Samuel Taylor Coleridge"Kubla Kahn" (1816)
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Print out a copy of thepoem
and Coleridge'snoteon its composition and bringboth to class.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was the son of a respectable countryclergyman and his wife. He was the youngest of 14 children, and, as his father’sfavorite, spent much of his childhood with adults. He quickly developed into aprecocious speaker and reader. He went to Cambridge University but spent moretime enjoying city life than studying. This cost him an important scholarship and heleft in 1794 without a degree. He spent the next few years writing sporadically andunevenly until 1797 when he met Wordsworth and their poetic collaboration began.However, since Coleridge's family was not wealthy, he decided reluctantly to enter the clergy in order to support himself. Fortunately, his work found favor with theWedgwood family. They offered him a modest annual stipend so that he couldcontinue his study and writing.Coleridge's work is complex and diverse, reflecting the breadth and depth of hiseducation. He was an impressive scholar who could read and write Greek, Latin,French, and German with ease. Over the course of his career, Coleridge wrote onmost of the major issues concerning the British public, including religion, morals,politics, the imagination, literature, landscape, and philosophy. He published work ina variety of genres, including essays, theoretical treatises, public lectures, dramas,and magazine articles. Coleridge wrote relatively little poetry, but the poetry he didwrite demonstrates an astonishing range of styles. Today, literary critics tend toconsider his "mystery" poems to be his greatest work:
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
, “Christabel,” and “Kubla Khan.”Literary historians usually identify Coleridge as a Romantic poet. They group him withWilliam Blake, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon, LordByron, and John Keats. However, we should note that this label has been imposedretrospectively by twentieth-century critics: during their lifetimes, and for severaldecades after their death, they were not understood as part of a coherent group, nor did they understand themselves this way. Nevertheless, they do have commoninterests. Coleridge Wordsworth, and Blake are usually identified as the "firstgeneration" of Romantics. They came of age as poets during the first wave of enthusiasm for the French Revolution. As young adults, therefore, they believed inthe ideals originally associated with it. Although all became disillusioned with thecourse France subsequently took, they still knew the heady optimism of its earlydays: all three learned to look at the world with the hope that it could be transformed