Monday, January 25, 2010

At each wild word to feel within...

Although Coleridge’s poem Christabel is long, appearing in two parts, the rhyme and rhythm of the work make it easy to read. In addition, the poem tells a story which draws the reader in.
Despite the fact that the poem exists in stanzas of varying length, the rhyme scheme remains the same throughout with a simple aabb.

As an example of romanticism, the poem draws on a more fantastical approach to exhibiting experience and emotion. After having just read Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience as a representation of the contrasting pre-revolution and post-revolution outlooks, I see a similar perspective in Christabel. The contrast of innocence and experience is first seen in Christabel and Geraldine. Christabel is found praying beneath a tree, unaware of the danger presented by the stranger and unable to detect the warning signs in Geraldine’s character.
The second contrast is found in the presentation of Christabel in the beginning and her appearance toward the end. Even the atmosphere of the poem in the beginning is lighter, when Coleridge says that “The night is chilly but not dark”. By the end of the poem, however, Christabel remains captured by a spell and sunk into dejection, cast off by her father.

The poem also shows a different side of romanticism, a side that the depressed Coleridge was famous for – the gothic romanticism. The typical dark and foreboding gothic castle is featured in the poem, and the horrific tale brings out a darker side of romanticism. In fact, our text says that when Christabel was first introduced it was met with controversy and disgust.

The poem appears unfinished. While Sir Leoline’s rejection of his daughter for Geraldine is certainly a climax, there is no resolution to Geraldine’s role in the castle. The second part of the poem starts off with an ominous foreshadowing with the lines

“Each matin bell, the Baron saith,
Knells us back to a world of death.
These words Sir Leoline first said,
When he rose and found his lady dead:
These words Sir Leoline will say,
Many a morn to his dying day.”

These lines seem to suggest a disastrous ending to Geraldine’s assault on Christabel. In addition, Geraldine’s appearance as a snake to Christabel after her description of Christabel’s fate in the hands of a snake leaves the reader with a sense of additional harm for Christabel at the hand of Geraldine. The end of the poem leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied and anxious as to the fate of the characters.

The conclusions to both parts take a different tone from their adjoining pieces of the poem. The conclusion to the first part shows the transformation of Christabel from an innocent and lovely maiden, to the more experienced and sorrowful character we see in the second half. Like 290 says "A star hath set, a star hat risen/ O Geraldine!..." Stars are usually associated with bright and peaceful images, similar to that of Christabel's innocence. A contrast is presented, however, when Geraldine's "star" rises to shine.
It is interesting to note that the devil in Christianity was known as Lucifer, the morning star, prior to being cast from Heaven. The shining "star" of Christabel's innocence and loveliness is setting, but the light of Geraldine's influence has now come into play.

Poetry is certainly not my strong suit, and as more of a literal reader it is difficult for me to see past the story presented and draw additional conclusions. I enjoyed reading this poem though. I also enjoyed the footnotes of Coleridge's notes from the margin of his text. It helped to see his insight as he wrote the piece.

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