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Why is most of Coleridge's best writing unfinished?

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Miss E A Ball, Eliot Dr Sarah Moss English and American Literature EN308 Why is most of Coleridge's best writing unfinished? S. T. Coleridge is acknowledged by many as one of the leading poets and critics within the British Romantic movement. Famous for his philosophical approaches, Coleridge collaborated with other greats such as Southey and also Wordsworth, a union famous as being one of the most creatively significant relationships in English literature. Wordsworth's lyrical style can be seen influencing many of Coleridges works, from 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' to the very famous 'Tintern Abby'. Both expressed a poetic impression that created a landmark in English Romanticism. His work revealed that Coleridge was influenced by the natural and intrigued by the supernatural, yet the concerns that he expressed within his works, "anticipating modern existentialism"1, were innovative and daring and therefore managed to gain him a notorious reputation as a visionary. Even Shelley referred to Coleridge as a "hooded eagle among blinking owls." Yet, many of his best works remained unfinished. This may have been a famous tactic, a stamp of individuality on his part, labelling his works in a way that would be unmistakable to others. Many poets and writers similarly employed certain features in their works to ensure a familiarity in style that could be recognised by many. Wordsworth used simply language and natural images to employ a self-preservation within his work unmistakably apparent to those who read it. ...read more.


Coleridge seemed to firmly believe that Kubla Khan was an incomplete poem. It appeared that he was not able to commit to one single version of Kubla Khan as he persistently revised the poem and then republished it. Although the different versions of Kubla Khan are all similar in their content and the style they have one main difference in the stanza form and through the spelling of particular words. Other famous unfinished works consist of 'The Wanderings of Cain' and 'Christabel'; both have been acknowledged as some of his most impressive work, as the sublime Gothic influence appealed to Coleridge's style and imagination. 'Christabel' encourages the reader to question whether the persona, Lady Geraldine is an innocent victim influenced by an impression of an evil disposition, or a simple product of evil. The poem raises the question and yet it does not answer it. The poem was written in two parts, therefore, we are drawn to question how Coleridges situation altered in such a way that the direction of the poem had to be reconsidered and altered, emulating Coleridges attitudes and personal prospective, and how this eventually in the poems incompletion altogether. We know that the composition of the poem is divided by Coleridge's trip to Germany. When he returned to England, He proclaimed that he "will set about Christabel with all speed." ...read more.


It meant that his poems could be analysed, there would be a sense of curiosity on other poets and the readers to know why the writings remained incomplete and therefore enhance their popularity. All poets had poems that they lost faith in, changed views on and which remained unfinished. It is said that Coleridge himself even undertook to complete a few poems that Wordsworth had left unfinished. Yet the coincidence that Coleridge seemed to understand a significance in his work remaining unfinished leads us to draw the conclusion that his unfinished poetry, a challenge for the poet to write and for the reader to fully comprehend, may be emulating the poets gradual decent from the world of poetry. Through the unfortunate drug addiction that is inseparable from this great man we understand how it was a problem that influenced many of his works and which greatly decided the direction that his poetic growth undertook. It is said that his ambitions were always amazingly high and practically unattainable, maybe it was this fact that meant that he was never completely satisfied with what he wrote, many said that the unfinished works reflected his "inability to manage practical life and finish his ideas".6 These ideas along with the influence of opium and the change in attitudes, we begin to see how Coleridge would lose his faith in his work and eventually lose track and eventually relinquish his attachment to particularly popular and impressive poems, from "Kubla Kahn" to "Christabel". ...read more.

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