‘Love’ by Coleridge

A literary analysis of Coleridge’s “Love.”

“Love”


All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.

The moonshine, stealing o’er the scene
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!

She leant against the arméd man,
The statue of the arméd knight;
She stood and listened to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.

Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve!
She loves me best, whene’er I sing
The songs that make her grieve.

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story—
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew, I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.

I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he wooed
The Lady of the Land.

I told her how he pined: and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another’s love,
Interpreted my own.

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes, and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!

But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he crossed the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night;

That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade,—

There came and looked him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!

And that unknowing what he did,
He leaped amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land!

And how she wept, and clasped his knees;
And how she tended him in vain—
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain;—

And that she nursed him in a cave;
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest-leaves
A dying man he lay;—

His dying words—but when I reached
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faultering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!

All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrilled my guileless Genevieve;
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve;

And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherished long!

She wept with pity and delight,
She blushed with love, and virgin-shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.

Her bosom heaved—she stepped aside,
As conscious of my look she stepped—
Then suddenly, with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.

She half enclosed me with her arms,
She pressed me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head, looked up,
And gazed upon my face.

‘Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly ’twas a bashful art,
That I might rather feel, than see,
The swelling of her heart.

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss”
Sculpted by Antonio Canova (c. 1787) @ The Louvre.

Literary Analysis

1. The poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher. Coleridge’s literary criticism, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential. In addition, he coined various phrases, including, “suspension of disbelief.” He was a contemporary of William Wordsworth — indeed they produced a number of collaborative works — and together they were amongst the key founding members of what we today class as the “Romantic Movement.”


The eye, it cannot choose but see;
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where’er they be,
Against or with our will.

— William Wordsworth

A poem of Coleridge’s, called “Christabel” is said to have had a major influence on Edgar Allan Poe — particularly Poe’s 1831 poem, “The Sleeper.”


For passionate love is still divine
I lov’d her as an angel might
With ray of the all living light
Which blazes upon Edis’ shrine.

— Edgar Allan Poe

One of Coleridge’s best known and most anthologised poems is called “Kubla Khan.” Listen to it here:

For all of his adult life Coleridge suffered from periods of intense anxiety and depression. Furthermore, he was physically unhealthy and, in attempting to overcome this used laudanum, which fostered a lifelong opium addiction (see: Lovelorn for more on opium and literature).

2. The poem

In Coleridge’s poem “Love,” the narrator (and read here: probably Coleridge writing about someone he himself was pining for) is attempting to win over a women by appealing to her tender emotions (her ‘soft spot’ so to speak). To do this he tells her a heart-wrenching story! He waxes poetic about the days of chivalry, in which a knight saved a lady from an “outrage worse than death” (let us presume it may well have been rape), is wounded in so doing and soon thereafter, dies in her arms. The women that the poem’s narrator fancies, on hearing the story, is deeply moved to tears and then — low and behold 😉 — succumbs to the narrator’s charms.

Each of this poem’s 24 stanzas is a quatrain (4 lines) and follows, I think, the ABCB rhyming pattern. The first three lines of each stanza — I’ve read it said — are written in iambic tetrameter (each line contains two sets of two beats, or “iambs” — firstly unstressed then stressed) each stanza’s last line contains only three iambs (i.e., it was written in “iambic trimeter”). [tri = three, think of a triangle!]


Learn more about literary analysis techniques:
Poetry & ProseLiterary devices
Poetry & ProseAnalytical techniques
Poetry & ProseGlossary of terminology

Theme

The theme of the poem is the glorification of love. Love, as a subject, is always engaging as it describes the most intense passion of the human heart (see: “Love letters”). In this poem there is only really a union of the hearts, and not of the body; there’s no suggestion of carnal passion. It is, in other words about love and not about sex.

Love, according to the poem’s narrator is the supreme passion of all human beings and all the other passions are slaves to it. These other passions and emotions, moreover, all contribute something to the passion of love. In their own ways they stimulate, inspire, and sustain love.

Coleridge’s “Love” has many thematic elements associated with the Romantic Period not least its stress of the emotional over the reasonable! This is evident from the second and final stanza. Another theme of poetry in the Romantic Period is the nostalgic view of past traditions such as e.g., the Medieval Era (the Middle Ages), as signified in the poem with the discussion of the knight, fighting for chivalry and a fair lady’s heart and honour:

for ten years he wooed the lady of the land

The the degree to which the poem’s narrator goes to win the heart of the woman he fancies — his true one & only — is the driving force of this poem. I say women, but maybe the narrator fancied a man… Love is Love; love is gender-blind.

Like a rainbow,
you come and go.

In the first stanza of “Love” the narrator begins by stating that every emotion one could experience influences and is influenced by love.

All thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.

Love is given agency. In the second stanza the narrator goes on to refer to himself in the first person.

Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o’er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruined tower.

This is he, this is Coleridge! His “waking dreams” his (opioid) day dreams… He recalls the “happy hour…”


I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

In my life
Why do I give valuable time
To people who don’t care if I live or die?

Two lovers entwined pass me by
And heaven knows I’m miserable now

— Steven Morrissey / Johnny Marr

The sixth stanza of Coleridge’s “Love” describes how the narrator is using his language (words & tone) to woo his woman:

I played a soft and doleful air,
I sang an old and moving story—
An old rude song...

The next stanza — I think — is meant to tell us how the women he fancies is both aroused and saddened by the somewhat risqué and scandalous medieval tale:

She listened with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;

The 17th stanza again describes how the narrator is using his language (words & tone) to woo his woman:

My faltering voice and pausing harp
Disturbed her soul with pity!

The poem ends with a neat – happy for ever after — ending… lovely but a fucking myth (ain’t it mate?)

I calmed her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.



Read more of and on The Romantics:
Poetry & ProsePoetsS. T. Coleridge
Poetry & ProsePoetsJohn Keats
Poetry & ProsePoetsP. B. Shelley
Poetry & ProsePoetsLord Byron


Rear view one (derrière wide-angle)
Rear view one (derrière wide-angle)
Rear view two (derrière macro)
Rear view two (derrière macro)
“Psyche Receiving Cupid’s First Kiss”
By François Gérard (1798)

* A symbolic butterfly hovers over Psyche in a moment of innocence poised before sexual awakening.

Perfectly put

Oh Secret Sharer!
Oh my True Soulmate!
This is it:
   It’s your enthusiasm /
      that enamours me to you.


Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

It is your radiant sparkle, it is your positivity. It is the bounce in your step and the way you’d instantaneously light up my mood and mind the split second we’d come into contact be that a face-to-face encounter or be it a conversation online.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge 2
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Alone, alone, all, all alone, Alone on a wide wide sea! And never a saint took pity on My soul in agony.”


The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I never did know just how romantically inclined I was and am. Truth be known, I’d lived in a lethargic limbo until I was awakened by you…


Read more of and on The Romantics:
Poetry & ProsePoetsS. T. Coleridge
Poetry & ProsePoetsJohn Keats
Poetry & ProsePoetsP. B. Shelley
Poetry & ProsePoetsLord Byron

Boys, don’t ya know, will be boys

Godward: The_Old_Old_Story (1903)
Come dine with me /
come lie with me.

Lovelorn

alone I languish


Love will take us to higher plaines
Love makes us feel alive
Love is painful
Love kills

Lovelorn
One and Only
“You are the only one for me.”
Love lorn
Nobody Else
“No one else compares to you.”


Thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty Opium!

— Thomas de Quincey


There is no intensity of love or feeling that does not involve the risk of crippling hurt. It is a duty to take this risk, to love and feel without defense or reserve.

— William S. Burroughs


When you stop growing you start dying.

— William S. Burroughs

📙 Confessions of an English Opium Eater

— Thomas de Quincey (1821)

Describing the surreal hallucinations, insomnia and nightmarish visions he experienced while consuming large quantities of opium, De Quincey waxes lyrical on the associated pleasures and pains. De Quincey arguably scrutinise his life, somewhat obsessively in an attempt to articulate and understand better his own identity. The work portrays a nervous (postmodern?) self-awareness, a spiralling obsession with the enigmas of one’s own composition and relative (in)significance.

Critics broadly agree that The Confessions forges a clear link between artistic self-expression and addiction. According to Martin Geeson, what makes the book technically remarkable is its use of a majestic neoclassical style to confessional writing (of the rather romantic kind). The Confessions is a work of immense sophistication and certainly one of the most impressive and influential of the autobiographies of that century. Moreover, there’s a general consensus that it paved the way for later generations of literary drug-takers from Charles P. Baudelaire — “always be a poet, even in prose” — to William S. Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson.

📙 Junky

— William S. Burroughs (1953)

Junky is semi-autobiographical work that focuses on Burroughs’ life as a drug user and dealer. It has come to be considered a seminal text on the lifestyle of heroin addicts in mid-20th c. America.

📙 Naked Lunch

— William S. Burroughs (1959)

Naked Lunch is structured as a series of loosely connected vignettes. These vignettes are drawn from Burroughs’ own experiences on the road and his addiction to drugs: heroin, morphine and, while in Morocco, majoun (which is a strong strain of hashish). The book was included in Time magazine’s “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.”

📙 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

— Hunter S. Thompson (1971)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream is a 1971 novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The book is a roman à clef, rooted in his own autobiographical incidents. In a nutshell, the story follows its protagonist, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo, as they descend on Las Vegas to chase the American Dream through a drug-induced haze, all the while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s counter-cultural movement. The preface quotes Samuel Johnson, “he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man” and this alludes to Duke’s drug-fueled existence which is undertaken in order to escape the coarse realities of American life — the conformism with consumption at the heart of the American Dream. The book is today noted for its lurid descriptions of drug use and its retrospective on the culture of the 1960s.

Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in 1971, and was published as a book in 1972.

Within the hour /

his power totally consumed me

( { [ Sir Walter Ralegh ] } )

I’ll not lie, I studied him several semesters ago and, the poem that is obsessing my thoughts now (a highly charged and thinly veiled critique of the duplicity of the powers that be), its name I cannot recall; it is in here somewhere:

…but that anthology’s at the house I dwell in and I am here on this hallowed campus, this poisoned chalice, where life’s been lived, where love was found and, alas, where love was lost. For now, for the right here and right now, I’ll post this (on love & loss):


Farewell, false love, the oracle of lies,
A mortal foe and enemy to rest,
An envious boy, from whom all cares arise,
A bastard vile, a beast with rage possessed,
A way of error, a temple full of treason,
In all effects contrary unto reason.

A poisoned serpent covered all with flowers,
Mother of sighs, and murderer of repose,
A sea of sorrows whence are drawn such showers
As moisture lend to every grief that grows;
A school of guile, a net of deep deceit,
A gilded hook that holds a poisoned bait.

A fortress foiled, which reason did defend,
A siren song, a fever of the mind,
A maze wherein affection finds no end,
A raging cloud that runs before the wind,
A substance like the shadow of the sun,
A goal of grief for which the wisest run.

A quenchless fire, a nurse of trembling fear,
A path that leads to peril and mishap,
A true retreat of sorrow and despair,
An idle boy that sleeps in pleasure’s lap,
A deep mistrust of that which certain seems,
A hope of that which reason doubtful deems.

Sith then thy trains my younger years betrayed,
And for my faith ingratitude I find;
And sith repentance hath my wrongs bewrayed,
Whose course was ever contrary to kind:
False love, desire, and beauty frail, adieu.
Dead is the root whence all these fancies grew.

— Sir Walter Ralegh

And this (on life & loss):


Even such is time, which takes in trust
  Our youth, our joys, and all we have,
And pays us nought but age and dust;
  Which in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days!
And from which grave, and earth, and dust,
The Lord shall raise me up, I trust.

— Sir Walter Ralegh

Dwell on his works awhile, they are profound and powerful. He was much more than a swashbuckling pirate with a crush on the virgin qween.

Sir_Walter_Ralegh_by_'H'_monogrammist

Sir_Walter_Raleigh_Signature
(artist, unknown) Inscriptions: on left — Raleigh’s motto ‘Amor et Virtute’ (“By Love and Virtue”); on right — Aetatis suae 34 An(no) 1588 (“In the year 1588 of his age 34”)


p.s.

Swashbuckle
To engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance. A swashbuckler is a heroic archetype in European adventure literature that is typified by the use of a sword, acrobatics and chivalric ideals.

Love is. . .

more thicker than forget.


love is more thicker than forget
  more thinner than recall
  more seldom than a wave is wet
  more frequent than to fail

it is most mad and moonly
  and less it shall unbe
  than all the sea which only
  is deeper than the sea

love is less always than to win
  less never than alive
  less bigger than the least begin
  less littler than forgive

it is most sane and sunly
  and more it cannot die
  than all the sky which only
  is higher than the sky

— E. E. Cummings (1939)

Literary Analysis

What is love? Oh Jay. . . what you on about? Me! Well, I’ll tell you my precious pearl, my turtle dove, the tea leaf who has rendered me Radio Rental. I’m going on about love and according to my interpretation of the poem, love is in fact, utterly ev-re:think. Moreover, as is evidenced in life and the poem, love is an oxymoron (oh! Ox.).

love is more thicker than forget / more thinner than recall


Love can make us higher than satellites in the sky, and lower than pressure pulverised submarines irretrievably sunk in the Romanche Trench (i.e., more than 25 thousand feet below sea level in the middle of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Rift).

Well, where to start? This poem, in essence, tells us how contrary, complex and all consuming love can be — I ain’t being an arrogant British man, And, I ain’t being a spoiled Kuwaiti princess, but I’ll say this: you’ll only get this poem’s import/message if you have actually lived through (or are living through) a painfully intense and incredibly fraught affair of love, and I’ll say this: the poem’s usage of opposite adjectives to describe love illustrates that love is concomitantly good and bad (for one’s mental state), love is pleasure and love is pain, love is bitter and love is sweet, love is rough and love is smooth.

Highlighting love’s complexity is the continual usage of juxtaposition throughout the poem. The most notable juxtaposition in the poem is referring to love as both “most sane and sunly” and “most mad and moonly.” This emphasises love’s naturalness (to humankind only?) and at the same time its utter irrationality (we don’t need love to reproduce and rear do we?). Love is every-FUCKING-thing. It can make us more alive than any-FUCKING-thing else. It can make us deader than dead and number (nummber not numBer 😉) than numb in the merest of instances. It is: the be all. It is: the end all. Love can indeed circumference the spectrum of human expression: “fleeting (rare), yet common (everywhere).” As exemplified in the poem:

mad as the moon / sane as the sun

Like all works of literature, imagery is key in seeking to create a palpable connection in the reader’s mind’s eye to what the author is seeking to articulate and convey. Does what she’s banging on about (does what he’s harping on about) strike a chord with you (dear reader)?

The poem is written in four quatrains, making it iambic tetrameter (thus a balad?). It has (I think) the following rhyme scheme A B A B C D C D E F E F C G C G. This gives the poem precise rhythm. Furthermore, all of the independent clauses are connected to the first word: “Love.” Finally, in terms of rhyme and repetition, you’ll note that every other one rhymes at the end.

it is most sane and sunly / and more it cannot die / than all the sky which only / is higher than the sky

Alliteration
— The use of the letter “m” in “it is most mad and moonly”, using the letter “L” in the third verse, and the letter “s” in the last verse are all examples of alliterations. In stanza one, we’ve three lines starting with ‘more’ and in the third stanza, three lines starting with ‘less’ this too gives the poem precise rhythm.

Imagery
01. The Sea — Love has a greater depth than the ocean, a natural element of Earth that is literally so deep humans only know only a small fraction of it — we can’t really fathom its vastness. We might then say, referencing the sea makes the reader associate love with such limitless depths and expanses.

02. The Sky (and the sun and the moon) — Cummings expresses love’s infinitude by stating that it is “higher than the sky.” Again this reinforces the extent to which love’s power and gravitational pull can be limitless.

Metaphors
— This poem has many metaphors; arguably the whole poem is a metaphor. “Love is more thicker than forget” is a metaphor and so is, “it is most sane and sunly.”

Mood
— Love lightens one’s mood, love darkens one’s mood; we’ve sunny days, we’ve moonlit nights. So the poem’s mood is both upbeat and downcast; excepting of fate and fighting fate. It is then — in my own view — heavy; a mood that’s ultimately heavy on the soul.

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EE Cummings signature


See too:
PoemsFrom America with Love.
PoemsFrom Russia with Love.

Halcyon
Another meaning of Halcyon is this: a mythical bird said by ancient writers to breed in a nest floating at sea at the winter solstice, charming the wind and waves into calm.

Stockholm syndrome

‘F’ me! ‘F’ me! ‘F’ me!
is this… is this…
me?

DEF.

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response.

It occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers.

This psychological connection develops over the course of the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.

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Love will tear us apart;
You’ve stolen my heart.
1) The second coming: Am I Dreaming?
2) Did I ruin you?
3) The second coming: Am I Dreaming?
4) Have you ruined me?
5) The second coming: Am I Dreaming?
6) A new beginning? The final ending?
Love will tear us apart;
You’ve stolen my heart.


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