Coleridge Essay, Research Paper

How does Coleridge in ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Kubla Khan’ show

the interrelatedness between mankind, nature and the poetic experience?

Coleridge expresses many thoughtful and rather intense ideas in his poetry, through

using either peculiar or common images of all forms of nature ie human,

environmental or supernatural. His poetic expression is unique in its use of

extraordinary imagery and transition of mood yet he what he creates usually

conforms to numerous literary techniques. The recurring theme in many of his poems

is that of man’s harmony with nature, and this idea, combined with his bizarre and

even eccentric poetic expression provides a basis for both ‘The Rime of the Ancient

Mariner’ and ‘Kubla Khan’.

Mankind, firstly, is explored in both poems by placing the human nature in situations

where perhaps instinct acts before reason. In RAM, the ancient mariner kills the

albatross not for need or in distress, or for any reason that mariner can deduce the

result. He has unknowingly taken on a huge burden, and the quest begins to extract

all the rash impulsiveness of mankind. The mariner now must search for moral,

spiritual and internal rationality, and this goal is expressed in the poem as a type of

blessing or relief which he must earn. In ‘Kubla Khan’, Coleridge expresses man’s

social instinct to conform and belong to a group. This also relates to the creation of

rituals and rules by the human-being and the obeying of the cycle of life to death,

again and again. The running theme of freedom and release for man is emphasised in

both poems, escaping from criticism, in the case of KK, and from blame and regret,

in RAM. They both explore the tendency to be impulsive for reasons accumulated

through the traits of human and social instinct, in contrast to that obtained naturally.

An example of this purely natural expression is that of the senses. KK is an

extremely sensual and sexual poem, appealing to maybe the animalistic part of the

human rather than to the section which recognises its reason and depth. In RAM, the

mariner is subjected to the elements of nature, where all his senses are exposed to

extreme environmental lengths. His instinct strays away from that based on his

position amongst the dead men and the burden he has acquired. He becomes

extremely sensitive in his sight, hearing, sense of touch, smell and taste and it is then

that the mariner becomes inharmonious with nature, recognising its amazing

transformation power and beauty.

The connection between nature and man is explained using the appealing and

repulsing elements of both. Nature is described in all its forms in both poems. It can

be abusive and battering, rampaging and passionate, soothing and caressing, or

steadfast and dependant. All these traits of nature can also be traits of the human

being, and if forced together, are likely to retaliate and react. One always tries to

control and overrun the other. In KK, there is the creation of the dome concealing

the perfect world and in RAM, the boat of the mariner is thrust in all directions by

nature. Therefore, the emphasis on harmony and freedom depend on mankind and

nature complimenting each other. In KK, the description of water in forms of rivers,

oceans and waves could also express the creativity and imagination of mankind,

where neither can be controlled.

The humanisation of nature and the naturalisation of humankind are clearly but

creatively defined in KK and RAM, and probably only so due to Coleridge’s poetic

expression. The experience his poetry leads his reader through is one which can

either lightly waft them through a flow of endless rhythm or haul and scrape them

through a definite grating pattern. The use of this experience emphasises the contrast

between the natural and unnatural. The sensuality of KK invites the reader to dive

into its pure imagery but at the same time be so repulsively engrossed with its

passion that no moral or creative insight could ever be overlooked in the ‘heat’ of the

expression. The poetic experience takes the interrelatedness between man and nature

through all the contrasting and connecting associations they have. Nature is expressed

using pulsing rhythms, familiar images, or recurring sensations and therefore spreads

from being a state of weather, to a form of life, to a state of mind, and further to the


The interrelatedness between nature, mankind and the poetic experience is crucial for

the successful functioning of both ‘Kubla Khan’ and ‘The Rime of the Ancient

Mariner.’ Coleridge achieves these connections by interweaving common themes and

expressions, or using one to explain the other in order to attain harmony. As a basis

for both poems, this interrelatedness causes the branching and probing into further

questioning of morals and beliefs, achieving reflection and spurring on thought.

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