Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher, and founder of the Romantic movement. Romanticism took Europe by storm in the 19th century and emphasized emotion, individualism, nature, and enlightenment. Coleridge channeled his thoughts on history, the world and his own melancholic state into his poetry and lectures, leaving behind some truly memorable quotes.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poems are best remembered for their imagery and symbolism, as well Coleridge’s ability to craft longer, narrative poems that maintained a musical rhythm. While “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is perhaps his most famous poem and a staple on high school reading lists, “Kubla Khan” and “Christabel” are particularly notable because they were never completed.
“It is an ancient Mariner,/ And he stoppeth one of three./ "By thy long gray beard and glittering eye,/ Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?" - “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
"God save thee, ancient Mariner!/ From the fiends, that plague thee thus! —/ Why look'st thou so?" — With my cross-bow/ I shot the Albatross.” - “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure-dome decree:/ Where Alph, the sacred river, ran/ Through caverns measureless to man/ Down to a sunless sea.” - “Kubla Khan”
“Blest hour! it was a luxury — to be!” - “Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement”
“In nature there is nothing melancholy.” - “The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem”
“Thou rising Sun! thou blue rejoicing Sky!/ Yea! every thing that is and will be free!/ Bear witness for me, whereso'er ye be,/ With what deep worship I have still adored/ The spirit of divinest Liberty.” - "France: An Ode”
“The frost performs its secret ministry,/ Unhelped by any wind.” - “Frost at Midnight”
“And the Devil did grin, for his darling sin/ Is pride that apes humility.” - "The Devil's Thoughts"
“And in Life's noisiest hour,/ There whispers still the ceaseless Love of Thee,/ The heart's Self-solace and soliloquy./ You mould my Hopes, you fashion me within.” - "The Presence of Love”
“And looking to the Heaven, that bends above you,/ How oft! I bless the Lot, that made me love you.” - "The Presence of Love"
“Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like;/ Friendship is a sheltering tree; Oh the joys that came down shower-like,/ Of friendship, love, and liberty,/ Ere I was old!” - “Youth and Age”
“A sight to dream of, not to tell!” - “Christabel”
“Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud —/ We in ourselves rejoice!/ And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,/ All melodies the echoes of that voice,/ All colours a suffusion from that light.” - “Dejection: An Ode”
As a poet, philosopher and literary critic, Coleridge had many perspectives on the art and nature of poetry which he shared in lectures, letters and his full-length prose works.
“Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.“ - Table Talk (1821-1834)
“No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.” - Biographia Literaria
“The spirit of poetry, like all other living powers, must of necessity circumscribe itself by rules, were it only to unite power with beauty.” - Shakespeare, with Introductory Matter on Poetry, the Drama, and the Stage
“An undevout poet is an impossibility.” - "A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton”
“Poetry is not the proper antithesis to prose, but to science. Poetry is opposed to science, and prose to metre. The proper and immediate object of science is the acquirement, or communication, of truth; the proper and immediate object of poetry is the communication of immediate pleasure.” - "A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton”
“Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, etc. if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics.” - "A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton"
“The imagination ... that reconciling and mediatory power, which incorporating the reason in images of the sense and organizing (as it were) the flux of the senses by the permanence and self-circling energies of the reason, gives birth to a system of symbols, harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths of which they are the conductors.” - "The Statesman's Manual"
“Humour is consistent with pathos, whilst wit is not.” - quoted in Letters and Conversations of S.T. Coleridge
“The Eighth Commandment was not made for bards.” - The Reproof and Reply
“In philosophy equally as in poetry it is the highest and most useful prerogative of genius to produce the strongest impressions of novelty, while it rescues admitted truths from the neglect caused by the very circumstance of their universal admission.” - Aids to Reflection
Coleridge was a prominent voice in the Romantic movement, which swept throughout Europe during the late eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries. Other notable Romantic and pre-Romantic poets include: