Coleridge's Poems

Coleridge's Poems Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Coleridge offer a contrast between Geraldine and the title character in "Christabel"?

    While both women are young and seemingly innocent, Geraldine hides her inner evil under the "white garment" of purity. Christabel is truly pure, but her innocence and generosity place her in danger from Geraldine's lascivious darkness. Only when Christabel prays is she able to temporarily break the spell of silence and warn her father against Geraldine--but it is too late, as Geraldine has replaced Christabel in her father's affections already.

  2. 2

    To what do Coleridge's meditations turn in "Frost at Midnight"?

    Struck at first by the absolute stillness of the snowy night, Coleridge reflects upon his youth during a sunnier season, when he longed to leave the schoolroom and play outdoors. His thoughts are drawn to the baby resting next to him, however, and he begins a meditation and a prayer that his son will grow up to love all seasons and to learn from them equally. Coleridge draws a contrast between his own urban upbringing and his son's future rural (and hopefully more enriching) upbringing.

  3. 3

    How is the theme of longing for innocence developed in "Sonnet: To the River Otter"?

    The speaker in this sonnet is driven to "Visions of childhood" which "beguiled/Lone manhood's cares." As an adult, he looks back upon his memories of the brook--a vividly described childhood memory imprinted firmly in his mind--as a form of imaginary transport to a better time. The years between his youth and his present state are described as "mournful," suggesting that his time of innocence was better, and definitely happier, than his journey to adulthood. He recalls the "Sweet scenes of childhood" with a yearning for better and simpler days.

  4. 4

    What reflections on poetry does Coleridge offer in "The Nightingale"?

    Coleridge calls poets to task for using the cliched description of the nightingale as a "melancholy " bird. He suggests that this image was superimposed on the nightingale's song by some solitary, unhappy wanderer, and has been used since by unthinking poets. He chides young poets for spending most of their time in "ball-rooms and hot theatres" rather than outdoors, where they can better appreciate the beauty of nature. He calls poets to proclaim the beauty of Nature, thus elevating their own poetry while raising awareness of Natures' virtues. To Coleridge, nothing in Nature is melancholy, and by taking part in Nature's good qualities poets may "share in Nature's immortality."

  5. 5

    What place does Coleridge's own son have in his poetry?

    Coleridge often mentions his son Hartley in his poetry, usually in connection with an appreciation of Nature. In "Frost at Midnight" he speaks of the infant lying next to him, his only companion on a preternaturally silent winter night. He sees his own love of nature as stunted by his upbringing in the city, and hopes for a more fully-developed love of nature in his son, whom he is raising in the countryside. Whereas Coleridge finds the beautiful winter night turning his heart toward well-remembered summer days, he hopes his son will find each season beautiful in its own right.

    The last stanza of "The Nightingale" also turns to Coleridge's son. His reflections on the nightingale's beauty leads him to suspect that his son, in whom he is instilling a love for nature, would thoroughly enjoy this song. As proof, he recalls a time when the infant was awakened with a fright and cried, but was calmed by the sight of the moon.

  6. 6

    How does Coleridge use night as a recurring motif in his poetry?

    Nighttime is a time of solitude and contemplation in Coleridge's works. In "Frost at Midnight" it is the stillness of night, when no one else is awake, that allows him time to reflect on his own past and his son's future. In "Dejection: An Ode," it is nighttime when the speaker tries--and fails--to find solace in nature. "The Nightingale" sings at night, and it is this song which leads the speaker's musings to the beauty of the moon and the importance of being outdoors at night. Even the evil Geraldine, found at night in "Christabel," does not change the fact that Christabel first went outside at night in order to pray for her absent fiancé. Nighttime is the time of inner stillness and, contrary to many presentations as evil and dangerous by other poets, is a time of peace and tranquility in Coleridge's works.

  7. 7

    What is the development of the speaker's emotional state in "Dejection: An Ode"?

    The speaker begins the poem anxious at the possibility of a coming storm. Seeing in this natural phenomenon an echo of his own soul's distress, he turns to nature for solace. Unfortunately, the speaker's grief has made him so numb that he can no longer connect to nature to draw comfort from it. He is frustrated at this turn of events until he realizes that Nature cannot give him anything that does not originate within his own soul. Once he concludes that human beings must take active part in their own emotional experiences, he turns his heart to the Joy he derives from his imagination. Although still unhappy over his lost love at the end of the poem, the speaker has come to a place where he thinks beyond himself and asks personified Sleep to visit his beloved to bring her that same joy he feels.

  8. 8

    How do Coleridge's poems reflect the ideals of the Romanticism?

    Along with William Wordsworth, Coleridge ushered in the Romantic age in England with his published poetry and literary criticism. Coleridge believed that poetry should be written in everyday language (although he harked back to archaic romances in both "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Christabel") and wrote much of his poetry in a conversational tone. Coleridge also eschewed rigid rhyme scheme and formalism, while still availing himself of the popular poetic forms such as the sonnet and the ode. Coleridge also focused heavily on nature as a source of inspiration and beauty, a focus that would become one of the central tenets of Romantic thought.

  9. 9

    What dreamlike qualities are found in "Kubla Khan"?

    "Kubla Khan" is set in mythical Xanadu, where runs a sacred (and nonexistent) river named the Alph. This river flows to a "sunless sea" and nearby is a "romantic chasm" which may be haunted by a "woman wailing for her demon-lover." From this chasm issues a geyser spewing forth either rocks or hailstones, which dance in the spray. Within this pleasure dome, under the sunny sky and beneath the greenery, are caves of ice. Taken together, these images seem contradictory, but as individual elements in the dreamscape of Xanadu, they fit into a phantasmagoric panorama of the supernatural and natural combined.

  10. 10

    How may "Christabel" be read as an exploration of a father's changing affections?

    Christabel is alone in her father's favor, his only and most beloved daughter. Once she brings home Geraldine, these things change. Beholding the beauty of Geraldine, Sir Leoline is immediately convinced to mend his broken relationship with Lord Roland; he does this for no other reason than to gain Geraldine's approval. When Christobel momentarily breaks Geraldine's spell of silence and begs her father to send Geraldine away, Sir Leoline treats his daughter like a traitor to both friendship and etiquette. Geraldine has begun to replace Christabel in Sir Leoline's affections, much as a step-mother replaces the dead mother in many fairy tales. Since the poem is unfinished, the reader is left with a conclusion bemoaning Christabel's sad plight as a child scorned by her father.