‘Kubla Khan’, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Dejection’



It is not the purpose of this study to try and establish with any precision the historical origins of these three poems. ‘Kubla Khan’ was probably written in the autumn of 1797, rather than the summer as Coleridge claims in his prose Preface to the poem. Yet the Preface itself, which has so profoundly influenced the way in which the poem has been understood, is much later, and it was published only in 1816. According to a note which Wordsworth dictated to Isabella Fenwick in 1843, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ was planned by Coleridge and himself during a walk on the Quantock Hills in the spring of 1798. On 23 March, Wordsworth records, ‘Coleridge … brought his ballad finished.’1 A month previously, on 18 February 1798, Coleridge had written to Joseph Cottle, ‘I have finished my ballad – it is 340 lines.’2 In the Lyrical Ballads of 1798 it was 658 lines and was to undergo extensive revisions and the important addition of prose marginal glosses in 1815–16, published in Sibylline Leaves (1817). The earliest draft of ‘Dejection’ was addressed as a letter to Sara Hutchinson, and dated 4 April 1802. The subsequent drastic revisions of the poem have been examined by Herbert Read in his essay ‘The Creative Experience in Poetry’,3 as the process of using control and order to enable the poet to regard his own confession; to adopt the perspective of spectator and artist. As Coleridge himself wrote in 1808, ‘the spirit of poetry … must of necessity circumscribe itself by rules … It must embody in order to reveal itself.’4


Religious Experience Ontological Basis Creative Experience Religious Thinker Genial Spirit 
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  1. 3.
    Herbert Read, The Forms of Things Unknown: Essays Towards an Aesthetic Philosophy (New York, 1960) pp. 124–40.Google Scholar
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    See A. D. Snyder in a letter to The Times Literary Supplement, 2 Aug 1934, p. 541;Google Scholar
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    D. F. Rauber, ‘The Fragment as Romantic Form’, Modern Language Quarterly, 30 (1969) 221. On the Romantic fragment in Coleridge’s later poetry, see below, Ch. 6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© David Jasper 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hatfield CollegeDurhamUK

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