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

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Abstract

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

Keywords

Religious Experience Ontological Basis Creative Experience Religious Thinker Genial Spirit 
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Notes

  1. 3.
    Herbert Read, The Forms of Things Unknown: Essays Towards an Aesthetic Philosophy (New York, 1960) pp. 124–40.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    See A. D. Snyder in a letter to The Times Literary Supplement, 2 Aug 1934, p. 541;Google Scholar
  3. Irene H. Chayes, ‘ “Kubla Khan” and the Creative Process’, Studies in Romanticism, VI (1966) 1. MS now in the British Library.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    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
  5. 15.
    Kathleen Raine, ‘Traditional Symbolism in “Kubla Khan”’, Sewanee Review, 72 (1964) 640–2.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
    Humphrey House, Coleridge, the Clark Lectures, 1951–2 (London, 1953) p. 115.Google Scholar
  7. 20.
    See further K. M. Wheeler, The Creative Mind in Coleridge’s Poetry (London, 1981) pp. 39–41.Google Scholar
  8. 23.
    Mary Rahme, ‘Coleridge’s Concept of Symbolism’, Studies in English Literature, IX (1969) 627.Google Scholar
  9. 24.
    Coleridge, ‘On the Prometheus of Aeschylus’, Literary Remains, ed. H. N. Coleridge (London, 1836–9) vol. 4, p. 362.Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    David Jones, ‘An Introduction to “The Ancient Mariner”’ (1963–4), in ‘The Dying Gaul’ and Other Writings, ed. Harman Grisewood (London, 1978) p. 208. Also see Thomas McFarland, Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition (Oxford, 1969), Excursus XIII: ‘Coleridge’s Theory of the Imagination’, p. 308.Google Scholar
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  12. 32.
    See E. S. Shaffer, ‘Kubla Khan ’ and the Fall of Jerusalem (Cambridge, 1975) p. 291Google Scholar
  13. Stephen Prickett, Romanticism and Religion (Cambridge, 1976) Ch. 1: ‘“The Living Educts of the Imagination”: Coleridge on Religious Language’.Google Scholar
  14. 37.
    Maud Bodkin, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (1934, Oxford, 1963) p. 307.Google Scholar
  15. 42.
    Attrib. Charles Burney, Monthly Review, XXIX (1799) 202–10; quoted in Jackson, op. cit., p. 56.Google Scholar
  16. 46.
    Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (1966; Oxford, 1979) pp. 58ff.,63.Google Scholar
  17. 48.
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  18. 50.
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  19. 55.
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  24. 71.
    See also George Dekker, Coleridge and the Literature of Sensibility (London, 1978) p. 103Google Scholar
  25. 72.
    A. H. Thompson, ‘Thomson and Natural Description in Poetry’, in Sir A. W. Ward and A. R. Waller (eds), The Age of Johnson, The Cambridge History of English Literature Series, vol. x (Cambridge, 1932)Google Scholar
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    Karl Jaspers, Plato and Augustine (New York, 1962) p. 30; McFarland, op. cit., pp. 395–6.Google Scholar
  27. 75.
    Don Cupitt, The World to Come (London, 1982) p. 110.Google Scholar
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    George Dekker, Coleridge and the Literature of Sensibility (London, 1978) pp. 22–54.Google Scholar
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    See also, Stephen Prickett, ‘The Religious Context’, in Stephen Prickett (ed.), The Romantics (London, 1981) pp. 115–63.Google Scholar
  30. 85.
    Charles Wesley, Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures(London, 1796), vol. II, p. 82.Google Scholar
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  32. 94.
    Edward Kessler, Coleridge’s Metaphors of Being (Princeton, NJ, 1979) p. 19.Google Scholar
  33. 103.
    John Beer, Coleridge’s Poetic Intelligence (London, 1977) pp. 84–94; and also his ‘A Stream by Glimpes: Coleridge’s Later Imagination’, in Beer (ed.), Coleridge’s Variety: Bicentenary Studies (London, 1974) pp. 227–9.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© David Jasper 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hatfield CollegeDurhamUK

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