Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

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.

See also:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797–98; 1817)

Quotes[edit]

Bear witness for me, whereso'er ye be,
With what deep worship I have still adored
The spirit of divinest Liberty.
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.

The knight’s bones are dust,
And his good sword rust;
His soul is with the saints, I trust.
Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree.
In many ways doth the full heart reveal
The presence of the love it would conceal.
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 awoke — Aye! and what then?
  • Poor little foal of an oppressèd race!
    I love the languid patience of thy face.
    • "To a Young Ass", li. 1 (1794)
  • "Most musical, most melancholy" bird!
    A melancholy bird! Oh! idle thought!
    In nature there is nothing melancholy.
    But some night-wandering man, whose heart was pierced
    With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
    Or slow distemper, or neglected love,
    (And so, poor wretch! filled all things with himself,
    And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
    Of his own sorrow) he, and such as he,
    First named these notes a melancholy strain.
  • Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky!
    Yea! every thing that is and will be free!
    Bear witness for me, whereso'er ye be,
    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)
  • 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.

    . . . . . . . . .
    Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends!
    Hath he not always treasures, always friends,
    The good great man? Three treasures,—love and light,
    And calm thoughts, regular as infants' breath;
    And three firm friends, more sure than day and night,—
    Himself, his Maker, and the angel Death.
    • "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
  • The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant, when he has the Giant's shoulders to mount on.
    • The Friend; A Series of Essays (1812), No. 15 (30 November 1809), p. 228
    • Cf. Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke (15 February 1676): "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants".
  • 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, the motive-hunting of a motiveless malignity — how awful!
    • On Iago soliloquy in Othello, in "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)
  • Humour is consistent with pathos, whilst wit is not.
    • Said in 1821, as quoted in Letters and Conversations of S.T. Coleridge (1836) by Thomas Allsop
  • The Eighth Commandment was not made for bards.
    • "The Reproof and Reply" (1823); the eighth commandment is "Thou shalt not steal".
  • 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
    ;
    Oh the joys that came down shower-like,
    Of friendship, love, and liberty,
    Ere I was old!
    • "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)
  • Intense study of the Bible will keep any writer from being vulgar, in point of style.
    • Specimens of the table talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge, June 14, 1830, (1835) p. 177
  • 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! and what then?
    • "Anima Poetæ : From the Unpublished Note-books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge" (1895) edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge, p. 282
  • Seldom can philosophic genius be more usefully employed than in thus rescuing admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission.
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), Aphorism 1
  • In philosophy equally as in poetry it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission.
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), Aphorism 1
  • Truths … are too often considered as so true, that they lose all the power of truth, and lie bed-ridden in the dormitory of the soul, side by side with the most despised and exploded errors.
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), Aphorism 1
  • Manly energy ... is the proper rendering [for αρετην], and not virtue, at least in the present and ordinary acceptation of the word.
    • Aids to Reflection (1829), comment to Aphorism 7
  • “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. i. 28), and though they could not extinguish “the Light that lighteth every man,” and which “shone in the darkness;” yet because the darkness could not comprehend the Light, they refused to bear witness of it, and worshipped, instead, the shaping mist, which the Light had drawn upward from the ground (i.e., from the mere animal nature and instinct), and which that Light alone had made visible (i.e., by super-inducing on the animal instinct the principle of self-consciousness)
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), footnote to Aphorism 106 part 13
  • In wonder all philosophy began, in wonder it ends. ... But the first wonder is the offspring of ignorance, the last is the parent of adoration.
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), Aphorism 107
  • As in respect of the first wonder we are all on the same level, how comes it that the philosophic mind should, in all ages, be the privilege of a few? The most obvious reason is this: The wonder takes place before the period of reflection, and (with the great mass of mankind) long before the individual is capable of directing his attention freely and consciously to the feeling, or even to its exciting causes. Surprise (the form and dress which the wonder of ignorance usually puts on) is worn away, if not precluded, by custom and familiarity.
    • Aids to Reflection (1873), Sequelae to Aphorism 107

Kubla Khan (1797 or 1798)[edit]

"Kubla Khan, or A Vision in a Dream" (written 1797 or 1798, published in 1816 as a "Fragment") · Full text at Wikisource
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.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
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.
  • 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)[edit]

  • 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
  • Alas! they had been friends in youth;
    But whispering tongues can poison truth,
    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. 408

Dejection: An Ode (1802)[edit]

O lady! we receive but what we give
And in our life alone does Nature live.
Full text online
Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud
  • The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence.
    • St. 1
  • Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew
    In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;
    I see them all so excellently fair,
    I see, not feel, how beautiful they 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

"Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni" (1802)[edit]

Hast thou a charm to stay the morning-star
In his steep course?
Voice of sweet song! awake, my heart, awake!
Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my hymn.
Great hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,
And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,
Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.
  • Hast thou a charm to stay the morning-star
    In his steep course?
    So long he seems to pause
    On thy bald awful head, О sovran Blanc!
    • St. 1
  • Around thee and above,
    Deep is the air and dark, substantial, black,
    An ebon mass; methinks thou piercest it,
    As with a wedge! But when I look again,
    It is thine own calm home, thy crystal shrine,
    Thy habitation from eternity!
    • St. 1
  • Risest from forth thy silent sea of pines.
  • Motionless torrents! silent cataracts!
  • Ye living flowers that skirt the eternal frost.
  • O dread and silent mount! I gazed upon thee,
    Till thou, still present to the bodily sense,
    Didst vanish from my thought : entranced in prayer,
    I worshipped the Invisible alone.
  • Awake, my soul! not only passive praise
    Thou owest!
    not alone these swelling tears,
    Mute thanks and secret ecstasy. Awake,
    Voice of sweet song! awake, my heart, awake!
    Green vales and icy cliffs, all join my hymn.
  • Who made you glorious as the gates of heaven
    Beneath the keen full moon ? Who bade the sun
    Clothe you with rainbows ? Who, with living flower
    Of loveliest blue, spread garlands at your feet ?
    'God!' let the torrents, like a shout of nations,
    Answer ! and let the ice-plains echo, 'God!'
    'God! ' sing, ye meadow-streams, with gladsome voice!
    Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds !
    And they too have a voice, yon piles of snow,
    And in their perilous fall shall thunder, 'God!'
  • Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!
    Ye signs and wonders of the element!
    Utter forth ' God,' and fill the hills with praise!
  • Solemnly seemest like a vapoury cloud
    To rise before me — Rise, oh, ever rise;
    Rise like a cloud of incense from the earth!
    Thou kingly spirit throned among the hills,
    Thou dread ambassador from earth to heaven,
    Great hierarch! tell thou the silent sky,
    And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,
    Earth, with her thousand voices, praises God.

On the Principles of Genial Criticism (1814)[edit]

  • 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)[edit]

An idea, in the highest sense of that word, cannot be conveyed but by a symbol.
Full text online
Veracity does not consist in saying, but in the intention of communicating truth.
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.
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.
No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher.
  • 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
  • Shakespeare, no mere child of nature ; no automaton of genius; no passive vehicle of inspiration possessed by the spirit, not possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated deeply, understood minutely, till knowledge became habitual and intuitive, wedded itself to his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to that stupendous power by which he stands alone, with no equal or second in his own class ; to that power which seated him on one of the two glorysmitten summits of the poetic mountain, with Milton аs his compeer, not rival. While the former darts himself forth, and passes into all the forms of human character and passion, the one Proteus of the fire and the flood ; the other 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 Shakspeare becomes all things, yet for ever remaining himself.
    • Ch. XV
  • The myriad-minded man, our, and all men's, Shakespeare, has in this piece presented us with a legitimate farce in exactest consonance with the philosophical principles and character of farce, as distinguished from comedy and from entertainments. A proper farce is mainly distinguished from comedy by the licence allowed, and even required, in the fable, in order to produce strange and laughable situations. The story need not be probable, it is enough that it is possible.
  • 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)[edit]

  • 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)[edit]

Schiller has the material sublime.
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.
Kean is original; but he copies from himself. His rapid descents from the hyper-tragic to the infra-colloquial, though sometimes productive of great effect, are often unreasonable. To see him act, is like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.
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!
In the treatment of nervous cases, he is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.
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.
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.
  • Schiller has the material sublime.
    • 29 December 1822
  • Plagiarists are always suspicious of being stolen from, — as pickpockets are observed commonly to walk with their hands in their breeches' pockets.
    • 4 January 1823

  • Kean is original; but he copies from himself. His rapid descents from the hyper-tragic to the infra-colloquial, though sometimes productive of great effect, are often unreasonable. To see him act, is like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning. I do not think him thorough-bred gentleman enough to play Othello.
    • 17 April 1823
  • The Earth with its scarred face is the symbol of the Past; the Air and Heaven, of Futurity.
    • 2 June 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.
    • 24 June 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.
    • 12 July 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.
    • 21 July 1827
  • The man's desire is for the woman; but the woman's desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.
    • 23 July 1827
  • Painting is the intermediate somewhat between a thought and a thing.
    • 30 August 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.
    • 9 May 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.
    • 9 May 1830
  • The book of Job is pure Arab poetry of the highest and most antique cast.
    • 9 May 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.
    • 12 May 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.
    • 25 May 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.
    • 31 May 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.
    • 21 September 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.
    • 22 September 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!
    • 18 December 1831
  • The truth is, a great mind must be androgynous.
    • 1 September 1832
  • In the treatment of nervous cases, he is the best physician who is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.
    • 2 January 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.
    • 17 March 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.
    • 29 June 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.
    • 29 June 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.
    • 15 August 1833
  • Brute animals have the vowel sounds; man only can utter consonants.
    • 20 August 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.
    • 20 August 1833
  • Farce may often border on tragedy; indeed, farce is nearer tragedy in its essence than comedy is.
    • 20 August 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.
    • 30 August 1833
  • Dryden's genius was of that sort which catches fire by its own motion; his chariot wheels get hot by driving fast.
    • 1 November 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?
    • 3 January 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.
    • 1 March 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!
    • 15 March 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.
    • 10 July 1834

Work Without Hope (1825)[edit]

Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.
Full text online
  • 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)[edit]

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.
Full text online
  • 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.

Letters[edit]

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.
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.
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.
It is a flat'ning Thought, that the more we have seen, the less we have to say.


  • 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 (29 December 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. It is true, the mind may become credulous and prone to superstition by the former method; — but are not the experimentalists credulous even to madness in believing any absurdity, rather than believe the grandest truths, if they have not the testimony of their own senses in their favor? I have known some who have been rationally educated, as it is styled. They were marked by a microscopic acuteness; but when they looked at great things, all became a blank, and they saw nothing, and denied that any thing could be seen, and uniformly put the negative of a power for the possession of a power, and called the want of imagination judgment, and the never being moved to rapture philosophy.
    • Letter to Thomas Poole (16 October 1797)
  • I shall attack Chemistry, like a Shark.
    • Letter to Sir Humphry Davy (15 July 1800)
  • 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 (23 March 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 (13 July 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 (13 July 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 (10 September 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 (10 September 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 (12 March 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 (30 March 1820)
  • It is a flat'ning Thought, that the more we have seen, the less we have to say.
    • Letter to James Gillman (9 October 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 (9 October 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 (9 October 1825)
  • Summer has set in with his usual severity.

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)[edit]

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Earth with her thousand voices praises God.
    • Hymn in the Vale of Chamouni.
  • Ere sin could blight or sorrow fade,
    Death came with friendly care;
    The opening bud to heaven conveyed,
    And bade it blossom there.
    • Epitaph on an Infant
  • Yes, while I stood and gazed, my temples bare,
    And shot my being through earth, sea, and air,
    Possessing all things with intensest love,
    O Liberty! my spirit felt thee there.
    • France, An Ode. v
  • A charm
    For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
    No sound is dissonant which tells of life.
    • This Lime-tree Bower my Prison
  • Tranquillity! thou better name
    Than all the family of Fame.
    • Ode to Tranquillity
  • A mother is a mother still,
    The holiest thing alive.
    • The Three Graves
  • Never, believe me,
    Appear the Immortals,
    Never alone.
    • The Visit of the Gods, (Imitated from Schiller.)
  • Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn.
    • A Christmas Carol, viii
  • My eyes make pictures when they are shut.
    • A Day-Dream
  • To know, to esteem, to love, and then to part,
    Makes up life's tale to many a feeling heart!
    • On taking Leave of ———— (1817)
  • I have heard of reasons manifold
    Why Love must needs be blind,
    But this the best of all I hold,—
    His eyes are in his mind.
    • To a Lady, Offended by a Sportive Observation
  • What outward form and feature are
    He guesseth but in part;
    But what within is good and fair
    He seeth with the heart.
    • To a Lady, Offended by a Sportive Observation
  • Be that blind bard who on the Chian strand,
    By those deep sounds possessed with inward light,
    Beheld the Iliad and the Odyssey
    Rise to the swelling of the voiceful sea.
    • Fancy in Nubibus
  • I stood in unimaginable trance
    And agony that cannot be remembered.
    • Remorse, Act iv, scene 3
  • The intelligible forms of ancient poets,
    The fair humanities of old religion,
    The power, the beauty, and the majesty
    That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain,
    Or forest by slow stream, or pebbly spring,
    Or chasms and watery depths,—all these have vanished;
    They live no longer in the faith of reason.
    • Wallenstein, part i. Act ii, scene 4 (translated from Schiller.)
  • I've lived and loved.
    • Wallenstein, part i, Act ii, scene 6
  • Clothing the palpable and familiar
    With golden exhalations of the dawn.
    • The Death of Wallenstein, Act i, scene 1
  • Often do the spirits
    Of great events stride on before the events,
    And in to-day already walks to-morrow.
    • The Death of Wallenstein, Act v, scene 1
  • An instinctive taste teaches men to build their churches in flat countries, with spire steeples, which, as they cannot be referred to any other object, point as with silent finger to the sky and star.
    • The Friend, No. 14

Christabel[edit]

  • And the spring comes slowly up this way.
    • Part I
  • A lady richly clad as she,
    Beautiful exceedingly.
    • Part I
  • Carv'd with figures strange and sweet,
    All made out of the carver's brain.
    • Part I
  • Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
    Knells us back to a world of death.
    • Part II
  • Her face, oh call it fair, not pale!
    • Part II
  • They stood aloof, the scars remaining,—
    Like cliffs which had been rent asunder:
    A dreary sea now flows between.
    • Part II
  • Perhaps 't is pretty to force together
    Thoughts so all unlike each other;
    To mutter and mock a broken charm,
    To dally with wrong that does no harm.
    • Conclusion to Part II


Misattributed[edit]

  • Above all things I entreat you to preserve your faith in Christ. It is my wealth in poverty, my joy in sorrow, my peace amid tumult. For all the evil I have committed, my gracious pardon; and for every effort, my exceeding great reward. I have found it to be so. I can smile with pity at the infidel whose vanity makes him dream that I should barter such a blessing for the few subtleties from the school of the cold-blooded sophists.
    • Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 235, and various other sources beginning no earlier than 1880; actually an elaboration and modification of a quote by D.W. Clark, The Mount of Blessing (1854), p. 56: "It shall be my wealth in poverty, my joy in sorrow, and its promised rewards shall cheer me in all trials, and sustain me in all sufferings".

Quotes about Coleridge[edit]

The author of Biographia Literaria was already a ruined man. Sometimes, however, to be a "ruined man" is itself a vocation. ~ T. S. Eliot
  • 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.
  • He is a kind, good soul, full of religion and affection and poetry and animal magnetism. His cardinal sin is that he wants will. He has no resolution. He shrinks from pain or labour in any of its shapes. His very atti- tude bespeaks this. He never straightens his knee-joints. He stoops with his fat, ill-shapen shoulders, and in walking he does not tread, but shovel and slide. My father would call it "skluffing." He is also always busied to keep, by strong and frequent inhalations, the water of his mouth from over-flowing, and his eyes have a look of anxious impotence. He would do with all his heart, but he knows he dares not. The conversation of the man is much as I anticipated — a forest of thoughts, some true, many false, more part dubious, all of them ingenious in some degree, often in a high degree. But 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. He cannot speak, he can only tal-k (so he names it). Hence I found him unprofitable, even tedious; but we parted very good friends, I promising to go back and see him some evening a promise which I fully intend to keep. I sent him a copy of Meister, about which we had some friendly talk. 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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