Coleridge’s Figurative Language by Tim Fulford

By Tim Fulford

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17-23; PW, I, 237-8) Implicit in this is Coleridge's belief in the power of Shakespeare's poetry to reveal evil for what it is. Poetry is once more a standard to be held against the words and deeds of politicians. Also implicit is Coleridge's belief that allusion can be used to draw readers into making moral links between apparently unconnected words and discourses - Pitt and Hecate, witchcraft and statecraft, poetry and politics. Parodies and allusions not only involved readers creatively in moral comparisons of discourse; they avoided the danger of direct criticism at a time when the ministry had registered all publishers, so as to be better able to prosecute for seditious libel.

In 1796 Coleridge admired Collins's 'Ode on the Poetical Character' on the grounds that it treated 'lofty & abstract truths' with passion. He declared that it had 'inspired & whirled me along with greater agitations of enthusiasm than any the most impassioned Scene in Schiller or Shakspere' (CL, I, 279). In this poem Collins compares human, poetic creation with divine creation of the world. This forms an apotheosis of the imagination which places it amongst the seraphs before God: The whiles, the vaulted Shrine around, Seraphic Wires were heard to sound, Now sublimest Triumph swelling, Now on Love and Mercy dwelling.

39 The invocation of such texts is further evidence of Coleridge's derivation of poetic and personal identity from religious language. Luther's defiance, from which Protestantism grew, was a useful 30 Coleridge's Figurative Language statement to write into the initials of one who was himself under pressure for changing his position. But the very procedure raises questions about Coleridge's self-belief and self-consistency. If he was confident in his personal fidelity to principle, why did he need to support his name with such allusions?

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