Genre: Ode.
Form: 139 lines in eight sections.
Metre: iambic. Lines vary from 3 to 6 feet.
Rhyme scheme: primarily couplets, with some abba and abab groups.

1. When Coleridge wrote this poem, he had just seen the first four stanzas of Wordsworth's "Immortality" ode. How does it respond to that poem? Just glancing at the titles, we see that one poem is about intimations of immortality recalled from childhood and the other about mental depression. Where do the poems touch? How much agreement and disagreement about the nature of poetic perception do you find?

2. If "we receive but what we give" and the speaker "may not hope from outward forms to win/ The passion and the life, whose fountains are within," is there any hope for him? Does anything within the poem suggest a solution?

3. Some readers feel that although parts of this ode are brilliant, it does not achieve artistic unity — even in comparison with "Kubla Khan." Do you agree?

4. This poem was condensed for publication from verse letter to Sara Hutchinson, Wordsworth's sister-in-law, with whom Coleridge was in love. Composed in 1802, it is almost the last great poem that he wrote, and in it he bemoans the loss of his creative powers. His problem was an opium addiction which he could not shake and for which he felt both self-pity and enormous guilt. (At the time, laudanum was as readily available as aspirin and used for such minor discomforts as headaches and dyspepsia.) Coleridge went out of his way to obscure these biographical facts. Does the poem need a context, or was he right?

Student Commentary on the Poem


Website Overview Screen Before Victoria British Romanticism

Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000