilisation', qtd. In Nokes, 99). In contrast, Romantic poetic characteristics, as evident in Coleridge's Kublai Khan (1816) and Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) are often mysterious and omniscient, even reverting sometimes to the coincidental and uncanny, rather than (as 18th century Neo-classical poetry typically does) adhering to strict forms and epic-like progression and predictability.

As for subject matter, 18th century Neo-classical tradition generally concerns itself with moral values; social realities, and mainstream experiences, within not only works like Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1816), but others like Wordworth's Tintern Abbey (1798). Compared against such neo-classical works, Coleridge's Kublai Khan (1816) and Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) make use of descriptions of the sublime through nature; of sexuality, and of the unconscious, themes largely unexplored within 18th century British Neo-classical poetry.

According to the web article "Romanticism" (Wikipedia, April 3, 2005):

Some scholars see romanticism as completely continuous with the present, some see it as the inaugural moment of modernity, some see it as the beginning of a tradition of resistance to the Enlightenment, and still others date it firmly to the direct aftermath of the French Revolution. The topic is complex enough that most characteristics taken as defining Romanticism have also been taken as its opposite by different scholars.

In terms of Coleridge's own expressions of early Romanticism, however, it is clear, within the opening lines of Kublai Khan, with its impressionistic free-verse approach, that Coleridge is anything but wedded to the relatively Neo-classical forms and traditions of Enlightenment era poetry:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round:

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery. (Lines 1-11)

To see differences between Coleridge's Romanticism and the Neo-classicism of Pope (for example) one may compare the first 11 lines of Coleridge's Kublai Khan (1816), with its ragged rhyme scheme (ABAAB; CCDBDB) and impressionistic phrasing (e.g., "gardens bright with sinuous rills" (Line 8); "Enfolding sunny spots of greenery" (Line 11)) with the first 12 lines of Pope's The Rape of the Lock (1714):

What dire offence from am'rous causes springs,

What mighty contests rise from trivial things, sing -- This verse to Caryl, Muse! is due:

This, ev'n Belinda may vouchsafe to view:

Slight is the subject, but not so the praise,

If she inspire, and he approve my lays.

Say what strange motive, Goddess! could compel well-bred lord t' assault a gentle belle?

A say what stranger cause, yet unexplor'd,

Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?

In tasks so bold, can little men engage,

And in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage?

Within these initial lines of The Rape of the Lock (1714), Pope's rhyme scheme (AABBCC; DDEEFF) is considerably more even and predictable. Further, even Pope's more impressionistic lines (e.g., "in soft bosoms dwells such mighty rage" (Line 12), are classically-contained metaphors, not mere descriptive phrases.

Further, in considering epic-like structure and progression within Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), the language of many of the poem's stanza's is surprisingly matter-of-fact and unembellished. Consider' for instance, Coleridge's third and fourth stanzas from this poem:

He holds him with his skinny hand, 'There was a ship,' quoth he.

'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years' child:

The Mariner hath his will.E [Emphasis added] (Lines 9-16)

Within Kublai Khan (1816), Coleridge also syntactically and impressionistically exaggerates emotion, for effect, in describing the 'chasm' in line 14, e.g., "A savage place." Arguably, the woman referred to in the third stanza of this poem is Eve from Genesis, 'wailing' for "her demon lover" (perhaps the forbidden fruit that caused her to be jettisoned from paradise). Within Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798), an old mariner who has killed an albatross, and his shipmates, suffer together what comes to be seen, again impressionistically, and with similar, frequent exaggeration of emotion (e.g., "A weary time! A weary time! (Part III, Stanza 1, Line 3); "Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!" (Part IV, Stanza 5, Line 1) as the revenge of the albatross on the high seas.

Coleridge's legacy to poetry is a vast one: along with Wordsworth, Coleridge ushered in the era of British Romantic poetry, strongly influencing later British Romantics like Keats, Shelley, and Byron, as well as later poets of the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Perhaps most importantly, however, Coleridge originated blank verse in poetry (Zuk). Elements of Romantic poetry, e.g., impressionism; free verse forms, and personal expression, so different than those that exemplify 18th century Neo-classical poetry, have carried over into modern (e.g., Pound; Eliot) and post-modern (e.g., the "Beat Generation"; Ted Hughes; Billy Collins) poetry.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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