Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
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Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772July 25, 1834) was an English poet, critic and philosopher who was, along with his friend William Wordsworth, one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the Lake Poets.


  • Poor little foal of an oppressèd race!
    I love the languid patience of thy face.
    • To a Young Ass, li. 1 (1794)
  • With what deep worship I have still adored
    The spirit of divinest Liberty.
    • France: An Ode, st. 1 (1798)
  • The frost performs its secret ministry,
    Unhelped by any wind.
  • Or if the secret ministry of frost
    Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
    Quietly shining to the quiet moon.
    • Frost at Midnight, l. 72 (1798)
  • Forth from his dark and lonely hiding place
    (Portentous-sight!) the owlet Atheism,
    Sailing an obscene wings athwart the noon,
    Drops his blue-fringèd lids, and holds them close,
    And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
    Cries out, "Where is it?"
  • And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin
    Is pride that apes humility.
    • The Devil's Thoughts, st. 6 (1799)
  • Strongly it bears us along in swelling and limitless billows,
    Nothing before and nothing behind but the sky and the ocean.
    • The Homeric Hexameter (translated from Schiller) (1799)
  • In the hexameter rises the fountain's silvery column;
    In the pentameter aye falling in melody back.
    • The Ovidian Elegiac Metre (translated from Schiller) (1799)
  • All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
    Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
    All are but ministers of Love,
    And feed his sacred flame.
    • Love, st. 1 (1799)
  • Aloof with hermit-eye I scan
    The present works of present man —
    A wild and dreamlike trade of blood and guile,
    Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile!
    • Ode to Tranquility, st. 4 (1801)
  • Hast thou a charm to stay the morning star
    In his steep course?
    • Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni, l. 1 (1802)
  • Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.
    • Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni, last line (1802)
  • How seldom, friend! a good great man inherits
    Honor or wealth, with all his worth and pains!
    It sounds like stories from the land of spirits
    If any man obtain that which he merits,
    Or any merit that which he obtains.
    • The Great Good Man (1802)
  • Trochee trips from long to short;
    From long to long in solemn sort
    Slow Spondee stalks.
    • Metrical Feet (1806)
  • And in Life's noisiest hour,
    There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,
    The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy.

    You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within.

  • And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,
    How oft! I bless the Lot, that made me love you.
    • The Presence of Love (1807), lines 10-11
  • Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to science. Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to metre. The proper and immediate object of science is the acquirement, or communication, of truth; the proper and immediate object of poetry is the communication of immediate pleasure.
    • Definitions of Poetry (1811)
  • Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, etc., if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics.
  • The last speech [Iago's soliloquy], the motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity — how awful!
    • Notes on Shakespeare (c. 1812)
  • The imagination...that reconciling and mediatory power, which incorporating the reason in images of the sense and organizing (as it were) the flux of the senses by the permanence and self-circling energies of the reason, gives birth to a system of symbols, harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths of which they are the conductors.
    • The Statesman's Manual (1816)
  • The knight's bones are dust,
    And his good sword rust;
    His soul is with the saints, I trust.
    • The Knight's Tomb (c. 1817)
  • With Donne, whose muse on dromedary trots,
    Wreathe iron pokers into true-love knots;
    Rhyme's sturdy cripple, fancy's maze and clue,
    Wit's forge and fire-blast, meaning's press and screw.
    • On Donne's Poetry (c. 1818)
  • The Eighth Commandment was not made for bards.
    • The Reproof and Reply (1823)
  • Nought cared this Body for wind or weather
    When Youth and I lived in't together.
  • Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like;
    Friendship is a sheltering tree.
    • Youth and Age, st. 2 (1823-1832)
  • In many ways doth the full heart reveal
    The presence of the love it would conceal.
    • Poems Written in Later Life, motto (1826)
  • I counted two and seventy stenches,
    All well defined, and several stinks.
  • The river Rhine, it is well known,
    Doth wash your city of Cologne;
    But tell me, Nymphs, what power divine
    Shall henceforth wash the river Rhine?
    • Cologne (1828)
  • The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions — the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimals of pleasurable and genial feeling.
    • The Friend. The Improvisatore (1828)
  • Beneath this sod
    A poet lies, or that which once seemed he —
    Oh, lift a thought in prayer for S.T.C!
    That he, who many a year, with toil of breath,
    Found death in life, may here find life in death.
    • Epitaph, written for himself (1833)
  • He saw a lawyer killing a viper
    On a dunghill hard, by his own stable
    And the devil smiled, for it put him in mind Of
    Cain and his brother, Abel.
    • The Devils Thoughts (c. 1834).
  • If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake — Aye, what then?
    • Anima Poetæ : From the Unpublished Note-books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1895) edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge, p. 282

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (written 1797-1798)

  • It is an ancient Mariner,
    And he stoppeth one of three.
    "By thy long gray beard and glittering eye,
    Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?"
    • Part I, st. 1
  • The guests are met, the feast is set:
    May'st hear the merry din.
    • Part I, st. 2
  • He holds him with his glittering eye —
    The Wedding-Guest stood still,
    And listens like a three years child:
    The Mariner hath his will.
    • Part I, st. 4
  • The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
    Merrily did we drop
    Below the kirk, below the hill,
    Below the light-house top.
    • Part I, st. 6
  • The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
    For he heard the loud bassoon.
    • Part I, st. 8
  • The bride hath paced into the hall,
    Red as a rose is she.
    • Part I, st. 9
  • And now there came both mist and snow,
    And it grew wondrous cold:
    And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
    As green as emerald.
    • Part I, st. 13
  • The ice was here, the ice was there,
    The ice was all around:
    It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
    Like noises in a swound!
    • Part I, st. 15
  • "God save thee, ancient Mariner!
    From the fiends, that plague thee thus! —
    Why look'st thou so?" — With my cross-bow
    I shot the Albatross.
    • Part I, st. 20
  • The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
    The furrow followed free:
    We were the first that ever burst
    Into that silent sea.
    • Part II, st. 5
  • As idle as a painted ship
    Upon a painted ocean.
    • Part II, st. 8
  • Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink.
    • Part II, st. 9
  • The very deep did rot: O Christ!
    That ever this should be!
    Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
    Upon the slimy sea.
    • Part II, st. 10
  • About, about, in reel and rout
    The death fires danced at night.
    • Part II, st. 11
  • I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
    And cried, A sail! a sail!
    • Part III, st. 4
  • Her lips were red, her looks were free,
    Her locks were yellow as gold:
    Her skin was as white as leprosy,
    The Night-Mare Life-in-Death was she,
    Who thicks man's blood with cold.
    • Part III, st. 11
  • "The game is done! I've won, I've won!"
    Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
    • Part III, st. 12
  • The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out:
    At one stride comes the dark;
    With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea.
    Off shot the spectre-bark.
    • Part III, st. 13
  • We listened and looked sideways up!
    Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
    My life-blood seemed to sip!
    • Part III, st. 14
  • The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
    Within the nether tip.
    • Part III, st. 14
  • Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
    And cursed me with his eye.
    • Part III, st. 15
  • I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
    I fear thy skinny hand!
    And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
    As is the ribbed sea-sand.
    • Part IV, st. 1
  • Alone, alone, all, all alone,
    Alone on a wide wide sea!
    And never a saint took pity on
    My soul in agony.
    • Part IV, st. 3
  • The many men, so beautiful!
    And they all dead did lie:
    And a thousand thousand slimy things
    Lived on; and so did I.
    • Part IV, st. 4
  • An orphan's curse would drag to Hell
    A spirit from on high;
    But oh! more horrible than that
    Is a curse in a dead man's eye!
    Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse,
    And yet I could not die.
    • Part IV, st. 9
  • The moving Moon went up the sky,
    And no where did abide:
    Softly she was going up,
    And a star or two beside.
    • Part IV, st. 10
  • Beyond the shadow of the ship,
    I watched the water-snakes:
    They moved in tracks of shining white,
    And when they reared, the elfish light
    Fell off in hoary flakes.
    • Part IV, st. 12
  • Within the shadow of the ship
    I watched their rich attire:
    Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
    They coiled and swam; and every track
    Was a flash of golden fire.
    • Part IV, st. 13
  • O happy living things! no tongue
    Their beauty might declare:
    A spring of love gushed from my heart,
    And I blessed them unaware:
    Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
    And I blessed them unaware.
    • Part IV, st. 15
  • The self-same moment I could pray;
    And from my neck so free
    The Albatross fell off, and sank
    Like lead into the sea.
    • Part IV, st. 16
  • Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
    Beloved from pole to pole.
    • Part V, st. 1
  • We were a ghastly crew.
    • Part V, st. 11
  • It ceased; yet still the sails made on
    A pleasant noise till noon,
    A noise like of a hidden brook
    In the leafy month of June,
    That to the sleeping woods all night
    Singeth a quiet tune.
    • Part V, st. 17
  • The man hath penance done,
    And penance more will do.
    • Part V, st. 25
  • Like one that on a lonesome road
    Doth walk in fear and dread,
    And having once turned round walks on,
    And turns no more his head;
    Because he knows, a frightful fiend
    Doth close behind him tread.
    • Part VI, st. 10
  • Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
    Is this mine own countree?
    • Part VI, st. 14
  • I pass, like night, from land to land;
    I have strange power of speech;
    That moment that his face I see,
    I know the man that must hear me:
    To him my tale I teach.
    • Part VI, st. 17
  • No voice; but oh! the silence sank
    Like music on my heart.
    • Part VI, st. 22
  • And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,
    That eats the she-wolf's young.
    • Part VII, st. 5
  • "Ha! ha!" quoth he, "full plain I see,
    The Devil knows how to row."
    • Part VII, st. 12
  • Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
    To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
    He prayeth well, who loveth well
    Both man and bird and beast.
    • Part VII, st. 22
  • He prayeth best, who loveth best
    All things both great and small;
    For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all.
    • Part VII, st. 23
  • The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
    Whose beard with age is hoar,
    Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
    Turned from the bridegroom's door.

    He went like one that hath been stunned,
    And is of sense forlorn:
    A sadder and a wiser man,
    He rose the morrow morn.
    • Part VII, st. 24-25

Kubla Khan (written 1797 or 1798, published 1816)

  • In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
    A stately pleasure-dome decree:
    Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
    Through caverns measureless to man
    Down to a sunless sea.
  • So twice five miles of fertile ground
    With walls and towers were girdled round:
    And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
    Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
    And here were forests ancient as the hills,
    Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
  • But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
    Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
    A savage place! as holy and enchanted
    As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
    By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
    And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
    As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
    A mighty fountain momently was forced:
  • Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
    Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
    Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
    And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
    It flung up momently the sacred river.
  • Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
    Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
    Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
    And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
    And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
    Ancestral voices prophesying war!
  • The shadow of the dome of pleasure
    Floated midway on the waves;
    Where was heard the mingled measure
    From the fountain and the caves.
  • It was a miracle of rare device,
    A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
  • A damsel with a dulcimer
    In a vision once I saw:
    It was an Abyssinian maid,
    And on her dulcimer she played,
    Singing of Mount Abora.
    Could I revive within me
    Her symphony and song,
    To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
    That with music loud and long,
    I would build that dome in air,
    That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
    And all who heard should see them there,
    And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
    His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
    Weave a circle round him thrice,
    And close your eyes with holy dread,
    For he on honey-dew hath fed,
    And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Christabel (written 1797-1801, published 1816)

  • Sir Leoline, the Baron rich,
    Hath a toothless mastiff bitch.
    • Part I, l. 6
  • There is not wind enough to twirl
    The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
    That dances as often as dance it can,
    Hanging so light, and hanging so high,
    On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.
    • Part I, l. 48
  • Her gentle limbs did she undress,
    And lay down in her loveliness.
    • Part I, l. 237
  • A sight to dream of, not to tell!
    • Part I, l. 252
  • Saints will aid if men will call:
    For the blue sky bends over all!
    • Part I, l. 330
  • And constancy lives in realms above;
    And life is thorny; and youth is vain;
    And to be wroth with one we love
    Doth work like madness in the brain.
    • Part II, l. 410

Dejection: An Ode (1802)

  • I see, not feel, how beautiful you are!
    • St. 2
  • O lady! we receive but what we give
    And in our life alone does Nature live.
    • St. 4
  • A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
    Enveloping the earth.
    • St. 4
  • Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud —
    We in ourselves rejoice!
    And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
    All melodies the echoes of that voice,
    All colours a suffusion from that light.
    • St. 5

On the Principles of Genial Criticism (1814)

  • Taste is the intermediate faculty which connects the active with the passive powers of our nature, the intellect with the senses; and its appointed function is to elevate the images of the latter, while it realizes the ideas of the former.
  • The most general definition of beauty...Multeity in Unity.
  • The Good consists in the congruity of a thing with the laws of the reason and the nature of the will, and in its fitness to determine the latter to actualize the former: and it is always discursive. The Beautiful arises from the perceived harmony of an object, whether sight or sound, with the inborn and constitutive rules of the judgment and imagination: and it is always intuitive.

Biographia Literaria (1817)

  • Not the poem which we have read, but that to which we return, with the greatest pleasure, possesses the genuine power, and claims the name of essential poetry.
    • Ch. I
  • Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to an excess, that itself will need reforming.
    • Ch. I
  • Experience informs us that the first defence of weak minds is to recriminate.
    • Ch. II
  • Indignation at literary wrongs I leave to men born under happier stars. I cannot afford it.
    • Ch. II
  • Milton had a highly imaginative, Cowley a very fanciful mind.
    • Ch. IV
  • An idea, in the highest sense of that word, cannot be conveyed but by a symbol.
    • Ch. IX
  • Veracity does not consist in saying, but in the intention of communicating truth.
    • Ch. IX
  • Never pursue literature as a trade.
    • Ch. XI
  • Until you understand a writer's ignorance, presume yourself ignorant of his understanding.
    • Ch. XII
  • During the act of knowledge itself, the objective and subjective are so instantly united, that we cannot determine to which of the two the priority belongs.
    • Ch. XII
  • The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM.
    • Ch. XIII
  • The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead.
    • Ch. XIII
  • The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space.
    • Ch. XIII
  • Our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination.
    • Ch. XIV
  • That willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.
    • Ch. XIV
  • The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power, to which I would exclusively appropriate the name of Imagination.
    • Ch. XIV
  • This power...reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference; of the general with the concrete; the idea with the image; the individual with the representative; the sense of novelty and freshness with old and familiar objects; a more than usual state of emotion with more than usual order; judgment ever awake and steady self-possession with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement; and while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, still subordinates art to nature; the manner to the matter; and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the poetry.
    • Ch. XIV
  • It has been observed before that images, however beautiful, though faithfully copied from nature, and as accurately represented in words, do not of themselves characterize the poet. They become proofs of original genius only as far as they are modified by a predominant passion; or by associated thoughts or images awakened by that passion; or when they have the effect of reducing multitude to unity, or succession to an instant; or lastly, when a human and intellectual life is transferred to them from the poet's spirit.
    • Ch. XV
  • No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher.
    • Ch. XV
  • While [Shakespeare] darts himself forth, and passes into all the forms of human character and passion, the one Proteus of the fire and the flood; [Milton] attracts all forms and things to himself, into the unity of his own ideal. All things and modes of action shape themselves anew in the being of Milton; while Shakespeare becomes all things, yet ever remaining himself.
    • Ch. XV
  • Our myriad-minded Shakespeare.
    • Ch. XV
  • The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself.
    • Ch. XVII

On Poesy or Art (1818)

  • Now Art, used collectively for painting, sculpture, architecture and music, is the mediatress between, and reconciler of, nature and man. It is, therefore, the power of humanizing nature, of infusing the thoughts and passions of man into everything which is the object of his contemplation.
  • The artist must imitate that which is within the thing, that which is active through form and figure, and discourses to us by symbols.
  • The heart should have fed upon the truth, as insects on a leaf, till it be tinged with the color, and show its food in every...minutest fiber.

Table Talk (1821-1834)

[Note: Coleridge was renowned for his conversation, some of which was memorialized after his death as his "table talk." The first quote below is from the Letters and Conversations of S.T. Coleridge (1836) by Thomas Allsop. The remaining quotations are from Specimens of the Table Talk of S.T. Coleridge (1835) by Henry N. Coleridge The date that follows each quote refers to when the remark was made.]

  • Humour is consistent with pathos, whilst wit is not.
    • Said in 1821
  • Schiller has the material sublime.
    • December 29, 1822
  • Plagiarists are always suspicious of being stolen from, — as pickpockets are observed commonly to walk with their hands in their breeches' pockets.
    • January 4, 1823
  • To see him act, is like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.
  • The Earth with its scarred face is the symbol of the Past; the Air and Heaven, of Futurity.
    • June 2, 1824
  • Hamlet's character is the prevalence of the abstracting and generalizing habit over the practical. He does not want courage, skill, will, or opportunity; but every incident sets him thinking; and it is curious, and at the same time strictly natural, that Hamlet, who all the play seems reason itself, should he impelled, at last, by mere accident to effect his object. I have a smack of Hamlet myself, if I may say so.
    • June 24, 1827
  • I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; poetry = the best words in their best order.
    • July 12, 1827
  • The Reformation in the sixteenth century narrowed Reform. As soon as men began to call themselves names, all hope of further amendment was lost.
    • July 21, 1827
  • The man's desire is for the woman; but the woman's desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.
    • July 23, 1827
  • Painting is the intermediate somewhat between a thought and a thing.
    • August 30, 1827
  • Poetry is certainly something more than good sense, but it must be good sense at all events; just as a palace is more than a house, but it must be a house, at least.
    • May 9, 1830
  • That passage is what I call the sublime dashed to pieces by cutting too close with the fiery four-in-hand round the corner of nonsense.
    • May 9, 1830
  • The book of Job is pure Arab poetry of the highest and most antique cast.
    • May 9, 1830
  • Shakespeare is the Spinosistic deity — an omnipresent creativeness. Milton is the deity of prescience; he stands ab extra, and drives a fiery chariot and four, making the horses feel the iron curb which holds them in. Shakspeare's poetry is characterless; that is, it does not reflect the individual Shakspeare; but John Milton himself is in every line of the Paradise Lost. Shakspeare's rhymed verses are excessively condensed, — epigrams with the point every where; but in his blank dramatic verse he is diffused, with a linked sweetness long drawn out.
    • May 12, 1830
  • The present system of taking oaths is horrible. It is awfully absurd to make a man invoke God's wrath upon himself, if he speaks false; it is, in my judgment, a sin to do so.
    • May 25, 1830
  • The Pilgrim's Progress is composed in the lowest style of English, without slang or false grammar. If you were to polish it, you would at once destroy the reality of the vision. For works of imagination should be written in very plain language; the more purely imaginative they are the more necessary it is to be plain.
    • May 31, 1830
  • He told me that facts gave birth to, and were the absolute ground of, principles; to which I said, that unless he had a principle of selection, he would not have taken notice of those facts upon which he grounded his principle. You must have a lantern in your hand to give light, otherwise all the materials in the world are useless, for you cannot find them; and if you could, you could not arrange them.
    • September 21, 1830
  • A poet ought not to pick nature's pocket: let him borrow, and so borrow as to repay by the very act of borrowing. Examine nature accurately, but write from recollection; and trust more to your imagination than to your memory.
    • September 22, 1830
  • If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us!
    • December 18, 1831
  • The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous.
    • September 1, 1832
  • In the treatment of nervous cases, he is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.
    • January 2, 1833
  • You talk about making this article cheaper by reducing its price in the market from 8 d. to 6 d. But suppose, in so doing, you have rendered your country weaker against a foreign foe; suppose you have demoralized thousands of your fellow-countrymen, and have sown discontent between one class of society and another, your article is tolerably dear, I take it, after all.
    • March 17, 1833
  • The principle of the Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable. It is no doubt a sublimer effort of genius than the Greek style; but then it depends much more on execution for its effect.
    • June 29, 1833
  • I am glad you came in to punctuate my discourse, which I fear has gone on for an hour without any stop at all.
    • June 29, 1833
  • The true key to the declension of the Roman empire — which is not to be found in all Gibbon's immense work — may be stated in two words: — the imperial character overlaying, and finally destroying, the national character. Rome under Trajan was an empire without a nation.
    • August 15, 1833
  • Brute animals have the vowel sounds; man only can utter consonants.
    • August 20, 1833
  • I am never very forward in offering spiritual consolation to any one in distress or disease. I believe that such resources, to be of any service, must be self-evolved in the first instance. I am something of the Quaker's mind in this, and am inclined to wait for the spirit.
    • August 24, 1833
  • Farce may often border on tragedy; indeed, farce is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.
    • August 25, 1833
  • If a man is not rising upwards to be an angel, depend upon it, he is sinking downwards to be a devil. He cannot stop at the beast. The most savage of men are not beasts; they are worse, a great deal worse.
    • August 30, 1833
  • Dryden's genius was of that sort which catches fire by its own motion; his chariot wheels get hot by driving fast.
    • November 1, 1833
  • I have known books written on Tolerance, the proper title of which would be — intolerant or intolerable books on tolerance. Should not a man who writes a book expressly to inculcate tolerance learn to treat with respect, or at least with indulgence, articles of faith which tens of thousands ten times told of his fellow-subjects or his fellow-creatures believe with all their souls, and upon the truth of which they rest their tranquillity in this world, and their hopes of salvation in the next, — those articles being at least maintainable against his arguments, and most certainly innocent in themselves?
    • January 3, 1834
  • I am by the law of my nature a reasoner. A person who should suppose I meant by that word, an arguer, would not only not understand me, but would understand the contrary of my meaning. I can take no interest whatever in hearing or saying any thing merely as a fact — merely as having happened. It must refer to something within me before I can regard it with any curiosity or care. My mind is always energic — I don't mean energetic; I require in every thing what, for lack of another word, I may call propriety, — that is, a reason why the thing is at all, and why it is there or then rather than elsewhere or at another time.
    • March 1, 1834
  • I take unceasing delight in Chaucer. His manly cheerfulness is especially delicious to me in my old age. How exquisitely tender he is, and yet how perfectly free from the least touch of sickly melancholy or morbid drooping! The sympathy of the poet with the subjects of his poetry is particularly remarkable in Shakspeare and Chaucer; but what the first effects by a strong act of imagination and mental metamorphosis, the last does without any effort, merely by the inborn kindly joyousness of his nature. How well we seem to know Chaucer! How absolutely nothing do we know of Shakspeare!
    • March 15, 1834
  • I am dying, but without expectation of a speedy release. Is it not strange that very recently by-gone images, and scenes of early life, have stolen into my mind, like breezes blown from the spice-islands of Youth and Hope — those twin realities of this phantom world! I do not add Love, — for what is Love but Youth and Hope embracing, and so seen as one? I say realities; for reality is a thing of degrees, from the Iliad to a dream.
    • July 10, 1834

Work Without Hope (1825)

  • All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair —
    The bees are stirring — birds are on the wing —
    And WINTER slumbering in the open air,
    Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
    And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
    Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.
    • l. 1
  • Bloom, O ye Amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
    For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
    With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
    And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
    Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
    And Hope without an object cannot live.
    • l. 9

Duty Surviving Self-Love (1826)

  • Unchanged within, to see all changed without,
    Is a blank lot and hard to bear, no doubt.
    Yet why at others' Wanings should'st thou fret?
    Then only might'st thou feel a just regret,
    Hadst thou withheld thy love or hid thy light
    In selfish forethought of neglect and slight.
  • O wiselier then, from feeble yearnings freed,
    While, and on whom, thou may'st — shine on! nor heed
    Whether the object by reflected light
    Return thy radiance or absorb it quite:
    And tho' thou notest from thy safe recess
    Old Friends burn dim, like lamps in noisome air,
    Love them for what they are ; nor love them less,
    Because to thee they are not what they were.


  • I have often been surprised that Mathematics, the quintessence of Truth, should have found admirers so few and so languid. Frequent consideration and minute scrutiny have at length unravelled the cause: viz. that though Reason is feasted, Imagination is starved; whilst Reason is luxuriating in its proper Paradise, Imagination is wearily travelling on a dreary desert.
    • Letter to his brother (1791)
  • My next shall be a more sober & chastised Epistle — but you see I was in the humour for metaphors — and to tell thee the Truth, I have so often serious reasons to quarrel with my Inclination, that I do not chuse to contradict it for Trifles.
  • Your Sensibilities are tempestuous — you feel Indignation at Weakness — Now Indignation is the handsome Brother of Anger & Hatred — His looks are "lovely in terror" — yet still remember, who are his Relations.
    • Letter to Robert Southey (December 29, 1794)
  • From my early reading of Faery Tales, & Genii &c &c — my mind had been habituated to the Vast — & I never regarded my senses in any way as the criteria of my belief. I regulated all my creeds by my conceptions not by my sight — even at that age. Should children be permitted to read Romances, & Relations of Giants & Magicians, & Genii? — I know all that has been said against it; but I have formed my faith in the affirmative. — I know no other way of giving the mind a love of "the Great," & "the Whole." — Those who have been led by the same truths step by step thro' the constant testimony of their senses, seem to me to want a sense which I possess — They contemplate nothing but parts — and are parts are necessarily little — and the Universe to them is but a mass of little things.
    • Letter to Thomas Poole (October 16, 1797)
  • God knows, it is as much as I can do to put meat and bread on my own table; & hourly some poor starving wretch comes to my door, to put in his claim for a part of it.
    • Letter to Thomas Poole (March 23, 1801)
  • Metaphisics is a word that you, my dear Sir! are no great friend to / but yet you will agree, that a great Poet must be, implicitè if not explicitè, a profound Metaphysician. He may not have it in logical coherence, in his Brain & Tongue; but he must have it by Tact / for all sounds, & all forms of human nature he must have the ear of a wild Arab listening in the silent Desart, the eye of a North American Indian tracing the footsteps of an Enemy upon the Leaves that strew the Forest — ; the Touch of a Blind Man feeling the face of a darling Child.
    • Letter to William Sotheby (July 13, 1802)
  • But metre itself implies a passion, i.e. a state of excitement, both in the Poet's mind, & is expected in that of the Reader.
    • Letter to William Sotheby (July 13, 1802)
  • Never to see or describe any interesting appearance in nature, without connecting it by dim analogies with the moral world, proves faintness of Impression. Nature has her proper interest; & he will know what it is, who believes & feels, that every Thing has a life of it's own, & that we are all one Life.
    • Letter to William Sotheby (September 10, 1802)
  • He has no native Passion, because he is not a Thinker — & has probably weakened his Intellect by the haunting Fear of becoming extravagant.
    • Letter to William Sotheby (September 10, 1802)
  • Moral obligation is to me so very strong a Stimulant, that in 9 cases out of ten it acts as a Narcotic. The Blow that should rouse, stuns me.
    • Letter to Henry Crabb Robinson (March 12, 1811)
  • The age seems sore from excess of stimulation, just as a day or two after a thorough Debauch and long sustained Drinking-match a man feels all over like a Bruise. Even to admire otherwise than on the whole and where "I admire" is but a synonyme for "I remember, I liked it very much when I was reading it," is too much an effort, would be too disquieting an emotion!
    • Letter to Thomas Allsop (March 30, 1820)
  • It is a flat'ning Thought, that the more we have seen, the less we have to say.
    • Letter to James Gillman (October 9, 1825)
  • Nature is a wary wily long-breathed old Witch, tough-lived as a Turtle and divisible as the Polyp, repullulative in a thousand Snips and Cuttings, integra et in toto! She is sure to get the better of Lady MIND in the long run, and to take her revenge too — transforms our To Day into a Canvass dead-colored to receive the dull featureless Portait of Yesterday.
    • Letter to James Gillman (October 9, 1825)
  • How many of our virtues originate in the fear of Death — & that while we flatter ourselves that we are melting in Christian Sensibility over the sorrows of our human Brethren and Sisteren, we are in fact, tho' perhaps unconsciously, moved at the prospect of our own End — for who sincerely pities Sea-sickness, Toothache, or a fit of the Gout in a lusty Good-liver of 50?
    • Letter to James Gillman (October 9, 1825)

About Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • And Coleridge, too, has lately taken wing,
    But, like a hawk encumber'd with his hood,
    Explaining metaphysics to the nation –
    I wish he would explain his Explanation.
  • There is no method in his talk: he wanders like a man sailing among many currents, whithersoever his lazy mind directs him; and, what is more unpleasant, he preaches, or rather soliloquises…I reckon him a man of great and useless genius: a strange, not at all a great man.
  • The author of Biographia Literaria was already a ruined man. Sometimes, however, to be a "ruined man" is itself a vocation.
    • T. S. Eliot The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933) p. 69.
  • He was the first poet I ever knew. His genius at that time had angelic wings, and fed on manna. He talked on for ever; and you wished him to talk on for ever. His thoughts did not seem to come with labour and effort; but as if borne on the gusts of genius, and as if the wings of his imagination lifted him from off his feet.
  • The genius of Coleridge is like a sunken treasure ship, and Coleridge a diver too timid and lazy to bring its riches to the surface.
  • His face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient glory, an Arch angel a little damaged…Coleridge is absent but 4 miles, & the neighbourhood of such a man is as exciting as the presence of 50 ordinary Persons.

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