The Aeolian Harp Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does the approaching marriage of Coleridge come out in his poem?

    Coleridge is writing this poem as his marriage to his fiancée, Sara, is quickly approaching. In some sense, this poem can be seen as the result of his nervous energy; the imaginative and ecstatically Romantic quality of his feverishly impassioned vision of a God-filled reality that borders on Romantic pantheism. More concretely, however, Coleridge spends a considerable amount of time imagining what married life with Sara will be like, especially in the first paragraph, where he includes wistful descriptions of stargazing and listening to the sounds of the ocean with his beloved.

    In later paragraphs, the feelings Coleridge experiences as a result of his upcoming marriage become prevalent. Marriage to a loved one is charged with sensuality, and Coleridge imbues his imagery with nearly sexual elements accordingly. The Aeolian harp makes music when wind moves the strings, and Coleridge's description of this phenomenon is sensually rich; he describes it as a maiden teasing her lover by pretending to repel his advances. He describes the wind as gently caressing the strings in an almost romantic way. His generally optimistic view of life, a characteristic of young men in love, also comes out in his extensive and almost fantastic view of the world explored in the body of the poem.

  2. 2

    Explain the role of Sara in The Aeolian Harp.

    Besides Coleridge (the speaker), the only other human presence in The Aeolian Harp is Coleridge's bride-to-be, Sara Fricker. She is understandably the cause of much of Coleridge's nervous tension; marriage is a terrifyingly exhilarating prospect, especially when your fiancée is the woman you love. Sara is therefore the motivation behind most of the poem, but her influence is most obvious in the last stanza. She comes back as a character in this stanza, and this time in the present tense: Coleridge is beginning to lose himself in the fantasy of this nature-infused pantheistic reality when Sara gives him a disapproving glance, dispelling the euphoric fantasy to bring Coleridge back down to reality, the God of which he immediately begins to ponder and praise. Sara thus acts as an anchor for Coleridge, an especially crucial role since, as a Romantic poet, Coleridge's imagination has a tendency to run away with him still attached.

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