Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge Poems

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet and one of the most influential writers of the Romanticism movement. He was born in Devonshire, England, in October of 1772. After his father died, Coleridge moved to London, where he studied at Christ’s Hospital School. While there, he accumulated a large debt that followed him for his entire life.

In the late 1790s, Coleridge met William Wordsworth and began the most important period of his writing. Wordsworth and Coleridge soon started their collaboration on Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poems that is considered to be one of the greatest works of the Romantic Movement. It was published in 1798. Coleridge died in July of 1834 after struggling with illness and an addiction to opium. Read more about Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Part I: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner By S.T. Coleridge

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ is a lyrical ballad about a mysterious sea-faring wedding guest who tells a long story of a dangerous journey. It was written between 1797 and 1798.

'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' is a profound narrative shaped around a fateful decision: the killing of an albatross, followed by the ship's descent into misfortune. This work was born during Samuel Taylor Coleridge's interactions with William Wordsworth, who shared the essence of a tale from Captain George Shelvocke's 'A Voyage Round The World by Way of the Great South Sea' (1726). Though intricate, this complex poem is renowned as Coleridge's masterpiece, exploring timeless themes of human interaction with nature.

He holds him with his glittering eye—

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years' child:

The Mariner hath his will.

Work without Hope

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Work without Hope’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes the ways in which Nature works and the importance of having goals, or hopes, to strive towards.

The poem starts somewhere out in nature. There is all manner of life around him, including bees, birds, and plants. He takes note of how numerous the forms of life are, and how they are all working towards independent goals. The birds sing and the bees make honey. He is the sole “unbusy” element in this forest. As the poem progresses he comes to terms with the fact that he is contributing nothing to his own life and his simple presence in the world is not enough. The flowers will not bloom simply because he is there. It is this lack of direction, and goalless outlook on life, that is dragging him down, mentally and emotionally.

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—

The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—

And Winter slumbering in the open air,

Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!

Kubla Khan (Xanadu)

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Kubla Khan’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a poem that describes the poet’s dream of visiting the palace of Kubla Khan, a Mongol emperor who ruled over the ancient Chinese Yuan Dynasty.

Coleridge's poetry is known for its vivid imagery and use of the supernatural, which are both prominent in 'Kubla Khan.' He was also known for his experimentation with form and language, as seen in the complex structure of this poem. Coleridge claims in the preface that he was interrupted while writing, and could therefore not finish the poem as he has planned. It was not until he was encouraged by Lord Byron to do so that Coleridge published the piece. Today, the poem is considered to be one of, if not the, most famous example of Romanticism in the English language.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man


by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
‘Christabel’ focuses on an encounter between Christabel and another person named Geraldine. The latter speaks about a terrible ordeal she has been through and evokes Christabel’s pity. Unfortunately, nothing is what it seems and after taking the woman home, a number of strange things occur. The reader is left at a loss, without a resolution as the poem remained unfinished.

'Tis the middle of night by the castle clock,

And the owls have awakened the crowing cock;

Tu—whit! Tu—whoo!

And hark, again! the crowing cock,

Dejection: An Ode

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
‘Dejection: An Ode’ was written in 1802 and, despite being married to someone else, was dedicated to the poet’s love interest, Sara Hutchinson. The poem was published (in 1802 in Morning Post), revised, and published again until many of the personal details had been removed. Some versions are as long as 340 lines, and others as short as 139. But, at its simplest, the text is about a writer’s inability to write because of the mental and emotional state he is in. In the real world of Coleridge’s troubled love, the problems raised in the poem are resolved when Coleridge decided to cut off all contact with Hutchinson.

Well! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made

       The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,

       This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence

Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade

The Pains of Sleep

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘The Pains of Sleep’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes a period in a speaker’s life in which he is besieged by terrible imagery. These images are representative of the horrors of humankind and the speaker is unable to shake them from his mind.

At the beginning of the poem, the speaker describes a very simple horror: he has been laying in his bed for an extended period of time, unable to move. The only outlet he has is prayer, so he turns his soul over from “reverential resignation” to “Love”. Hopefully, this action will result in his thoughts and body being purified.

Ere on my bed my limbs I lay,

It hath not been my use to pray

With moving lips or bended knees;

But silently, by slow degrees,

Frost at Midnight

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Frost at Midnight’ was written in 1798 and discusses the importance of childhood and the developmental years of one’s life.

This poem speaks on the power of nature and how it influences the aging process. Particularly, the poem discusses Coleridge’s own childhood. He speaks negatively about how he was raised and declares that being raised in a natural environment is critical if a child is to have a positive youth. He was interested in presenting the idea that if one resides within nature, they are also within God.

The Frost performs its secret ministry,

Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry

Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.

The Knight’s Tomb

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
‘The Knight’s Tomb’ is an allegory. This means that it has a message for the reader, beneath that which seems most obvious. The most important theme Coleridge engages within the poem is time, and its ability to destroy. He speaks about this force, which impacts every living and nonliving thing, through the description of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn’s grave. He asks the reader where the grave is located and then proceeds to explain where it is. It is in a natural scene that is in a constant state of flux. The speaker adds, “The Knight’s bones are dust” but, he believes the knight’s “soul is with the saints”.

The oak that in summer was sweet to hear,

And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year,

And whistled and roared in the winter alone,

Is gone,—and the birch in its stead is grown.—


by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Love’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge details the emotional and physical relationship between a speaker and the woman he woos through storytelling.

The speaker knows that love is the most important of the emotions because it is connected to all other emotions and experiences. When Coleridge’s speaker considers love, he thinks of a woman named Genevieve. He spends the majority of ‘Love’ relaying to the reader how he wooed Genevieve. It took time, and the influence of a loving and sorrowful story to bring her to him.

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,

Whatever stirs this mortal frame,

All are but ministers of Love,

And feed his sacred flame.

Human Life

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Human Life’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes a speaker’s frustration with the concept that there is no purpose to life or existence after death. 

The speaker meditates on what happens after one dies. Considering, as some think, that when someone dies, they are dead for good. There is nothing to penetrate the “gloom” and “doom” that is death. Life is brief, a “flash,” and is then over. But, the speaker considers life and death very differently. He uses the example of Milton, saying that no one as important as Milton could possibly know a final death. Surely, he declares, there is something else. The speaker also discusses the fact that some believe that “Nature” created humanity purposelessly. He speaks with exaggerating language, laboring over the metaphor of “Nature” simply becoming bored and offhandedly making humankind.

If dead, we cease to be ; if total gloom

Swallow up life’s brief flash for aye, we fare

As summer-gusts, of sudden birth and doom,

Whose sound and motion not alone declare,

Explore more poems from Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Fears in Solitude

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Fears in Solitude’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a historically significant poem in which the speaker discusses the threats his country is facing. He has no desire to be the enemy of his country, but he does need to stand up for what he believes in.

A green and silent spot amid the hills,

A small and silent dell!—O'er stiller place

No singing sky-lark ever pois'd himself!

The hills are heathy, save that swelling slope,

Metrical Feet

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Metrical Feet’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge talks about different metrical feet and provides a basic description of those feet. The poet wrote this poem for instructing his son, Derwent Coleridge.

Trochee trips from long to short;

From long to long in solemn sort

Slow Spondee stalks, strong foot!, yet ill able

Ever to come up with Dactyl's trisyllable.

Sonnet: To the River Otter

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Sonnet: To the River Otter’ contains a speaker’s recollections of a river and the joy it brought him when he was a child. 

Dear native brook! wild streamlet of the West!

How many various-fated years have passed,

What happy and what mournful hours, since last

I skimmed the smooth thin stone along thy breast,

The Eolian Harp

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘The Eolian Harp’ by S.T. Coleridge, has been entitled after the ‘Aeolian harp’, which creates melodious music while the wind blows across its strings. It is one of Coleridge’s early conversation poems.

    And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope

Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,

Whilst through my half-closed eyelids I behold

The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,

The Nightingale

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

No cloud, no relique of the sunken day

Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip

Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.

Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!

Time, Real and Imaginary

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Time, Real and Imaginary’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is concerned with how time progresses. The speaker uses the narrative of two children to discuss it.

ON the wide level of a mountain's head

(I knew not where, but 'twas some faery place),

Their pinions, ostrich-like, for sails outspread,

Two lovely children run an endless race,

Youth and Age

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,

Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—

Both were mine! Life went a-maying

With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,

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