Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Analysis

Dejection: An Ode is a deeply personal and autobiographical poem of Coleridge in which he describes his spiritual and moral loss, and the loss of creative imagination. At the time of birth, nature gave him great creative and imaginative powers, but his Nature gave constant unhappiness destroyed those powers. The poet is painfully conscious of this loss.

S. T. Coleridge (1772-1834)

He believes that imagination is 'the primary instrument of all spiritual and creative powers. Therefore, when he has lost his imagination, he has not only lost his poetical gift but what makes life worth living.

The poem was originally addressed to "William" (Wordsworth) but later on "William" was changed and substituted by the 'Lady' (the poet's wife, Sara Hutchinson). The poet expresses an experience of double consciousness. His sense perceptions are vivid, but his inner state is faint, dull and miserable. He sees, but does not feel. By "seeing" he means perceiving, by 'feeling' that which encourages action. Though he suffers, yet the pain dull, and nothing from outside can impel him to activity. The sources of happiness and activity lie in the soul of man and not in the out-ward objects of Nature.

At the beginning of the poem the poet is seen in a melancholy mood, watching the rising storm. He hopes that the rising storm might raise his spirits also, as it used to do in the past. But no, this is not possible. The nature of the poet's grief is such that he cannot be moved to activity, and neither can he find and outlet for this grief. He watches the beautiful objects of Nature but they remain cold and unimpressive to him. His heart has become dull and his imagination remains inactive.

The poet has lost this power of joy and nothing in the world can restore this power to him. When he had this power in the past, even misfortunes had no sting for him. On the contrary, they supplied him the material for happiness. But the misfortunes and miseries of life have totally crushed his spirit and bowed him down to earth. This, however, is not the saddest thing to the poet. The saddest thing for him is that he had lost the creative spirit of Imagination forever.

In this Ode we notice a great change in Coleridge's attitude towards Nature. He expresses his philosophy of Nature in this poem which is totally contradictory to his own earlier philosophy and also the Nature-creed of Wordsworth, his friend and fellow-poet. In the earlier poems like “The Eolian Harp” and “Frost at Midnight”, Coleridge had expressed his belief in pantheism —a belief held by Wordsworth also,—that Nature is a living whole and is pervaded by a Divine Spirit, that man can have a spiritual relationship with Nature and that Nature has a purifying and ennobling effect upon human beings. But in this poem (Dejection: an Ode) Coleridge expresses a totally different view. He completely denies his earlier belief and asserts in this poem that in herself. Nature is cold and inanimate and takes whatever color human fancy gives to her. Nature is in herself dull and lifeless and if we want to see anything of a nobler quality in Nature then a light and a sound should come out of our own soul to give beauty and charm to the sights and sounds of Nature.

Coleridge makes use of concrete imagery and comparison to describe the atmosphere and the state of his mind accurately and vividly. Describing the nature of the storm that is raging out-side the poet says that the more appropriate places for such type of storm are a bare cock, a mountain lake, a high Pinegrove, or a haunted house.

The poet uses vigorous and forceful imagery to describe the sounds produced by the storm which are compared to the mad rushing to a defeated army, with the groans and cries of trampled and wounded soldiers all round. He compares these sounds of the storm with the frightened screaming of a terrified child who has lost its way home and wandering in a lonely forest near its home.

 ‘‘'Tis of a little child Upon a lonesome wild, Not far from home, but she hath lost her way: And now means low in bitter grief and fear, And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear."

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Shrestha, Roma. "Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 7 Nov. 2017,