"To the River Otter" is a sonnet by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Though its date of creation is uncertain, it was possibly composed in 1793. It deals with the image of the River Otter, near Coleridge's childhood home in Devon.
Editions of Coleridge's works edited by James Dykes Campbell (1899) and by E. H. Coleridge (1912) determine that the "To the River Otter" is from 1793. However, J. C. C. Mays (2001) argues that there is no certainty for the earlier dating as the poem does not appear in Coleridge's 1796 collection of poems and was not described as "juvenilia" in his later collections. The first 11 lines were used in Coleridge's 1796 poem "Recollection" and published as a sonnet in the late 1796 Sonnets from Various Authors. The poem was eventually republished in Coleridge's 1797 collection of poems and in all of the later collections."Recollections" was published 2 April 1796 in Coleridge's The Watchman periodical.
The sonnet portrays a view of the river Otter from a child's perspective:
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that vein'd with various dyes
Gleam'd through thy bright transparence! [...]— lines 6–11
The final line ends with a regretful use of "ah" that is common to Coleridge's poems:
— line 14
"Recollections" is a complete poem made up of lines from three of Coleridge's poems: "Absence: A Poem", "To the River Otter", and "Anna and Harland". The lines contain little alteration. Lines 13 and 17–26 are variations of lines 1–11 of "To the River Otter":
Dear native brook! where first young Poesy
How many various-fated years have past,
What blissful and what anguish'd hours, since last
I skimm'd the smooth thin stone along thy breast
Numb'ring its light leaps! Yet so deep imprest
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny blaze,
But straight, with all their tints, thy waters rise,
The crossing plank, and margin's willowy maze,
And bedded sand, that, vein'd with various dyes,
Gleam'd thro' thy bright transparence to the gaze—— lines 13, 17–26
Coleridge, while writing the poem, focused on the sonnet form and sought to recreate the poetry of Bowles while he put together a collection of his own poems, those of Bowles, Charles Lloyd, and others.The ideas within the poem is thematically connected to Bowles's To the River Wensbeck, To Evening, and To the River Itchen. Bowles's and Coleridge's poems are part of the larger tradition of 18th-century poems dealing with rivers, including many poems within Egerton Brydges's Sonnets and Other Poems, Charlotte Smith's Elegiac Sonnets, and Thomas Warton's To the River Lodon. These, in turn, establish the tradition that William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey would later join. The opening of Tintern Abbey is related to how Coleridge opens "To the River Otter" and how Warton opens "To the River Lodon".
According to William Wimsatt, nature is connected to humanity, and the poem relies on the river to talk about childhood. However, Hendrik Rookmaaker points out that there is little evidence to read the poem in such a manner. There is little justification for the reader to find an unconscious meaning to the poem, and indeed, such a reading would go against the way nature is used within the poem; nature is greater than humanity, and the Romantics like Coleridge are trying to find meaning within nature and are searching for the divine within nature.James McKusick argues that the transparency of nature within the poem allows for the narrator to witness what is hidden within nature, which is "specifically the intense awareness of a child peering into the shimmering depths of a wild, free-flowing river."
A review in the July 1798 Critical Review only says in regard to the poem, "From the new sonnets we select that which is addressed to the river Otter, as it will gratify those who love to refer to the scenes of early enjoyment".
In 1975, Wimsatt points out that "What is of great importance to note is that Coleridge's own sonnet 'To the River Otter' (while not a completely successful poem) shows a remarkable intensification of such [metaphorical] color."Later, M. H. Abrahms, addressing Coleridge's use of Bowles as a source to imitate, says, "Why Coleridge should have been moved to idolatry by so slender, if genuine, a talent as that of Bowles has been an enigma of literary history." At the end of the 20th-century, Jack Stillinger argues, in regard to the 1797 edition of Coleridge's works, that "Apart from the addition of works by Lamb and Lloyd, 1797 contains ten new poems by Coleridge, of which Sonnet to the River Otter and Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement are the most important."
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.
Lines on an Autumnal Evening was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1793. The poem, rewritten throughout Coleridge's life, discusses nature and love. As Coleridge developed and aged, the object of the poem changed to be various women that Coleridge had feelings toward.
Religious Musings was composed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1794 and finished by 1796. It is one of his first poems of critical merit and contains many of his early feelings about religion and politics.
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.
"On Quitting School" is a sonnet written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1791. It describes Coleridge's feelings of leaving school for Cambridge in an optimistic manner quite contrary to the views he expressed later in life.
The Eolian Harp is a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795 and published in his 1796 poetry collection. It is one of the early conversation poems and discusses Coleridge's anticipation of a marriage with Sara Fricker along with the pleasure of conjugal love. However, The Eolian Harp is not a love poem and instead focuses on man's relationship with nature. The central images of the poem is an Aeolian harp, an item that represents both order and wildness in nature. Along with the harp is a series of oppositional ideas that are reconciled with each other. The Eolian Harp also contains a discussion on "One Life", Coleridge's idea that humanity and nature are united along with his desire to try to find the divine within nature. The poem was well received for both its discussion of nature and its aesthetic qualities.
Reflections on Having Left a Place of Retirement is a poem written by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1796. Like his earlier poem The Eolian Harp, it discusses Coleridge's understanding of nature and his married life, which was suffering from problems that developed after the previous poem. Overall, the poem focuses on humanity's relationship with nature in its various aspects, ranging from experiencing an Edenic state to having to abandon a unity with nature in order to fulfill a moral obligation to humanity. The discussion of man's obligation to each other leads into a discussion on the difference between the life of a philosopher and the life of a poet. By the end of the poem, the narrator follows the philosophical path in a manner similar to what Coleridge sought to do. The response to the poem from critics was mostly positive, with many of them emphasizing the religious aspects of the work in their analysis.
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.
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.
"To Fayette" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Coleridge, like other Romantic poets, viewed Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette as a hero of liberty for his part in the American and French revolutions. The poem coincides with Fayette's imprisonment in Austria, and he is treated as a martyr for liberty. The language Coleridge uses within the poem to describe Fayette and revolutions appears in many of his later works.
"To Kosciusko" is the name shared by three sonnets written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, and John Keats. Coleridge's, the original, was written in December 1794 and published in the 16 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as the fifth of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Hunt and Keats were inspired to follow his poem with their own versions in November 1815 and December 1816, respectively. The sonnets were dedicated to heroism of Tadeusz Kościuszko, leader of the 1794 Polish rebellion against Prussian and Russian control.
"To Pitt" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Describing William Pitt the Younger and his role as Prime Minister of Great Britain, the poem is one of the few in the series that is not about a hero of Coleridge. Instead, Pitt is described as Judas, the betrayer of Christ, because of, among other issues, his treatment of political dissidents.
"To Bowles" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 26 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. William Lisle Bowles's poetry was introduced to Coleridge in 1789 and Bowles had an immediate impact on Coleridge's views of poetry. The sonnet celebrates Bowles's status as a poet. It also discusses Bowles's political beliefs, which helped shape Coleridge's ideas on government and politics.
"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 Sheridan" or "To Richard Brinsley Sheridan" was written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in the 29 January 1795 Morning Chronicle. As the last poem running as part of the Sonnets on Eminent Characters series, it describes Coleridge's appreciation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and his theatre talents. Coleridge, unlike most, preferred Sheridan's somber works over his comedies and emphasizes them within the poem. Coleridge also respects Sheridan's political actions.
"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.
Elegiac Sonnets, titled Elegiac Sonnets, and Other Essays by Charlotte Sussman of Bignor Park, in Sussex in its first edition, is a collection of poetry written by Charlotte Turner Smith, first published in 1784. It was widely popular and frequently reprinted, with Smith adding more poems over time. Elegiac Sonnets is credited with re-popularizing the sonnet form in the eighteenth century. It is notable for its poetic representations of personal emotion, which made it an important early text in the Romantic literary movement.