Coleridge, a Romantic poet, extols the power of the imagination over that of logic. Logic appeals to the mind, but imagination is more holistic, affecting the mind, the senses, the emotions and the visceral. Through imagination we are taken on journeys that pierce the exterior and penetrate to the core, and conceive the real essence of things, especially in nature. Word association, incantatory spells and other sound effects grip us and we are carried along vicariously in an imaginary journey with the composer.
The imagination is part of our intelligence that transcends reality and asks, “what if?” It is speculative, it can be spiritual, it can be dream-like or surreal, it may be visionary, intuitive, a fantasy, an illusion or even involve the supernatural such as ghosts, witches, wizards, wraiths, spirits, or figments. The imagination conjures word pictures or visualisations in the mind that defy reality.
Imagination is derived from the word image, a mental picture. Our imaginations need to be stimulated with images or triggers that allow the mind to suspend reality and float through a series of random thoughts. Word association, images and incantatory spells grip us and we are carried along in an imaginary journey with the composer.
It is through imagination that one can dream, to escape dreary shabby reality, aspire to greater, transcendental ideals and therefore become godly. However, an overactive unrealistic imagination can also lead to delusions of grandeur, an inability to differentiate between illusion/fantasy and reality and a disconnection to our genuine selves. In this way, it can have a deleterious effect diminishing our connections with the real world and other people.
Coleridge derives much of his power through verbal techniques and sound effects.
Using personal colloquial speech, a smooth outpouring of sensations, feelings and thoughts, the poems appear conversational. Developing ideas of the relationship between natural beauty transcending to spiritual inspiration, Coleridge suggests that the world of sensations stimulates the world of thoughts.
Coleridge uses natural rhythms of the heartbeat (systoles), and the pulse (diastoles) to play on the conscious and unconscious mind. They are revealed in the expansion and contraction of moods and ideas.
“Friends whom I never no more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness…” (LTBMP) ll.6-8
The perfect blending of thought, feeling, imagery and structure of the poem creates an immediacy for us.
His incantatory repetitions can have a hypnotic, haunting effect on us.
“The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, an roared and
Howled,….” (RAM) ll. 59 – 62
Our imagination helps us vicariously experience the chill and isolation of the experience.
Coleridge displays his awe of nature through the poetic device of the apostrophe and personification when he directly addresses elements of nature or gives them human characteristics:
“ Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious sun…” (LTBMP) ll. 32-33
“Or if the secret ministry of the frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.” ( FAM) ll. 72-74
Coleridge’s pantheism is revealed in a number of this poems:
“That nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure..” (LTBMP) ll. 60
“Himself in all, and all things in himself” (FAM) l. 62
Coleridge is adept at changing pace, from breathless urgency to meditative poise in an instant. The breathless urgency of:
“Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the threshers’ flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river” (KK) ll 21 – 24
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran..” ll. 25-26
Coleridge is able to evoke our response through the perfect blending of thought and feeling by his imagery, sound effects and structure.
‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner(RAM) (1834)’*, ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’, (LTBMP) ‘Frost at Midnight’ (FAM), ‘Kubla Khan’ (KK)
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