Agnes Strickland: Selected Literary Works

Redefining the Symbol of the Infant: Works by Coleridge and Strickland College

The infant has always been a versatile and powerful symbol for a variety of themes; themes such as new life, innocence, potential, and even loss. While in both Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s "To a Friend, Who Asked How I Felt, When the Nurse First Presented My Infant to Me" and Agnes Strickland’s "The Infant" the titular newborns are utilized in order to convey themes of innocence and beatitude, their contrasting circumstances lead to starkly different inferences in terms of overall meaning. Coleridge deals with the acceptance of life and realization of potential, while Strickland copes with the loss of both, leading to the possible redefinition of the symbolic entity that is the infant.

Coleridge’s ecstatic response to the birth of his child is apparent even before reading the sonnet itself, with the superfluous title of the poem and its prideful, self-centered diction revealing his irrepressible joy on the occasion. By using words such as "I," "my," and "me," Coleridge discloses the personal pride and fondness he feels towards his newborn son. However, at the beginning of the sonnet Coleridge also expresses his concern for his child’s future considering his own past, noting that that "For dimly on my thoughtful spirit burst/ All I...

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