Coleridge's "Hymn": New Perspectives on Book Six of The Prelude
During the first weeks of August 1902, Samuel Taylor Coleridge toured the hills of England near Scafell on foot. Ironically, the lines that "involuntarily poured forth" into a "Hymn" did not end up describing Coleridge's ascent of Scafell, but rather a hypothetical scene in the Vale of Chamouni. The work, entitled "Hymn Before Sun-Rise, In the Vale of Chamouni," appeared in The Morning Post in September of the same year. In "Hymn," the poet confronts Mont Blanc during a dark day and becomes overcome with Nature's "secret joy," asking his natural surroundings to join him in celestial song to praise God (20). Wordsworth decried the poem: Keith Thomas, a critic of the romantics, indicates that "Wordsworth emphatically disliked the poem," going so far as to label "Hymn" an exercise in the "Mock Sublime" (Thomas, 100). Thomas contends that "Hymn" embittered Wordsworth to the point that he "might have feared that Coleridge had published a poem that treated a topic he knew intimately far better than he had treated it so far" (Thomas, 102). Not only did Coleridge's work appear analogous to a sublime work like...
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