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January 21, 2008 Red Hook, New York From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a leader of the British Romantic movement, was born on October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England. His father, a vicar of a parish and master of a grammar school, married twice and had fourteen children. The youngest child in the family, Coleridge was a student at his father's school and an avid reader. After his father died in 1781, Coleridge attended Christ's Hospital School in London, where he met lifelong friend Charles Lamb. While in London, he also befriended a classmate named Tom Evans, who introduced Coleridge to his family. Coleridge fell in love with Tom's older sister, Mary.

Coleridge's father had always wanted his son to be a clergyman, so when Coleridge entered Jesus College, University of Cambridge in 1791, he focused on a future in the Church of England. Coleridge's views, however, began to change over the course of his first year at Cambridge. He became a supporter of William Frend, a Fellow at the college whose Unitarian beliefs made him a controversial figure. While at Cambridge, Coleridge also accumulated a large debt, which his brothers eventually had to pay off. Financial problems continued to plague him throughout his life, and he constantly depended on the support of others.

En route to Wales in June 1794, Coleridge met a student named Robert Southey. Striking an instant friendship, Coleridge postponed his trip for several weeks, and the men shared their philosophical ideas. Influenced by Plato's Republic, they constructed a vision of pantisocracy (equal government by all), which involved emigrating to the New World with ten other families to set up a commune on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Coleridge and Southey envisioned the men sharing the workload, a great library, philosophical discussions, and freedom of religious and political beliefs.

After finally visiting Wales, Coleridge returned to England to find that Southey had become engaged to a woman named Edith Fricker. As marriage was an integral part of the plan for communal living in the New World, Coleridge decided to marry another Fricker daughter, Sarah. Coleridge wed in 1795, in spite of the fact that he still loved Mary Evans, who was engaged to another man. Coleridge's marriage was unhappy and he spent much of it apart from his wife. During that period, Coleridge and Southey collaborated on a play titled The Fall of Robespierre (1795). While the pantisocracy was still in the planning stages, Southey abandoned the project to pursue his legacy in law. Left without an alternative plan, Coleridge spent the next few years beginning his career as a writer. He never returned to Cambridge to finish his degree.

In 1795 Coleridge befriended William Wordsworth, who greatly influenced Coleridge's verse. Coleridge, whose early work was celebratory and conventional, began writing in a more natural style. In his "conversation poems," such as "The Eolian Harp" and "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," Coleridge used his intimate friends and their experiences as subjects. The following year, Coleridge published his first volume of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, and began the first of ten issues of a liberal political publication entitled The Watchman. From 1797 to 1798 he lived near Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, in Somersetshire. In 1798 the two men collaborated on a joint volume of poetry entitled Lyrical Ballads. The collection is considered the first great work of the Romantic school of poetry and contains Coleridge's famous poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

That autumn the two poets traveled to the Continent together. Coleridge spent most of the trip in Germany, studying the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Jakob Boehme, and G. E. Lessing. While there he mastered the German language and began translating. When he returned to England in 1800, he settled with family and friends at Keswick. Over the next two decades Coleridge lectured on literature and philosophy, wrote about religious and political theory, spent two years on the island of Malta as a secretary to the governor in an effort to overcome his poor health and his opium addiction, and lived off of financial donations and grants. Still addicted to opium, he moved in with the physician James Gillman in 1816. In 1817, he published Biographia Literaria, which contained his finest literary criticism. He continued to publish poetry and prose, notably Sibylline Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1830). He died in London on July 25, 1834.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Arch (1798)
Arch (1800)
Biographia Literaria (1907)
Christabel: Kubla Khan, a Vision; The Pains of Sleep (1816)
Fears in Solitude (1798)
Lyrical Ballads, with a few Other Poems (1798)
Poems (1803)
Poems on Various Subjects (1796)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Oxford Authors (1985)
Selections from the Sybilline Leaves of S. T. Coleridge (1827)
Sibylline Leaves: A Collection of Poems (1817)
Sonnets from various authors (1796)
The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1969)
The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1912)
The Devil's Walk: A Poem (1830)
The Literary Remains in Prose and Verse of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1839)
The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge (1828)

Prose

A Moral and Political Lecture (1795)
Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character (1825)
Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions (1817)
Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1973)
Conciones ad Populum, or Addresses to the People (1795)
Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (1841)
Essays on His Own Times; forming a second series of "The Friend," (1850)
Hints towards the Formation of a more Comprehensive Theory of Life (1848)
On the Constitution of Church and State (1830)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selected Letters (1987)
Seven Lectures upon Shakespeare and Milton (1856)
Specimens of the Table Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1835)
The Friend: A Literary, Moral, and Political Weekly Paper (1810)
The Friend; A Series of Essays (1812)
The Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1895)
The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1957)
The Philosophical Lectures of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1949)
The Plot Discovered, or an Address to the People Against Ministerial Treason (1795)
The Statesman's Manual, or The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight: A Lay Sermon (1816)
Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1932)
Zapolya: A Christmas Tale (1817)

Drama

Remorse, A Tragedy, in Five Acts (1813)
The Fall of Robespierre. An Historic Drama (1794)

Periodicals

The Watchman: A Periodical Publication (1796)

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772 - 1834

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A 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.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

    The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves. 
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
     A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw;
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a leader of the British Romantic movement, was born on October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England.

by this poet

poem

Part I

 

It is an ancient mariner
And he stoppeth one of three.
--"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, 
Now wherefore stoppest thou me?

The bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
Mayst hear the merry din."

He holds him
poem
Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove,
The Linnet and Thrush say, "I love and I love!"
In the winter they're silent—the wind is so strong;
What it says, I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving—all come back together.
poem

Come, come thou bleak December wind,
And blow the dry leaves from the tree!
Flash, like a Love-thought, thro' me, Death
And take a Life that wearies me.