For Part I of the article, please check here.
…Though the name of the “Lake School” may be but a “hoary old falsehood,” yet this co-operation was fruitful to both the two poets and all who became their disciples and imitators. Coleridge had already taken to the frequent use of laudanum and opium–a habit which brought upon him the scorn of De Quincey-—but Wordsworth’s influence did much to stimulate his irresolute nature to activity, and he rose to the zenith of his poetic powers. “Lyrical Ballads,” containing works by both was published in 1798. Amongst Coleridge’s contributions were the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. He is perhaps best known in Australia and in England by the first named poem, which contains nearly all that is best and most characteristic in his genius. In subject and general design the Ancient Mariner embodies more strongly perhaps than any other English poem that imagination which he, like Wordsworth recognised as the supreme poetic quality, and which both strove with might and main to bring back into the language from the limbo to which it had been relegated by the age of reason and rhetoric. The whole is a wild and mystic narrative, full of splendid imagery and a weird haunting charm. The story is fanciful but under the subtle alchemy of exquisite genius the unreality is lost to be replaced by a grim moral and sheer stark horror. The whole work is steeped in religious thought and convictions, and represents the agony of a most profund human experience-—for all that Southey termed it “a very Dutch attempt at sublimity.”
Still more characteristic of the subconscious depth whence sprang most of Coleridge’s best poetry is Kubla Khan, written after a deep slumber and the product of an opiate dream. The poem consists of less than seventy lines, yet in it are summed all Coleridge’s greatest qualities—-rich sensuousness of expression, and unearthly imagery, and the glowing clarity of a lyrical landscape fairy tale. Christabel, that “wild and wondrous tale,” remains unfinished but it would be almost as difficult to complete the Fairy Queen as to continue in the same spirit and witching strain the supernatural fancy and melodious verse of Christabel. Christabel has been remarked as the inspiration for Scott’s Lay of the Last Minstrel. These poems were Coleridge’s best, and as Walter Pater has said, “the sudden blossoming through one short season of such a gift, already perfect in its kind, which thereafter deteriorates as suddenly with something like premature old age.” Henceforward Coleridge is the critic and philosopher, rarely the poet. For the rest of his life Coleridge lived in or near London, engaged in journalism chiefly, and spent his last eighteen years at the home of a Highgate doctor, where he fought a battle against pain and drugs. These last years produced “Aids to Reflection,” “Lay Sermons,” “Notes on Shakespeare” and the “Biographia Literaria.” which expounds the doctrine of the romantic school of verse.
The influence of the “sublime somnambulist” on English poetry is marked even to-day in such men as Herbert Trench, G. K. Chesterton and the miracle of this influence seems all the greater when it is remembered that it is by three or four poems only that he lives for the majority of us. As Stopford Brooke says, “All that he did excellently might be bound up in twenty pages, but it should be bound in pure gold.”
[Unsigned], “Samuel Taylor Coleridge” Cairns Post (15 September 1934): 4.