The processes of the poet’s own mind, its mobility and alteration of mood, become the subject matter of all manner of feelings are available to exploration
The view expressed in the above title is helpful in understanding the way in which Coleridge wrote his poems, allowing the reader be privy to his most private thoughts and feelings. The conversational style allows the poet to connect with his readers and makes them feel included in his poem, as do his descriptive images of the landscape, simple yet effective language and the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. Coleridge’s conversational poems generally display usage of Blank verse in Coleridge’s attempts to “Cultivate simplicity… banish elaborateness.
Coleridge’s personal thoughts are also expressed in his poetry: he was intent on the spiritual workings of the heart and how it related to God, hence the ‘systole and diastole’ structure, the progressive movement in and out which can be found in his poems. Coleridge also believed deeply in the benefits of nature on achieving a greater understanding of spirituality, as did William and Dorothy Wordsworth who shared Coleridge’s walks with him – “they were intent on exploring the idea that exposure to nature might be one of the most beneficent moral resources available to man. ”
Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement and This Lime Tree Bower my Prison can easily be identified to contain a pattern within their structure. The first stanza of each poem sees the poet in a mood of reflection; and the reader is privy to Coleridge’s pensive thoughts, using language to convey his feelings. In This Lime Tree Bower My Prison the tone is sad and melancholy because “they are gone and here I must remain” rather than going on a walk with his friends. The mood is sombre and dejected as Coleridge thinks on his inability to recall the beauties of nature that his friends are currently experiencing.
Even as early as the first stanza the reader can identify the “mobility” within the poem as Coleridge expands his thoughts to the wider landscape and is able to convey this diastolic movement to the reader. Using memory and his powers of imagination Coleridge eventually recalls the scenic dell, in which we see the “alteration of mood” as the feelings of past happiness allow Coleridge to find beauty in other, more untamed, sights of nature – “Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds, That all at once (a most fantastic sight! )” the use of alliteration serves to enforce the change of mood and tone within the poem and poet himself.
The same sort of pattern can be seen in Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement. Coleridge presents his “pretty Cot” as an ideal place of reflection where the natural landscape provides a feeling of peace and tranquillity: “Thick Jasmines twined: the little landscape round Was green and woody, and refresh’d the eye. ” The poet focuses his attention on the beauty of the cottage in a systolic phase of inner reflection and the difficulty for individuals like “Bristowa’s citizen” to understand what nature really is and it’s benefits. “He paus’d and look’d With a pleas’d sadness… And sigh’d, and said, it was a Blessed Place…
Long-listening to the viewless sky-lark’s note… The inobtrusive song of Happiness. ” It is the bird’s song which transports the poet’s mind and sensibilities to the wider landscape, allowing him to comprehend the spiritual aspects of nature unlike “the wealthy son of Commerce” who looks on without revelation. The introduction of this character is designed to emphasise what city-dwellers miss out on in nature and understanding of God. From the bower and his thoughts of the “narrow dell” the poet progresses on to the wider landscape, forcing him to reflect on larger issues of his friend Charles – “Now my friends emerge. The first line of the second stanza immediately indicates the change of scene and tone.
As Coleridge is having imaginative participation with his friends, his language becomes more poetic, a way of emphasising his affectionate feelings for “My gentle -hearted Charles! ” From this entity of love there is an entourage of strong feelings, and the tone of the poem changes as Coleridge has uplifted his spirits from self-pity and begins to command nature to unveil it’s beauty so that his friends may enjoy it as he has previously witnessed it – “So my friend Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood, Silent with swimming sense. Coleridge then uses strong language and alliteration to enforce the feeling behind each command and the extent of his concern for his friend: “Shine in the slant beams… burn, ye clouds! Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves! ” It is clear that Coleridge envisions a sublime moment of natural beauty and fulfilment for Charles’s sake. The expression of divinity found in nature can also be found in the second stanza of Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement.
The second stanza has moved from the cottage the focus of inner reflection and moves out to a vast landscape: “From that low Dell, steep up the stony Mount I climb’d with perilous toil and reach’d the top. ” The language is metaphoric and so the reader is forced to identify the spiritual message that Coleridge is trying to convey; that the path to spiritual fulfilment is a difficult one which requires an open mind and self-belief, but once you reach the end of the journey the struggle is worth it to become closer to God and to be privy to his natural beauty, Coleridge expresses this at he end of the stanza: “It seem’d like Omnipresence!
God methought, Had built him there a Temple: the whole world… Blest hour! It was a luxury – to be! ” In the final stanza of This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison the poet returns to his bower- his former prison, which is now a place of solace. In imagining the visionary moment for his friends, a spontaneous feeling of joy suddenly uplifts Coleridge: “A delight Comes sudden on my heart. As Coleridge looks around him he is impressed by what surrounds him and the silence which is aiding his reflection: “Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters, Yet still the solitary humble-bee Sings in the bean-flower! ” At recognising the beauty around him Coleridge acknowledges the benefit of his time alone in the bower:
“Tis well to be bereft of promis’d good, That we may lift the soul, and contemplate With lively joy and the joys we cannot share. Coleridge ends the poem on the fact that his “gentle-hearted Charles”-suggesting his sensibilities-can have a deeper moral and spiritual understanding of the purpose and the essence of being, and of the presence of the Divine spirit of God. Coleridge returns his thoughts to the Cottage to question his evasion of civil duty in a systolic (inward) movement. There is an evident change in the language and tone of the poem to a more subdued sense compared to the language filled with ecstasy and sublime in the last stanza.
Whilst considering the revolution Coleridge debates his own duty to his country and finally concludes to renounce his poetry for more crusader-worthy activities: “I therefore go, and join head, heart, and hand, Active and firm, to fight the bloodless fight Of Science, Freedom, and the Truth in Christ. ” Just as in This Lime Tree Bower my Prison Coleridge acknowledges the privilege of having experienced God on the mount and its cottage and wishes for others to come to the understanding of God’s presence with the surrounding nature.
In conclusion, Coleridge’s conversational poems use their systolic/diastolic structure to convey the “mobility” and the “alteration of mood” is expressed by the changes in tone and language which tend to follow the pattern of the poem’s structure. Therefore, the view initially expressed is helpful when studying Coleridge’s work because is forms a method of identifying key features of his poetry that complement the conversational style; open, simple language; and his appreciation of nature and spiritual enlightenment.