Offer a Close Comparative Reading Essay
Offer a Close Comparative Reading
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born in 1772, in Ottery St Mary in Devonshire. During the Romantic era at a time of revolution from 1770-1830. At this time Britain’s economy was experiencing the industrial revolution, consequently creating radical class divisions and an extremely large scale of dissatisfaction between the lower classes and the wealthy classes. In addition The Enlightenment era led the dramatic change in the way in which the Western World viewed Science, Politics, and Philosophy. Particularly English scientists John Locke and Issac Newton shone light upon mans former ignorance regarding physics, biology, nature and human beings.
‘Locke’s ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’ (1690) was hugely influential, due to his philosophical thinking and his mechanical theories on nature. The profound ways of thinking in the 18th Century sculpted the world in which we live in today. The romantic literature of this age was a ‘product of the economic and social period in which they lived in. It is said that ‘the deconstructive reading of Romanticism emphasised its ironies, its self-consciousness and the complexities of the ways in which it brought together philosophy, literature and history.
The majority of romantic poets, especially William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were discontented in this age of science and reason due to the mechanical way of thinking,and the ’emphasis on orderliness, reason and improvement that it displayed. Coleridge and Wordsworth thought this limited the capacity of the mind. They believed that there was a ‘deeper reality inside the the material world and that our spiritual nature can be realized through the use of our imaginations. Anna Barbauld (1743-1825) was another extremely influential English poet of the 18th Century, born in Kibworth, Leicestershire.
And along with likes of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey they defined Romantic poetry. Barbauld was a famous female writer, and during this era of patriarchy this was quite uncommon, as women in this period were put in a gender role in society fitted into the role of the domestic world and not in the public world. She led a charmed life, and studied at Warrington Academy, and learned Greek and latin, ‘Barbauld was raised as and remained an advocate of the liberal implications of Enlightenment thought. Rationality, compassion, and democratic human rights were the mainstays of her political positions.
She was known for her contribution to romantic era, and during her lifetime was admired for her talent by the young Samuel T. Coleridge. Barbauld had a brief connection with Coleridge. ‘Anna Barbauld had a more complex relationship with the young romantic poets, not least because she lived well into the nineteenth century and she was increasingly treated as a remnant from another age. Her poem, ‘To Mr Coleridge’ in 1797 is in regard to her meeting with him when he was 25 years of age, he had walked to Bristol to meet with her and to wished to show her a range of his poetry at the time.
The poem reflects Barbauld’s initial impression of Coleridge, and her initial judgment of his character, ‘counseling him to pay more attention to his duty and activity, and to watch out for indolence. It is clear that the poem, ‘To Mr Coleridge’ has a retrospective, and negative tone of voice as she shows her disregard for Coleridge’s humanistic view on the world and his frivolous writing style, as she begins the 43-lined poem in light of his work, and an obvious natural setting, ‘Midway the hill of science’.
I think Barbauld purposely chose ‘midway’ to represent a place in his career. The poem uses an allegorical take on Coleridge’s visit as Barbauld describes the grove in line 3, ”A Grove extends, in tangled mazes wrought,’ a grove is a reference to a small forest or garden, here Barbauld is using the grove figuratively as a symbol for Coleridge’s imagination. As ‘Romantic poets believe that the imagination is fundamental’.
she is trying to suggest that inside this ‘grove’ makes the perception of the outside world warped, as she indicates that it is, ‘fill’d with strange enchantment:-dubious shapes’. She creates an array of natural imaginings along Coleridge’s journey, Barbaulds, ‘To Mr Coleridge’ has a dream-like quality. The imagery used in the first fourteen lines such as, ‘fill’d with strange enchantment’, ‘gloom and mystic visions’ and ‘filmy-net’ represent how Coleridge replaced the systematic way of thinking
that the enlightenment brought about by John Locke and Issac Newton, by believing in something else which we cannot see or control. Coleridge believed that, ‘A poem is that species of composition, which is opposed to works of science In lines 10-13 Barbauld is critiquing how Coleridge views an object, ‘obvious to sight and touch’, Coleridge was always ‘concerned with the problem of how the poetic mind acts to modify or transform the materials of sense without violating the truth to nature.
An authoritative tone can be detected by Barbauld in the lines, ‘Filt thro’ dim glades, and lure the eager foot | Of youthful ardour to eternal chase’. She highlights his age with the word ‘youthful'(line 6), suggesting that he inexperienced is still yet to learn many things about the world and be realistic in his views. Line 19 uses the word ‘Indolence’ which was a key word in the time of the enlightenment, meaning, lazy and idle.
Like ‘most young people of the time with a grain of idealism he was stirred by the revolutionary enthusiasms of the early 1790s' She allows draws on Coleridge’s ‘vacant mind’ (line 22) Coleridge believed that the mind was ‘the source and the test of art'. The reoccurring theme of ‘youth’ also gives the poem a patronizing element. ‘Barbauld was a literary judge from the older generation, and, through their politics coincided for a period, her rectitude was probably not very comforting to Coleridge' making the generation gap between the two apparent in the poem.
The extended metaphor of the hill of science can be seen as a metaphorical journey, ‘Here each mind | Of finer mould, acute and delicate | In its high progress to eternal truth’, the speaker in the poem is narrating the events of a journey through the english countryside, but yet some of the things mentioned aren’t present, here we can see that Barbauld alluding to the work of Coleridge, yet sympathetically suggesting that he has a long way to go before reaching his full potential. Barbauld believes that Coleridge is losing sight of social and political context.
Lines 32-34, ‘ Youth belov’d | Of Science – of the Muse belov’d not here, | Not in the maze of metaphoric lore. ‘ Barbauld implies that Coleridge does not have a hold on reality. The ‘spleen-fed fog'(line 40) that is being referred to is a metaphor for Coleridge’s lost sight along his path, and she appeals to his Unitarian nature by ending the poem with ‘Now Heaven conduct thee with a Parent’s love’ (Line 43). ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was also written in 1797 and is a representation of a journey, similarly to Barbauld’s, ‘To Mr Coleridge’.
Coleridge wrote the poem after he was unable to join his friends on a walk throughout the countryside, due to an injury, his wife had accidentally scalded his foot with boiling milk, resulting in Coleridge left under the Lime-Tree contemplating all the sights that his friends would encounter. In Coleridge’s poem he uses the speakers train of thought as the narrative for the poem as he breaks his own physical restriction and mentally takes the journey.
The poem uses a conversational tone, beginning the poem with, ‘Well. ‘ In addition, due to it being blank verse this allows Coleridge to not have to keep a consistent rhyme scheme or a meter for the poem, and the conversational element adds intimacy for the reader as he describes initially what his friends will encounter on their walk, ‘the poet both observes and meditates out loud as he addresses a silent listener. ‘. Many of Coleridge’s conversational poems were simple and had no poetic form.
In the first stanza of the poem there is resentment and isolation represented in Coleridge’s petulant mood as the speaker says, ‘I have lost | Beauties and feelings’ (line 2-3), addressing himself as the ‘I’ in the poem we have a sense of a self-centered Coleridge, he is sat beneath a lime-tree as he pity’s himself over his injury that keeps him from going for a walk with friends. The use of monosyllabic words in the first stanza backs up Coleridge’s attitude to his ‘prison’ at the start. His attitude soon begins to change once he begins to write down his sequence of thoughts, ‘That all at once (a most fantastic sight!) and he then switches from self-pitying to imagining, he connects to his surroundings and enjoys being able to experience nature through his friends journey.
It is almost as if Coleridge has an epiphany as he has a moment of realization through his imagination. At the beginning of stanza two there is a significant transition in Coleridge’s perception, starting with ‘Now’ (line 21) we can see that the speaker has thoughts have changed direction and has become a point of reversal, as he starts to re-create the journey through Charles Lamb, who he addresses in the poem, a close friend of Coleridge, and describes him as ‘gentle’. It is clear that Coleridge is happy that Charles is able to embrace in his walk in the countryside, ‘thou hast pined | And hunger’d after Nature, many a year,| in the great City pent’ (lines 29-31).
‘Interest in natural surroundings increased at the time' this was mainly due to the industrial revolution at the time as the City was linked to the mechanical, man-made and urban downsides in contrast to the countryside made naturally by God. In comparison to Anna Barbauld’s, ‘To Mr Coleridge’ throughout both poems both poets continue to capitalize certain words to highlight their significance.
And continue to use enjambment as a device to display urgency through lines that run on. In ‘This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison’ he is breaking his physical barrier in the journey, whereas in Barbauld’s poem it is a case of . ‘Coleridge believed that poetic language depended for its effect on the poet’s heightening or intensifying it (through patterning, compression, repetition and so on) and thus making it more specialized and taking it further away from the patterns of everyday speech.
A common characteristic that sets the majority of female romantic poets apart from the males is the way many male poets refer to themselves as ‘I’ throughout the text, which Coleridge displays in ‘This Lime-Tree My Bower Prison. ‘ Coleridge also addresses his close friend Charles Lamb in the poem, he repeats the sentiment, ‘My gentle-hearted Charles! ‘ in the second and third stanza a few times, the speaker is putting emphasis on his particular name strategically.
Coleridge also makes religious connotations about nature and the divine. He points out that they are, ‘Beneath the wide wide heaven’ (Line 22); and ‘the Almighty spirit, when he makes | Spirits perceive his presence. ‘ (Line 43) In the last few lines of the second stanza leads to the sudden change in mood in stanza three. Coleridge believes that by accessing the ‘imagination is sharing in the creative powers of God. ‘ The divine power is manifested by God. Coleridge was Unitarian, a religion that believed in freedom of belief.
In the book of genesis in the Bible,’ God said, let there be light, and there was light. ‘ This relates to the metaphor of the imagination as a lamp, an active power that ‘shines onto the external world, changes the way in which we see the world as the light transforms. ‘ This is can be reflected through Coleridge’s poem as he is able to project his vision to the readers but it is not what he can seeon the surface. Which is in contrast to John Locke’s which ‘establishes idea of the mind as a mirror, reflecting what it see’s. 
One of the main differences of these two poems is that Coleridge uses his imagination to create the journey whereas the journey in Barbauld’s poem is that journey was an action that took place. And through nature Coleridge discovers that he has the power to connect to nature rather than separate from it. In Coleridge’s Doctrine of Imagination, Biographia Literaria was on of his most significant work from the romantic era, written much later in his career, however he described the imagination in a way that ‘dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate’.