In the first chapter I suggested that although Coleridge asserted that poems of the supernatural were but a branch of the poetry of nature, yet his description of them as involving characters no more than ‘shadows’ until invested with the human interest of our inward nature fitted badly into the model of poetry he had adduced to describe the Lyrical Ballads
. To produce the supernatural the imagination is not working or re-working sense-presented material; it begins with an act and not, Spinoza-like, with a thing or sensation. It first of all dreams up a Cain, an ancient Mariner or a Christabel, and then seeks to give life to this creature by discovering for it quintessential human truths. The immediate plays no part in the construction of these poems, and in the struggle between Mind and Nature, Mind has been given the upper hand: to invert an old illustration, Nature is now the tabula rasa
, to be written on and not to do the writing.1
That this freedom from material and immediate circumstance.was, in Coleridge’s opinion, proper to a certain kind of poetry is evident in his comments on The Faery Queene
You will take especial note of the marvellous independence and true imaginative absence of all particular space or time in the Faery Queene. It is in the domains neither of history or geography; it is ignorant of all artificial boundary, all material obstacles; it is truly in the land of Faery, that is, of mental space. The poet has placed you in a dream, a charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor have the power, to inquire where you are, or how you got there.
[MC 36–7/LR I 94–5; cf. SC II 85, CN III 4501 f.136v]