Imagination, Fancy and Physics in the Poetry of Coleridge

Imagination, Fancy and Physics in the Poetry of Coleridge

Imagination and fancy raised Coleridge above the level of the physical. Comment.

Coleridge is famous for two main reasons; (a) because of his imaginative power and (b) due to creation of imagery from natural and supernatural elements. Read any poem of S. T. Coleridge and you will be amazed by seeing supernatural elements. Critics are agreed on the point that S. T. Coleridge goes beyond the limits of nature and thinks differently from the common poets. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of poets, who are best in portraying nature but the difference between S.T. Coleridge and among them is that other poets present nature as it is, whereas S.T. Coleridge blends nature with supernaturalism. Reader does not only just go through his poems but felt the psychological condition, which is being presented in it. The fact is admitted by every critic and also by the poet to the extent that supernatural elements are part and parcel of Coleridge’s poems. He himself frankly admits that he uses these elements in his poems. In “Biographia Literaria”, he writes:

“It was agreed that my endeavors should be directed to persons and characters supernatural or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment which constitutes poetic faith”.

Indeed, Coleridge uses supernaturalism in his poems to create interest of the readers. In fact, these elements forces the reader to read whole poem and saves him from boredom. Perhaps, it is the only weapon, due to which, S. T. Coleridge is being appreciated in the history of English Literature. He has skills to use this technique in his poems. It is evident from his poem “The Rime of Ancient Mariner” that he is skillful sketcher of supernaturalism. In addition to “Ancient Mariner”, “Christable” and “Kubla Khan” also reveal the skills of poet in this regard. Though they are incomplete yet they are impressive and interesting. In these poems, especially, in “Ancient Mariner”, the sea, the landscapes, the mountains, the characters and also the animals are very skillfully supernaturalized by the poet. Although, S. T. Coleridge did not introduce the technique of supernaturalism yet he made improvements in it. Due to his efforts, the lovers of literature acknowledged the importance of supernaturalism. Before Coleridge, Horace Walpole Mrs. Radcliffe and Monk Lewis tried their best to use supernaturalism in romantic poetry but only S. T. Coleridge got fame in this regard.

It is crystal clear that S. T. Coleridge uses supernaturalism in his later poems but is it true that it raises Coleridge above the level of the physics? No, it is not true at all. The very technique is interesting not only for the poet but also for the readers. It increases the their interest and widens their imaginative powers. Moreover, reality is observed by everyone in routine life but if it is mixed with supernatural elements, it becomes interesting and leaves marks on the minds of reader. It also forces him to remember the thematic concept of the poem for a long period of time.  S. T. Coleridge does not every time creates characters with this technique. He uses this technique primarily for the purpose of painting scenery. It is the only difference which aparts him from the former writers because they used to create fancy stories with the help of this technique. S. T. Coleridge does not do so. He does not make fancy stories. His tales are real and natural with a little touch of supernaturalism. He has strong imaginative power and experience of human psychology and with the help of these two elements, he very skillfully crafts his poems. In this regard, he may not seem real objectively but he is real psychologically. With reference to supernaturalism, in “Lyrical Ballads”, he writes:

“The incidents and agents are to be in part at least supernatural; and the excellence aims at, is to consist in the interesting of the affections by the dramatic truth of such emotions, as will naturally accompany such emotions, supposing them real”

These elements of supernaturalism increases the sight of readers. It expands their imagination and forces them to see above the level of naturalism. Readers believe the unbelievable and forcibly convinces their minds to believe on the imaginative realism of the poem. Hence, Coleridge’s supernaturalism talks about the possibility and probability. It shows the reader that anything can be possible if we have faith on it, therefore, the poet’s supernaturalism hits the rule of physics and does not controvert it.

Another relevant feature in context to supernaturalism is that Coleridge mostly presents human emotions in his poems. What is being felt by the character is his main concern and so as the readers. His supernatural elements are not too exaggerative rather they level the physics. He does not present any utopian world in his poems; instead he sketches a world which is entirely real. It is because of this reason, his poetry is believed and appreciated around the globe. Any reader, who reads his poems, has no other option except to believe these Supernatural elements. His imitation technique, knowledge of human psychology, and method of presenting human feelings as well as emotions is crucial. So, he compels readers to have faith on his presentation. Pater praises S. T. Coleridge in following words:-

“It is delicacy the dreamy grace in the presentation of the marvelous which makes Coleridge’s work so remarkable. The palpable intruders from a spiritual world in almost all ghost literature, in Scott and Shakespeare even, have a kind of coarseness or crudeness. Coleridge’s power is in the very fineness with which as with some really ghostly singer, he brings home to our inmost sense; his inventions, daring as they are.”

He further says:-

“It is this finer, more delicately marvelous supernaturalism, fruit of his own more delicate psychology that Coleridge infuses into romantic adventures, which itself was then a new or revived thing in English language.”

Obviously, S. T. Coleridge, sometimes, introduces ghosts as characters but his efforts are not deniable. The very idea of presenting ghosts like characters touches the human interest and reduces boredom. When, in “Ancient Mariner”, he writes: “Alone, alone, all, all alone” “Alone on a wide wide sea!”, it is definitely supernatural experience as it is consciousness of guilt yet this is what “dramatic probability” is. Factually, “Ancient Mariner” is dramatic poem and it becomes dramatic because of supernatural elements.

Coleridge remains true to nature. His sets up such scenes, which always remain close to nature. In simple words, his supernaturalism can be defined as the personification of natural forces and its related objects. In addition to it, he blends natural elements and supernatural elements. The hotchpotch of these two ingredients leaves such a mark on the minds of readers that they cannot stop themselves to praise S. T. Coleridge.