My gentle-hearted Charles! . . . Thou has pined
And hungered after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And sad calamity!

Both Coleridge and Shelley were influenced by the writings of William Godwin, a social philosopher and the author of Political Justice, which was published in 1793 (Context 32, Godwin), and these poems work in the context of his philosophy. Godwin was a proponent of atheism, anarchy, personal freedom, and small, self-contained communities. This poem by Coleridge shows some of Godwin's influence of the poet, at least in that it shows the desire to leave the "City." Though Coleridge was evidently mistaken in the belief that Lamb hated the city and yearned for the country (Norton p. 333), it is evident from this passage and the rest of the poem that Coleridge himself wished for an idyllic life in harmony with nature. In fact, he formed a plan to live in a utopian community (modeled on Godwin's ideas of such a community) with eleven other gentlemen and their wives in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Shelley, as well, was influenced in no small fashion by Godwin; Godwin's daughter became his wife and editor. Godwin's influence is also evident in "Mont Blanc," in that the poem reflects Shelley's atheism (he believes in a "Power," but definitely not in a personal God which might redeem him in the Christian fashion).

"Mont Blanc" is written in the genre of the "local" poem, which meditatively describes the place in which the speaker is situated. "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison" is written in the form of a "conversation poem," a poem in which the speaker addresses his lines to a listener within the poem, generally a listener who has little voice of his own. Coleridge's poem takes on the tone of a "local" poem in the final stanza, when the speaker intimately describes what he has seen from his post in the little grove. It is similar to Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" in that it combines these two genres.

Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000