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Module 1: Coleridge The Eolian Harp

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XSIQ
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English - Interpretations

Interpretations

Coleridge's thoughts, of course, produce poetry, just like the wind's
influence produces music. Both are about the influences that produce art.
Note that 'TRANQUILLITY' seems to be a condition for this musing - his mind
must be 'INDOLENT AND PASSIVE', and the thoughts will come 'UNCALL'D'.
Basically, at this point, Coleridge is suggesting that, again like the
harp, he must yield himself up to these influences and to let them come.

These lines are followed by the most famous lines of the poem, in which
Coleridge muses on this very association between himself and the harp.

Click on GO and read the extract as you watch and listen: '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 GOD OF ALL?' (LL.44-48)

These lines have been read in a number of ways:

* One interpretation is that it is an expression of "pantheism" - the idea
that all things ARE God and that God IS everything. This is different from
the Christian notion that God's presence is reflected IN the world.
* Another view is that he is simply saying that all things are unified in
God, despite their diversity.
* Another view is that it is a statement about the nature of poetic
creation as it has been reflected in this very poem. In the latter
interpretation, it would follow that the poet is being set up as God-like
in a very Romantic sense.

Either the first or the third of these interpretations would explain the
lines which follows, in which Sara reproves him for these thoughts and
'BIDDEST ME WALK HUMBLY WITH MY GOD'.(l.52). Against Sara's conventional
Christianity, Coleridge now disparages his earlier thoughts as 'VAIN
PHILOSOPHY'S AYE-BABBLING SPRING' (l.57) and moves to a conventional
statement of conventional religion in ll.58ff.

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