Coleridge's Metaphors of Being

Coleridge's Metaphors of Being

EDWARD KESSLER
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x16g5
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  • Book Info
    Coleridge's Metaphors of Being
    Book Description:

    In an original and provocative demonstration that Coleridge's later poetry took on a powerful metaphysical conception, Edward Kessler emphasizes Coleridge's struggle with language as a means of both expressing and creating Being. While many of Coleridge's late poems are generally viewed as fragments that constitute an aesthetic failure, Professor Kessler contends that what at first may appear to reflect Coleridge's inability to finish a poem can otherwise be seen as a deliberate rejection of what the poet came to see as a confining form.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6977-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Abbreviations of Works by Coleridge
    (pp. x-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    This essay grew out of an interest in Coleridge’s later poems, particularly “Limbo,” and out of a feeling that Cole ridge was not the failed poet he claimed to be. At twenty-one he was lamenting, “I am but the Dregs of my former self” (CL,1,47), and by the year 1800 (at twenty-eight) he had given up entirely: “As to Poetry, I have altogether abandoned it, being convinced that I never had the essentials of poetic Genius, & that I mistook a strong desire for original power” (CL,1,656). Taking him at his word, Coleridge’s contemporaries and most subsequent critics have explored...

  6. 1. The Eddy-Rose
    (pp. 15-38)

    In his verse letter to Sara Hutchinson that was to become “Dejection: An Ode,” Coleridge wrote: “to all things I prefer the permanent.” Here the poet articulates the sad changes in his personal life—his broken marriage, his diminished imaginative power, his physical suffering—but this letter is more than another lament for the transitory nature of human life, and the “accidents of individual life“ (CL,IV,572) that are the materials for poetry. Although the poet feels that the more fixedideaof Sara is preferable to her changing presence, he realizes that the conflict between stability and progression, between fixity...

  7. 2. Phantom
    (pp. 39-82)

    With the Eddy metaphor, Coleridge was able to express the dynamic interplay of opposites that could, in rare moments, achieve an equilibrium in the physical world, an apprehension of Being. But no metaphor could be conclusive, and as the poet progressed in time he continued to seek “the true and abidingreality” (AR.,87) beyond the world’s appearances. Coleridge’s spelling of “phaenomena” emphasizes its root meaning of “appearing,”¹ and just as things observed are not things in themselves, so a metaphor drawn from the sensory world is ever in danger of becoming only an appearance, a ghost, or a “Phantom.” The...

  8. 3. Limbo
    (pp. 83-122)

    Coleridge believed that “true being is not contemplatable in the forms of time and space” (LR.,III,320), and yet as a poet he was compelled to find images for his earthly existence from which true Being could emerge. To represent his life accurately, he had to mingle the true and the false, the world he lived in and the one he imagined for himself. His Being was sometimes “blind and stagnant” and sometimes illuminated by a renewing light from within. More often, however, it could be found in a transitional state, and the ultimate metaphor for this condition occurs in his...

  9. 4. Beyond Metaphor: Coleridge’s Abstract Self
    (pp. 123-184)

    In “Limbo” Coleridge imagined himself as an old man aspiring to that plenitude of Being that is not found within a fallen world. Like the poem itself, the old man is incomplete, a subject realizing itself through humility, an “idealess watching” (CL, 11,1008). Coleridge defined two kinds of knowledge: empirical, gained through the Understanding, the faculty that bases its operations on sense objects; and spiritual, gained by the Reason through abstraction and selfreflection.¹ The Understanding forms classes and makes generalizations, but the Reason can do more: it can dissolve the presumed identity of subject and object (man and his world)...

  10. 5. Afterword: Journey of Two Magi
    (pp. 185-194)

    In “Journey of the Magi” T. S. Eliot creates a paradigm for his solitary struggle for Being that may help to illuminate Coleridge’s similar experience, and may further suggest why both poets had difficulty accepting self-sufficient poetic forms to mirror their “desire beyond desire.” Both desperately needed an absolute power to give meaning to the random fragments of living that some accept as life, but neither felt able to celebrate the Christian mystery without first evolving his own particular form that could incorporate both doubt and belief. At the same time, each needed to create a new self capable of...

  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 195-198)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 199-200)
  13. Index of Works by Coleridge
    (pp. 201-202)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-204)