Coleridge Poetic theory

Question: Evaluate Coleridge Poetic theory.

Or, Discuss Coleridge’s view of poetry, poem, and poet.


Coleridge’s Poetic theory is not in compact and cogent form anywhere in “Biographia Literaria”. His theory is based on three “P” which mean poem, poetry, and poet. In the fourteenth chapter of his scholarly essay, published in March 1817, he has provided his own poetic theory after some detailed analysis of Wordsworth’s poetic theory slight positively and most negatively.

Evaluation of Coleridge’s poetic theory

Coleridge has provided his poetic theory in order to render himself as intelligible. At first, he talks about poem, then poetry and finally about the poets. His ideas are explained here.

Opinion on poem

Coleridge has made a philosophic opinion like Aristotle’s theory of imitation about poem. He actually means to say that one has to keep in mind sundry matters while writing poem or evaluating a piece of writing as a poem.

Unity is a must

Coleridge commences his explanation about poem with reference philosophy which is the mother of all branches of knowledge. He argues that philosophy confers truth on any topic by the dint of intellectual unity. Likewise, philosophy, a poem must have unity.

More Notes of Criticism

Difference between poetry and prose

Coleridge asserts “a poem contains the same elements as a prose composition”. There is no difference between poem and prose composition in case of using medium as both use words. But the distinction lies in the combination of the different elements because poem uses meter or rhythm or both conjointly.

“Thirty days hath in September

April, June and November, etc.”

The reference by Coleridge is a prose composition though there is meter and rhythm in the lines. Thus, Coleridge’s theory of poetry has given a superficial difference between poem and prose.

Immediate object pleasure

According to Coleridge, a poem must produce communication of immediate pleasure. Though science and history have communication of truths, they are in shortage of creating immediate recreation. Finally, Coleridge has guessed or deduced a definition of poem:

“A poem is that species of composition which is opposed to works of

science by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth.”

So, the poetic theory of Coleridge promotes the paths of composing poem by declaring the purpose.

Opinion on poetry

Coleridge would like define poetry to emphasize on the meter and rhythm of poetry writing. Though his opinion is uncontroverted as to rhythm and meter, he lays assertion for rhyme or measure or both. According to Coleridge, the works of Plato, Bishop Taylor would be considered as best works of poetry if there is no limitation of rhyme and meter. Or even there may not be differentiated between poetry and prose. So, the poetic theory of Coleridge advocates to maintain proper literary technique for poetry that is the universal and greatest branch of knowledge.

Opinion about poet

The most praiseworthy aspect of Coleridge’s poetic theory is his outstanding understanding regarding the qualification of the poets. Coleridge suggests if the question is questioned is asked what poetry is or what poet is, the answer to the one is certainly involved in the solution of the other. Poetic genius sustains and modifies the images, thoughts and emotions of the poet. Some specific qualities, a poet must possess in accordance with the scholar critic.

Ideal perfection of description

Coleridge recounts that ideal perfection of description is an inevitable trait of a poet because “the poet brings the whole soul of man into activity”. By such opinion, he means to say that the poet is a motivational speaker through his presentation to engage the readers in the subject having full focus or high concentration.

Good sense, fancy and imagination

These are the coined terms expressed in the essay. According to Coleridge, good sense is the body of poetic genius. Fancy is the drapery and motion. And finally, imagination is the soul of poetic genius which is absent within Wordsworth in the opinion of Coleridge.

Coleridge’s view on excellence of poetry

To create excellence in poetry, Coleridge has limned two poems of Shakespeare which reveal excellences:

  • Sweetness of the versification
  • A complete objectivity
  • The modification of images by a predominant passion
  • A depth and energy of thought


From the light of the above discussion, it has been very acutely understandable and realizable that Coleridge’s incompact poetic theory is the landmark in the history of English literary criticism. This theory is the creator of poets.

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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