Coleridge's Poems

Describing the Indescribable in Christabel College

How do we describe an emotion? Happiness, sadness, and fear, all simply words which we tie to certain “feelings,” observable by bodily functions -- flushed cheeks, tears, goosebumps, the production and distribution of certain hormones. As humans our emotions manifest as art, but when the chosen medium is through language, how accurate are our descriptions of the actual substance of emotion? We may do our best with our words in this way, but it is also the silence between them that speaks. Words limit us to what we can describe, and therefore we are unable to explore what is past the limits of our consciousness. In his poem, Christabel, Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses the void between his lines of imagery to haunt his reader with supernatural powers, witches, and the darkness that is characteristic of Gothic poetry. He uses plot, manipulation and rhetorical questions to portray emotions and feelings to his reader without having to experience them, describing the supposed “indescribable.”

Christabel is emotionally inclusive, in that it involves the reader with the use of increasing curiosity, confusion, and fear that gives the reader sympathy for the main character as she becomes bewildered and weakened by the events of the story....

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