Samuel Taylor Coleridge; a birthday sonnet, and a book

SamuelTaylorColeridgeThe great poet, philosopher, and Christian sage, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on the 21st of October in 1772, so I am reposting this sonnet for his birthday!

I should also mention that in 2017 I published Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge which has been well and widely reviewed and examines Coleridge’s life and faith in fresh ways, through the lens of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, his most famous poem.

I could not begin to reckon the personal debt I owe to Coleridge; for his poetry, for his personal and Christian wisdom, above all for his brilliant exploration and defence of the poetic imagination as a truth-bearing faculty which participates in, and is redeemed by the Logos, the living Word, himself the Divine Imagination. We are only now coming to appreciate the depth and range of what he achieved, his contemporaries scarcely understood him, and his Victorian successors looked down in judgement at what they saw as the shipwreck of his life. Something of that experience of rejection, twinned with deep Christian conviction, can be seen in the epitaph he wrote for himself:

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise—to be forgiven for fame
He asked, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

From my first teenage raptures when I was first enchanted by Kubla Khan and the Ancient Mariner, to my own struggles and adventures in the middle of life STC has been my companion and guide.In the chapter on Coleridge in my book Faith Hope and Poetry I have set out an account of his thinking and made the case for his central importance in our own age, but what I offer here is a sonnet celebrating his legacy, drawing on that epitaph I mentioned above, one of a sequence of sonnets on my fellow christians in my  book The Singing Bowl,  published by the Canterbury Press.

As Always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or clicking the ‘play’ button.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God!’

You made your epitaph imperative,

And stopped this wedding guest! But I am glad

To stop with you and start again, to live

From that pure source, the all-renewing stream,

Whose living power is imagination,

And know myself a child of the I AM,

Open and loving to his whole creation.

Your glittering eye taught mine to pierce the veil,

To let his light transfigure all my seeing,

To serve the shaping Spirit whom I feel,

And make with him the poem of my being.

I follow where you sail towards our haven,

Your wide wake lit with glimmerings of heaven.

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

Steve Bell captured me in ancient mariner mode!

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13 Comments

Filed under imagination

13 responses to “Samuel Taylor Coleridge; a birthday sonnet, and a book

  1. Many thanks for your outstanding work on Coleridge. I read “Mariner” with fascination and wonder and benefitted from it so much when writing my own series of blogs on the poem. Your work and of course Coleridge has helped me develop -late in life- a greater understanding of the connection between faith and the poetic imagination. So I shall always remain in your debt.

  2. J. Allan Taylor

    Dear Malcolm

    Thank you for reposting your sonnet on STC.

    I may have asked this question before, and forgive me if I have, but do you know where the ‘Taylor’ in his name came from? You will understand why I ask that question and the answer might be that it was his mother’s maiden name. I have a grandson who is Isaac Taylor Pomfrey!

    Go well Allan

    Rev.J.Allan Taylor BA(Hons) ACP Supernumerary Presbyteral Minister Wey Valley Methodist Circuit

    01483 200 464 07708 573661 # goose.bush.hush

    >

  3. Hello Malcolm, a great admirer here. I’ve read Mariner and just finished Lifting the Veil. And MANY videos.
    Regarding Imagination, would you go so far as to say that Imagination, along with goodness, truth, beauty, and love, can be considered one of the convertible names of God?

  4. Jill McGilvray

    Dear Malcolm
    Oh how I love this poem, and Mariner, and really all that you do.
    From far away in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney I find your work lifts my heart and deepens my faith. I am so grateful for having heard about you years ago now, and your books are a delight.
    I Chair the International Council of Langham Partnership, the John Stott founded organisation which Mark Meynell works for. I so enjoyed your Hutchmoot conversation with him recently.
    Anyway, how lovely to wake up to a reminder of the birthday of the wonderful STC!
    Blessings for today,
    Jill McGilvray

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Stanley Hanna

    David’s Crown has become a part of our morning routine at breakfast. I first read the Psalm(today is 87) and then the corresponding sonnet. A wonderful inspirational wourd to start our day. Imagine my delight to find this piece by you on STC. I too, have read Mariner. A real blessing. Thank you, Malcolm.

  6. I just finished Mariner last night. Fantastic, wonderful, amazing! He held on to God – he never gave up. I’m rather pleased to find that I ended it near his birthday.

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