Johnson, Samuel. Lives of the English Poets. Vol. 1. New
York: E. P. Dutton, 1958. Messenger, Ann. "A Problem of Praise: John Dryden and Anne Killegrew." In His and Hers: Essays in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature, 14-40. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986. Miner, Earl, ed. Selected Poetry and Prose of John Dryden. New York: The Modern Library, 1958.
"TO THE POET COLERIDGE" Mary Robinson (1800) Mary Robinson wrote two poems with a focus on Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with whom she frequently corresponded. one focused on the birth of his third son, which she titled "ode, Inscribed to the Infant Son of S. T. Coleridge." In the second poem, "To the Poet Coleridge," she referenced Coleridge's own work, "Kubla Khan." "To the Poet Coleridge" appeared in her posthumous Memoirs, signed Sappho, and again in her Poetical Works. Coleridge responded to her poem with his "A Stranger Minstrel." That poem by Coleridge appeared with the subtitle "To Mrs. Robinson, a few weeks before her death" in Robinson's Memoirs. As the biographer Paula Byrne points out, Coleridge's title responds to a phrase in Robinson's ode inscribed to his son Derwent that read, "accept a Stranger's Song." Robinson divided the 72 lines of "To the Poet Coleridge" into six stanzas with every other line rhyming.
The speaker begins with a tribute to Coleridge's romantic vision: "Rapt in the visionary theme! / Spirit Divine! with thee I'll wander." The wandering will take place "'Mid forest glooms," tracing "the circling bounds / Of thy New Paradise extended," a reference to Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." Robinson employs sensory imagery to make clear that the speaker not only enjoys the vision, but also the abundant sounds encountered while wandering, such as those "of winds, and foamy torrents blended." In the second stanza Robinson includes specific imagery in describing the source of Coleridge's inspiration as "The mystic fountain, bubbling, panting, / While gossamer its network weaves," again quoting "Kubla Khan" with the phrase "I'll mark thy sunny dome." Contrasting with the sunny dome is "Thy Caves of Ice," another allusion to "Kubla Khan." Also presented as a contrast is an "ever-blooming mead, whose flower / Waves to the cold breath of the moonlight hour," those lines referencing Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight" and "Dejection: A Ode," both describing a moonlit meadow. Further imagery includes "the day-star, peering bright / On the gray wing of parting night," and "As summer's whispered sighs unfold / Her million, million buds of gold." Those lines testify to Robinson's sharp sense of sound and rhythm through the use of alliteration, assonance, and word repetition.
Robinson emphasizes again Coleridge's romantic dedication to the spiritual in lines 27-28 as she writes, "Spirit Divine! With Thee I'll trace / Imagination's boundless space!" Her celebration of the release allowed by the imagination through her own art probably related to her long-term ill health, as poetry allowed a freedom her body could not. She repeats references to the "Caves of Ice" and the imaginary state as "thy New Paradise," further emphasizing her alignment of sentiment with that of Coleridge.
Robinson's presentation also makes clear the pain sometimes caused by the blessing of imagination, as its expression originates from visceral effort. She writes in lines 45-46, "And now I'll pause to catch the moan / Of distant breezes, cavern-pent," lines that work on multiple levels. She again reflects on Coleridge's own lines regarding the cave with her use of cavern and probably alludes to the idea of inspiration as a literally breathing in with the reference to the breeze. Some dark imagery colors her lines as she mentions the "twilight tints" that are "Purpling the landscape / . . . on the dark promontory's side." The speaker will weave a crown of flowers to represent Coleridge's genius, the flowers decorated with dew, imagery that suggests new life. She follows this allusion by stating that Coleridge opens "to my wondering eyes" the "new creation" that he bids rise; she uses FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE (FIGURE OF SPEECH) to compare the poet's powers of creation to those of God.
In the final stanza Robinson alludes again to "Kubla Kahn" when she writes, "And now, with lofty tones inviting, / Thy nymph, her dulcimer swift smiting," a reference to a "damsel with a dulcimer" in the final stanza of Coleridge's poem. Again Robinson suggests that the life of a poet may not be easy, through her choice of the term smiting, a verb that may connote violence. The "ecstatic pleasures" the nymph awakens in the speaker act as an erotic suggestion, particularly as those pleasures are "Far, far removed" from those of mere mortals. The lines "In cadence rich, in cadence strong, / Proving the wondrous witcheries of song!" imitate what they describe, through their own stirring rhythms and use of alliteration. Robinson concludes by repeating again the references to the "sunny dome" and the "caves of ice," ending her poem with the laudatory lines
She sings of Thee, O favored child
Of Minstrelsy, Sublimely wild!
Of thee, whose soul can feel the tone
Which gives to any dreams a magic all thy own!
Robinson exemplifies the romantic ideal of the sublime through her suggestions of violence and indulgence couched in "lofty tones" and pure sensory experience. Not only does she clarify her admiration of Coleridge and the notions of the Romantics, she also demonstrates her ability to adopt their style.
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