To a Young Ass was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1794. The poem describes Coleridge's sympathies for animals and the connection to nature he felt as part of his idea of Pantisocracy. It was later used by critics as a means to mock him.
The poem "To a Young Jack Ass" or "To a Young Ass, Its Mother Being Tethered Near It" was composed during October 1794.It was inspired by a scene of a jack ass at Jesus Green. Soon after, the poem was published in the Morning Chronicle 9 December 1794 and marks the first time that Coleridge publicly talks about his idea of Pantisocracy. The poem was published in Coleridge's 1796 edition of poems and was revised for the 1797 edition. These later editions alter lines 27–36 to remove mention of Pantisocracy.
The poem begins by addressing the oppressed foal:
— lines 1–4
The foal responds to the narrator, and the two form a bond:
— lines 23–26
The 1794 edition of the poem included a political meaning. Lines starting at 27 originally read:
— lines 27–30
The poem links the image of a jack ass, a low form of animal, with the narrator to reverse the natural order of the world.As part of Coleridge's political concept of Pantioscracy, man would connect to nature. In a letter to Francis Wrangham, dated 24 October 1794, Coleridge wrote:
If there be any whom I deem worthy of remembrance — I am their Brother. I call even my Cat Sister in the Fraternity of universal Nature. Owls I respect & Jack Asses I love: for Alderman & Hogs, Bishops & Royston Crows, I have not particular partiality —; they are my Cousins however, at least by Courtesy. But Kings, Wolves, Tygers, Generals, Ministers, & Hyaenas, I renounce them all... May the Almighty Pantisocratizer of Souls pantisocratize the Earth, and bless you and S. T. Coleridge.
The poem was built off this playful idea and includes a mix of comedy along with a connection between the narrator and the jack ass that was part of "an oppressed Race".The response by the narrator is to feel compassion with an animal in distress, and he seeks to comfort the animal. In this view, Coleridge contradicts Godwin's and Mary Wollstonecraft's belief that you cannot befriend animals. Their argument is based on the idea that reason is needed to understand virtue, but Coleridge focuses on the emotional response that creates a bond between man and animal.
The poem does rely on the ideas of Pantiosocracy, being connected to nature, and the idea of "One Life" that would appear in many of his later poems.However, the revised version removes the mention of Pantioscracy. The lines made light of Pantiosocracy, and some later critics, including William Empson, feel that Coleridge removed the lines because Coleridge was afraid of the public laughing at his ideas. However, Zachary Leader argues that "he wanted them laughed at. He just did not want them laughed at the wrong way."
This was a common image in the 18th-century, with many philosophers and writers, including Godwin, William Shield, and others, releasing their horses and mules to walk alongside them. A direct literary connection is to William Crowe's "To an Ass" (1793) and the poem incorporates a quote from William Shakespeare's Hamlet . The idea of connecting with a lowly form of animal also appears in many literary works, including Robert Burns poems (example – "To a Mouse"), Southey's poems (example – "To a Spider"), the works of Laurence Sterne (both Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey ) and Cervantes's Don Quixote .
Richard Holmes, Coleridge's 20th-century biographer, points out that, in Coleridge's 1796 collection, "The poem which had the most popular impact remained the controversial 'To a Young Jack Ass'."The poem inspired James Gillray to poke fun at Coleridge, William Godwin, and Robert Southey by depicting them with the ears of a jack ass in a caricature titled "New Morality" in the July 1798 Anti-Jacobin Magazine. Likewise, James and Horace Smith parodied the poem in a piece called "Play house Musings". Lord Byron would mention the Gillray image in his English Bards and Scotch Reviewers series later. Of the criticism, Coleridge was not bothered by anything except Gillray's description under the illustration that contained a negative biographical description, claiming that Coleridge was a deist while at Cambridge and that he left England and his family to explore the world.
Mary Evans (1770–1843), later Mary Todd, is notable as the first love of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and although he failed to profess his feelings to Evans during their early relationship, he held her in affection until 1794 when Evans dissuaded his attentions.
Pantisocracy was a utopian scheme devised in 1794 by, among others, the poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey for an egalitarian community. It is a system of government where all rule equally. They originally intended to establish such a community in the United States, choosing a site on the banks of the Susquehanna River after considering other places such as Kentucky. By 1795 Southey had doubts about the viability of this and proposed moving the project to Wales. The two men were unable to agree on the location, causing the project to collapse.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772. The youngest of 14 children, he was educated after his father's death and excelled in classics. He attended Christ's Hospital and Jesus College. While attending college, he befriended two other Romanticists, Charles Lamb and Robert Southey, the latter causing him to eventually drop out of college and pursue both poetic and political ambitions.
"Monody on the Death of Chatterton" was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1790 and was rewritten throughout his lifetime. The poem deals with the idea of Thomas Chatterton, a poet who committed suicide, as representing the poetic struggle.
Lines Written at Shurton Bars was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795. The poem incorporates a reflection on Coleridge's engagement and his understanding of marriage. It also compares nature to an ideal understanding of reality and discusses isolation from others.
Ode on the Departing Year was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1796. The poem describes Coleridge's feelings on politics and religion, and it emphasises an idyllic lifestyle as an optimal way of living.
The Destiny of Nations was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as part of Robert Southey's Joan of Arc epic poem. The lines were later isolated from Southey's and expanded. The new poem includes Coleridge's feelings on politics, religion, and humanity's duty to helping each other.
The conversation poems are a group of at least eight poems composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772–1834) between 1795 and 1807. Each details a particular life experience which led to the poet's examination of nature and the role of poetry. They describe virtuous conduct and man's obligation to God, nature and society, and ask as if there is a place for simple appreciation of nature without having to actively dedicate one's life to altruism.
Frost at Midnight is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, written in February 1798. Part of the conversation poems, the poem discusses Coleridge's childhood experience in a negative manner and emphasizes the need to be raised in the countryside. The poem expresses hope that Coleridge's son, Hartley, would be able to experience a childhood that his father could not and become a true "child of nature". The view of nature within the poem has a strong Christian element in that Coleridge believed that nature represents a physical presence of God's word and that the poem is steeped in Coleridge's understanding of Neoplatonism. Frost at Midnight has been well received by critics, and is seen as the best of the conversation poems.
Fears in Solitude, written in April 1798, is one of the conversation poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem was composed while France threatened to invade Great Britain. Although Coleridge was opposed to the British government, the poem sides with the British people in a patriotic defense of their homeland. The poem also emphasizes a desire to protect one's family and to live a simple life in harmony with nature. The critical response to the poem was mixed, with some critics claiming that the work was "alarmist" and anti-British.
The Nightingale: A Conversation Poem is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in April 1798. Originally included in the first edition of Lyrical Ballads, which he published with William Wordsworth, the poem disputes the traditional idea that nightingales are connected to the idea of melancholy. Instead, the nightingale represents to Coleridge the experience of nature. Midway through the poem, the narrator stops discussing the nightingale in order to describe a mysterious female and a gothic scene. After the narrator is returned to his original train of thought by the nightingale's song, he recalls a moment when he took his crying son out to see the moon, which immediately filled the child with joy. Critics have found the poem either decent with little complaint or as one of his better poems containing beautiful lines.
To William Wordsworth is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge written in 1807 as a response to poet William Wordsworth's autobiographical poem The Prelude, called here "that prophetic lay". Wordsworth had recited that poem to his friend Coleridge personally. In his poem, Coleridge praises Wordsworth's understanding of both external and human nature, at the same time emphasizing Wordsworth's poetic achievement and downplaying his own.
Sonnets on Eminent Characters or Sonnets on Eminent Contemporaries is an 11-part sonnet series created by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and printed in the Morning Chronicle between 1 December 1794 and 31 January 1795. Although Coleridge promised to have at least 16 poems within the series, only one addition poem, "To Lord Stanhope", was published.
"To Erskine" or "To the Hon Mr Erskine" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in November 1794. The subject of the poem is Thomas Erskine, a lawyer and member of the Whig party, who successfully served in the defense of three political radicals during the 1794 Treason Trials. Coleridge admired Erskine's defense and praised his refusal to accept money for his service. The poem was published in the 1 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. It was later included in various collections of Coleridge's poetry published later.
"To Burke" is a sonnet by Samuel Taylor Coleridge first published in the 9 December 1794 Morning Chronicle. Unlike most of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters, "To Burke" describes a person whom Coleridge disagreed with; he felt Edmund Burke abused the idea of freedom within various speeches and turned his back on liberty.
France an Ode was written by Samuel Coleridge in April 1798. The poem describes his development from supporting the French Revolution to his feelings of betrayal when they invaded Switzerland. Like other poems by Coleridge, it connects his political views with his religious thoughts. The Gothic elements of the poem connect the poem's style to many of his early poetic works.
Hymn Before Sunrise is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1802. Originally published in The Morning Post, it describes feelings that Coleridge claimed to have experienced on his own. However, it was later revealed that parts of the poem were heavily influenced by a poem by Friederike Brun, which led to criticism against Coleridge for not acknowledging his sources. Aspects of the poem did have direct origin in Coleridge's own life and experiences, and the work represents one of the last times a poem captured his feelings of joy during that period of his life.
"To Godwin" or "To William Godwin" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 10 January 1795 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. William Godwin was admired by Coleridge for his political beliefs. However, Coleridge did not support Godwin's atheistic views, which caused tension between the two. Although the poem praises Godwin, it invokes an argument that the two shared over theological matters. After the poem was written, the relationship between Coleridge and Godwin cooled and the poem was not reprinted.
"To Southey" or "To Robert Southey" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 14 January 1795 Morning Chronicle as part of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Robert Southey became a close friend of Coleridge during the summer of 1794 and the two originally formed a plan to start an ideal community together. Although the plan fell apart, Coleridge dedicated the poem to his friend and emphasized Southey's poetic abilities. Following the poem, Coleridge further drifted from Southey and the poem was not republished.
"To Lord Stanhope" is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was published in his 1796 collection of poems. The subject, Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl Stanhope, had originally shared political views with Coleridge, but as time passed, Coleridge's views gradually shifted. By 1803, Coleridge was claiming that he did not want the poem published anymore and that it was originally intended to mock those who held the beliefs which Coleridge had held years earlier. It is part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series, although it was not published in the Morning Chronicle unlike the others in the series. There is, however, a possible predecessor sonnet to the 1796 version that some editors have attributed to Coleridge.