Three Later Poems



In his book Coleridge as Religious Thinker 1961), James D. Boulger dismisses Coleridge’s later poetry as of little value on the ground that, after 1810, Coleridge was not emotionally at home in the abstract world of spiritual Christianity into which he had thought himself by philosophical reflection and self-reflection. The poet, it might be said, failed to conjoin the necessary elements of ‘lofty and abstract truths’ with ‘impassioned feelings’.1 Boulger’s comments, faithful to the traditional criticism of Coleridge as a poetic failure after ‘Dejection: An Ode’ (1802), fail to appreciate his emotional commitment to Christian doctrine in his later years and the integral part played by his poetic inspiration in the resolution and sustenance of his belief. Nor do they give due credit to his continued development as both philosopher and religious thinker long after the publication of Biographia Literaria, and, not least, the refinement of his poetry from an art in which subjective, internal experiences are transformed, and reflected upon, as external, public object, to a creative activity in which the finite form of the poem functions as a window on infinity. In his ‘Essays on the Principles of Method’ in The Friend (1818), Coleridge wrote:

The finite form can neither be laid hold of, nor is it anything of itself real, but merely an apprehension, a frame-work which the human imagination forms by its own limits, as the foot measures itself on the snow.2


Ideal Object Human Time Christian Doctrine Finite Form Abstract World 
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  1. 7.
    See further George M. Ridenour, ‘Source and Allusion in Some Poems of Coleridge’, Studies in Philology, 60 (1963) 87.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Jacob Boehme, The High and Deep Searching Out of the Threefold Life of Man (1620), trans. J. Sparrow, 1650 (London, 1909) pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    J. H. Muirhead, Coleridge as Philosopher (London, 1930) p. 86.Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    See above, Ch. 2. Also, D. F. Rauber, ‘The Fragment as Romantic Form’, Modern Language Quarterly, 30 (1969) 212–21;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Thomas McFarland, Romanticism and the Forms of Ruin: Wordsworth, Coleridge and Modalities of Fragmentation (Princeton, NJ, 1981).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 22.
    Misc. Crit., pp. 163–4. See also Edward Kessler Coleridge’s Metaphors of Being (Princeton, NJ, 1979) pp. 90–120.Google Scholar
  7. 33.
    James D. Boulger, Coleridge as Religious Thinker (New Haven, Conn., 1961) p. 206.Google Scholar
  8. See also Stephen Prickett, Coleridge and Wordsworth: The Poetry of Growth (Cambridge, 1970) p. 23, taking Boulger to task.Google Scholar
  9. 38.
    M. Jadwiga Swiatecka, The Idea of the Symbol: Some nineteenth century comparisons with Coleridge (Cambridge, 1980) p. 59.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Jasper 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hatfield CollegeDurhamUK

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