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in this lesson we shall move on to the other major writer of the first half of the Romantic writers’ canon, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. (Refer Slide Time: 0:37) Let us begin with famous illustrations by Gustave Dore and William Strang for what is arguably Coleridge’s most famous poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. More of these images from the first editions of the texts can be found in the British library collection’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” illustrations (hyperlink provided). This last etching shows the albatross that has been hung around the neck of the Ancient Mariner by the other sailors, because the mariner had just shot the albatross. Ever since the shooting and the death of the albatross, things begin to go wrong for the mariners and the ship. William Strang’s illustration dating back to the 1896 edition of the book shows this event. Coleridge’s poem thus deals with a kind of punishment meted out to the ancient Mariner and the people on the ship for having violated a fundamental principle of nature: taking life. (Refer Slide Time: 2:01) ‘Nature’ in Coleridge is always seen in terms of its connections and interpenetration with the mind. It is a part of his inner landscape as much as it is an external ‘thing’. So in this stance, he is almost exactly the same as Wordsworth and both of them are at the heart of the Romantic movement which saw the poet’s consciousness as shaped by and within Nature. An excellent illustration of this position and attitude towards nature is seen in Coleridge’s lines from “The Eolian Harp” one of the more famous ‘Conversation Poems’. And what if all of animated nature Be but organic harps diversely fram’d, That Tremble into thought as o’er them sweeps Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze, At once the Soul of each, and of God of all? (Refer Slide Time: 2:54) Coleridge would use a similar image of nature simulating the harp of the mind or the harp of the imagination in “The Nightingale” and “Frost at midnight”, two other famous poems. In “The Nightingale” Coleridge would write, earth and sky With one sensation, and those wakeful birds Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy, As if some sudden gale had swept at once/ a hundred airy harps! In “Frost at midnight”. Coleridge writes, The Frost performs its secret ministry… Sea, hill and wood. This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood, Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature Gives it dims sympathies with me who live, Making it a companionable form, Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit By its own moods interprets, every where Echo or mirror seeking of itself, and makes a toy of thought. Nature embodies for Coleridge a companionship for the active mind. For Coleridge, the perceiving and imagining mind searches for images of itself and of God in Nature. So the entire universe could then be deemed to be creative as God works through a shaping nature. Hence many Coleridge poems began with the poet in a state of quiet meditation in a reflective posture ready to receive or receiving sensations from nature. That is, there is an image of the poet, quiet, relaxed but ready to receive inspiration from nature. The image of nature as something that provides inspiration, of course as we know, is something that we have seen in the work of Wordsworth, most famously in the Prelude and “Tintern Abbey”. Coleridge is one with Wordsworth in this where, nature is something that channelizes all sorts of inspirational material into the receptive mind. Now what you need to understand here is, it is not any or every mind that receives these, it is a certain kind of mind that is receptive to the images and instructions from nature. The image of nature as a temple is perhaps best seen in the famous Coleridge poem “This Limetree Bower, My prison”. Having looked that the image of nature as something that inspires, we now move onto the second instance of the image of nature as a temple. Coleridge would speak here of “the many steepled tract magnificent/ Of hilly fields and meadows.” In this particular poem “This Lime-tree Bower, my Prison” what was at the beginning of the poem, a prison, Coleridge’s poet discovers at the end, is actually the source of imagination and sensation. That is, the poem begins with an image of something claustrophobic, imprisoning, limiting. But towards the end of the poem this precise situation is what enables him to imagine. (Refer Slide Time: 6:25) A delight Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad As I myself were there! Nor in this bower, This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’d Much that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blaze Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch’d Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov’d to see The shadow of the leaf and stem above Dappling its sunshine and that walnut tree Was richly ting’d, and a deep radiance lay Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue Through the late twilight. What we have seen in these two examples is Coleridge’s view of Nature as channeling something into the consciousness of the writer, the receptive poetic mind which receives instructions, inspirations, images, whatever you want to call it from Nature. In fact, as Wordsworth already argued and Coleridge is reiterating, the poetic consciousness is at one with nature, so the soul that runs through me, as Wordsworth would put it in Tintern Abbey, the soul that is mine as a poet comes actually from Nature. (Refer Slide Time: 7:41) But Coleridge was not entirely happy with this image, with this approach to Nature, primarily because of the problem he discovered. The idea that nature funnels, channelizes things into the poetic mind seems to suggest that the poet’s mind is a passive object. The poetic mind is just there, exists, and for it to actually live, for it to actually become imaginative or creative, it has to have nature animating it. In other words, Coleridge is arguing that if you think of the poet’s mind as merely passive, then it is actually a dead kind of mind. Nature animates the mind. He would later reformulate this view of nature so that the mind has to have a more active role. In fact we notice this shift in “Frost at midnight” itself, because he will pray that his son will be able to “see and hear,/ The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible/ Of that eternal language, which thy God/ Utters.” (Refer Slide Time: 9:10) Nature here is God’s language, but as Coleridge underscores, the mind needs to find meaning make it intelligible. More than anything else, it is this that features prominently in the later thoughts of Coleridge. Coleridge wonders whether the poet’s mind can always understand Nature’s language. What if at some point you cannot? A poem that most forcefully ponders this question, this crisis of the loss of the mind’s ability to read Nature is perhaps “Dejection: An ode” one of Coleridge’s more famous poems again. Coleridge opens with the hope that he will read nature and then shifts the theme. He prays, Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed, And sent my soul abroad, Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give, Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live! The kind of mind that he once had, Coleridge says, which is now lost, he would describe later in the poem: There was a time when, though my path was rough, This joy within me dallied with distress, And all misfortunes were but as the stuff Whence fancy made me dreams of happiness: For hope grew around me, like the twining vine, And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine. But now afflictions bow me down to earth; Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth; But oh! each visitation Suspends what nature gave me at my birth, My shaping spirit of imagination. For not to think what I needs must feel, but to be still and patient all I can; And haply by abstruse research to steal From my own nature all the natural man. (Refer Slide Time: 11:27) But the ability, the “shaping spirit of imagination,” as he puts it has disappeared. Initially he says that the poetic mind is a passive object which receives material from nature. But he moves this argument away from this position to make a suggestion that the mind is actually active, it shapes whatever it is coming to it, it shapes meaning out of the universe. But what if this shaping spirit of imagination disappears? And Coleridge poet finds himself unable to make sense of the nature around him. This results in what he will describe in “Dejection: An Ode”: A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief, Which finds no natural outlet, no relief, In word or sigh or tear – The eye cannot see just as the mind cannot comprehend what he sees: Have I been gazing on the western sky, And its peculiar tint of yellow green: And still I gaze – and with how blank an eye . . . I see them all so excellently fair, I see, not feel, how beautiful they are! Coleridge has lost the ability to imagine, has lost the ability to see poetically. This is the loss of meaning making, that he is unable to make sense of the nature he perceives around him. Coleridge then comes to the famous conclusion about the roles of mind and nature. I may not hope from outward forms to win I may not hope from outward forms to win The passion and the life, whose fountains are within. (Refer Slide Time: 13:26) Coleridge concludes that the failure to see, understand and interpret Nature is not Nature’s fault but it is his own failings, his own lacuna, lack, that results in this problem. So far from being a passive harp played upon by nature, the mind is an active instrument of interpretation. In the famous line from “Dejection”, Coleridge would write: Oh Lady! we receive but what we give, And in our life alone does nature live: Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud! And would be aught behold, of higher worth, Than that inanimate cold world allowed, To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd, Ah! From the soul itself must issue forth A light, a glory, a fair, luminous cloud Enveloping the Earth - And from the soul itself must there be sent A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth, Of all sweet sounds the life and the element! (Refer Slide Time: 14:26) It is the active mind that constructs the world, imagines it. And if the mind cannot do so, Nature cannot help in the matter. The soul or mind must possess its proper joy or nature will be mere matter. In poems like “Fears in Solitude” the strife of politics and the strife in Nature seem to merge or at least reflect each other: What uproar and what strife may now be stirring This way or that way over these silent hills – And undetermined conflict… (Refer Slide Time: 15:10) A sustained exploration of the consequences of violating nature is of course there in “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Coming up on your slide is the 1800 version of the ‘Argument’ prefaced to the Ancient Mariner. How a ship having first sailed to the Equator, was driven by Storms to the cold Country towards the South Pole, how the Ancient Mariner cruelly and in contempt of the laws of hospitality killed a Sea-bird and how he was followed by many and strange Judgements; and what manner he came back to his own Country. The poem’s key theme is about a crime against nature, punished by the laws of nature with restoration and reformation following repentance in the form of an appreciation of nature, but with supernatural aid of course. The ancient mariner violates nature and is punished for it, but he also violates nature in other ways: “in touching his nephew’s living corpse, the mariner violates another taboo - that which separates the living from the dead. Later, Coleridge suggested that it is the mariner’s violation of this taboo that makes him an object of terrified and superstitious awe.” (Fulford). Nature punishes, in the sailors’ superstition, by stopping all wind that aid the ship. The sailors are dying of thirst out at sea. Redemption comes when the Mariner comes to admire and appreciate Nature. What he perceived as ‘slimy things’ (1. 121) become ‘happy living things’ (1. 274). The Mariner recognises a joy implicit within natural appearances appears to mark a saving transition from the ghostly haunting so that he can now perform his penances. However, the political subtext to the poem’s depiction of this Man versus Nature theme is very interesting. First, the albatross also became synonymous with bad luck, although many forget why this is the case or exactly how such ill fortune comes about it. The albatross is the iconic bird of the southern hemispheric oceans and this locates the poem’s political geography firmly in the global South. For noted Coleridge scholar, Lucy Newlyn, the poem “although not explicitly a political poem, arose from Coleridge’s radical opposition to slavery”. That is important. The subtext to the poem is Coleridge’s opposition to slavery, it makes the reader aware of their fatal attraction to the powerful, makes them “share the terror, desperation and desire of a man enslaved, in mind and body.” In fact, much of this poem’s imagery draws upon Coleridge’s lectures and lectures against slavery as Tim Fulford has noted. (Refer Slide Time: 17:47) In “The Rime” the mariner returns to the images of infection he has used in the lecture against slavery: the mariner, like a sailor on a slave-ship bound for the West Indies enters a zone where all becomes tainted with the diseases of empire. Leprosy rots the flesh of the spectre-woman who dices for the crew’s lives. And the corruption spreads to the sea itself: ‘the very deeps did rot’ (1. 119). In the mariner’s tale, the whole world becomes infected by the events and images that show him his moral guilt. (Refer Slide Time: 18:18) Newlyn writes, a sea voyage into unknown areas forms an outward dramatisation of inward conditions that, in Coleridge’s diagnosis produced superstition. The mariner journeys beyond the limits of geographic knowledge, where he finds himself helpless before powers and events over which he has no control. The further he penetrates into a physical terra incognita, a place of green and red ocean, the more he discovers his own powerlessness. On an ocean that is like “a Slave before his Lord” (419), he too is controlled by forces he cannot understand or resist. So what is it that we take away from this particular lesson on Coleridge? Coleridge began by thinking in terms of nature acting upon a passive mind playing it like a harp and harp becomes Coleridge’s best metaphor. But he was little unhappy about that image because it rendered the poet or the poetry mind a little passive and it is just a quiet recipient. So he modifies it by saying that within ourselves does nature live so we need to do something as well. Finally when you look at the Ancient Mariner, a crime against nature is not to be seen as trivial and nature herself will punish the person for it.