Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form (Cambridge by Ewan James Jones

By Ewan James Jones

Ewan James Jones argues that Coleridge engaged most importantly with philosophy no longer via systematic argument, yet in verse. Jones includes this argument via a sequence of sustained shut readings, either one of canonical texts akin to Christabel and The Rime of the traditional Mariner, and likewise of much less commonly used verse, comparable to Limbo. Such paintings exhibits that the fundamental components of poetic expression - a poem's metre, rhythm, rhyme and different such formal beneficial properties - enabled Coleridge to imagine in an unique and certain demeanour, which his systematic philosophy impeded. Attentiveness to such formal beneficial properties, which has for your time been neglected in Coleridge scholarship, allows a rethinking of the connection among eighteenth-century verse and philosophy extra generally, because it engages with concerns together with impact, materiality and self-identity. Coleridge's poetic considering, Jones argues, either consolidates and radicalises the present literary serious rediscovery of shape.

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Additional info for Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form (Cambridge Studies in Romanticism, Volume 106)

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After the successive, tentative efforts to estrange the present through recollection, Coleridge finally achieves this. ’ (54), where the only previously emphasised word was ‘stranger’. The passively slumbering child is figured as a ‘breeze’ (54) that will ‘see and hear / The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible / Of that eternal language’ (58–60), both moments reminiscent of ‘The Eolian Harp’. But if there remains a strong trace of dictated, vicarious experience here, it is finally banished by the poem’s unmatched conclusion: Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee, Whether the summer clothe the general earth With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch Of mossy apple tree, while the nigh thatch Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eve-drops fall Heard only in the trances of the blast, Or if the secret ministry of frost Shall hang them up in silent icicles, Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

The passivity with which the schoolboy ‘gazed upon the bars’ – note again the hint of grim irony in the penal imagery – is complete enough to make him repeatedly desire a ‘stranger’ (26, 41); yet the desire to shape that interruption into familiarity is seen through imagined communal ties that increasingly approximate the self: ‘[t]ownsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved’ (42). In this poem, mind has recognised the limits of its constitutive activity, but hesitates simply to give itself up to otherness.

We have already gained some sense of the resistance 34 Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form it may have encountered, through Coleridge’s marked dread of its etymological cousin, ‘passivity’. In the Philosophical Lecture that this chapter commenced by citing, Coleridge prepares his audience by imploring that they ‘think with me, to produce not a mere passive listening but an active concurrence’. My contention with Rei Terada’s reading of the Notebooks, meanwhile, turned precisely on Coleridge’s insistence that ‘a thing acts on me but not on me as purely passive’.

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