Poets in a Transnatural Landscape: Coleridge, Nature, Poetry

Leadbetter, Gregory (2021) Poets in a Transnatural Landscape: Coleridge, Nature, Poetry. Romanticism, 27 (1). pp. 46-62. ISSN 1354-991X

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This essay addresses the nature of the experience of nature, as evoked, in particular, by Coleridge, and the relationship between that experience and the impulse to speak of it, especially in poetry. Always a fascinated observer of his own responsiveness, he wrote to Thomas Wedgwood in 1802 that ‘I never find myself alone within the embracement of rocks & hills, a traveller up an alpine road, but my spirit courses, drives, and eddies, like a Leaf in Autumn: a wild activity, of thoughts, imaginations, feelings, and impulses of motion, rises up from within me’. As in his verse, the rhythmic motility of these lines, so characteristic of his language, cannot bear a merely consequential correspondence to the contours of landscape: not everyone who moves through such territory writes like Coleridge. With reference to his poetry, criticism, notebooks and letters, this essay examines the more complex relation to landscape at work in Coleridge's language: the connection between the ineffable character of sensory experience and the effusion of utterance; the participatory character of Coleridge's engagement with the natural world; the irruptive, ecstatic and synaesthetic qualities of his writing with regard to landscape; and the paradoxical desire both to name and not to name, to know and unknow, imprinted in his poetry. In doing so, the essay contends for the presence in Coleridge's work of a psychotropic poetics related to the nature of his experience of the natural order, in which poetry has the potential to act as a maker of ‘nature’ – like the natural world itself, an educative stimulus to our epistemic, empathetic and creative powers – and as such, transnatural.

Friedrich Schlegel made the suggestive remark that ‘one cannot really speak of poetry except in the language of poetry’, and the essay concludes with a poem of my own germane to its theme.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.3366/rom.2021.0491
5 February 2021Accepted
1 March 2021Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: Coleridge, landscape, walking, poetry, poetics, aesthetics, ecocriticism, nature, transnatural
Subjects: CAH19 - language and area studies > CAH19-01 - English studies > CAH19-01-01 - English studies (non-specific)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of English and Media
Depositing User: Gregory Leadbetter
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2021 15:00
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 12:08
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11792

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