COMPARISON OF TWO POEMS BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE AND WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
Poesía Inglesa Siglos XIX-XX
Profesor: Vicente Forés
Alumno: Alfredo Carbonell Rico
glory of evening was spread through the west;
2 --On the slope of a mountain I stood,
3 While the joy that precedes the calm season of rest
4 Rang loud through the meadow and wood.
must we then part from a dwelling so fair?"
6 In the pain of my spirit I said,
7 And with a deep sadness I turned, to repair
8 To the cell where the convict is laid.
thick-ribbed walls that o'ershadow the gate
10Resound; and the dungeons unfold:
11I pause; and at length, through the glimmering grate,
12That outcast of pity behold.
13His black matted head on his shoulder is bent,
14And deep is the sigh of his breath,
15And with stedfast dejection his eyes are intent
16On the fetters that link him to death.
sorrow enough on that visage to gaze,
18That body dismiss'd from his care;
19Yet my fancy has pierced to his heart, and pourtrays
20More terrible images there.
bones are consumed, and his life-blood is dried,
22With wishes the past to undo;
23And his crime, through the pains that o'erwhelm him, descried,
24Still blackens and grows on his view.
25When from the dark synod, or blood-reeking field,
26To his chamber the monarch is led,
27All soothers of sense their soft virtue shall yield,
28And quietness pillow his head.
29But if grief, self-consumed, in oblivion would doze,
30And conscience her tortures appease,
31'Mid tumult and uproar this man must repose;
32In the comfortless vault of disease.
fetters at night have so press'd on his limbs,
34That the weight can no longer be borne,
35If, while a half-slumber his memory bedims,
36The wretch on his pallet should turn,
the jail-mastiff howls at the dull clanking chain,
38From the roots of his hair there shall start
thousand sharp punctures of cold-sweating pain,
40And terror shall leap at his heart.
he half-raises his deep-sunken eye,
42And the motion unsettles a tear;
43The silence of sorrow it seems to supply,
44And asks of me why I am here.
45"Poor victim! no idle intruder has stood
46"With o'erweening complacence our state to compare,
47"But one, whose first wish is the wish to be good,
48"Is come as a brother thy sorrows to share.
thy name though compassion her nature resign,
50"Though in virtue's proud mouth thy report be a stain,
51"My care, if the arm of the mighty were mine,
52"Would plant thee where yet thou might'st blossom again."
1 And this place our forefathers made for man!
2 This is the process of our love and wisdom,
3 To each poor brother who offends against us--
4 Most innocent, perhaps--and what if guilty?
5 Is this the only cure? Merciful God!
6 Each pore and natural outlet shrivell'd up
7 By ignorance and parching poverty,
8 His energies roll back upon his heart,
9 And stagnate and corrupt; till changed to poison,
10They break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot;
11Then we call in our pamper'd mountebanks--
12And this is their best cure! uncomforted
13And friendless solitude, groaning and tears,
14And savage faces, at the clanking hour
15Seen through the steams and vapour of his dungeon,
16By the lamp's dismal twilight! So he lies
17Circled with evil, till his very soul
18Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed
19By sights of ever more deformity!
20With other ministrations thou, O nature!
21Healest thy wandering and distempered child:
22Thou pourest on him thy soft influences,
23Thy sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets,
24Thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,
25Till he relent, and can no more endure
26To be a jarring and a dissonant thing,
27Amid this general dance and minstrelsy;
28But, bursting into tears, wins back his way,
29His angry spirit healed and harmonized
30By the benignant touch of love and beauty.
Authors: Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
Editors: Bruce Graver and Ronald Tetreault
Edition: Version 1.5 for ETC
Responsibility: Bruce Graver and Ronald Tetreault, editors, compositors, and designers.
from the copy of Lyrical Ballads, 1798,
Page images courtesy of the Rare Books Collection, W.A.C. Bennett Library, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby B.C., Canada.
Encoded in TEI-conformant SGML by Bruce Graver and Ronald Tetreault, with significant help from CETH, the STG, OUCS and others.
In this essay we are going to compare two poems co-written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth that were published in a book called ‘Lyrical Ballads’. These poems are titled ‘The Dungeon’ and ‘The Convict’, so in my opinion they both share a topic that could be the penitentiary system of their country at that time but also the lost of the individual freedom to the social system and the cruelty that this represents.
Formally speaking, there is a big difference between the two poems. The poem ‘The Convict’ is perfectly organised in 13 stanzas of four verses each. The length of the verses is of eleven syllables for the first and the third ones and of 9 syllables for the second and the fourth, rhyming in a classical ABAB way, whether the poem ‘The Dungeon’ shows a total lack of uniformity, for there are three stanzas containing 12, 7 and 11 verses each, whose length vary from 9 to 11 syllables and whose rhyming pattern is not clear at all, for although it gets the effect, it does not follow any classical pattern.
Looking at the titles of the poems we can easily guess what they are going to talk about, for they are two very simple and straightforward titles composed by an article and a noun. Obviously, the poem ‘The Dungeon’ is going to talk about a very dark medieval basement where people used to be tortured and ‘The Convict’ is going to deal with a person that has been put in jail. May be a coincidence, but for me it is noticeable that both titles contain exactly the same number of characters.
The grammatical person used in both poems is the first one, for the writer/s are talking about their personal opinion on the topics they are writing about. In my opinion Coleridge and Wordsworth try through this device that the readers identify themselves with their opinion.
The language used in both poems just confirms what the titles suggested us. In the poem ‘The Convict’ we can find the kind of language that we would expect, that is a semantical field that recreates the atmosphere of a prison with words such as ‘pain’(6, 39), ‘sadness’(7), ‘pity’(12), ‘death’(16), ‘terrible’(20), ‘dark’(25), ‘disease’(32), ‘terror’(40), ‘tear’(42),’sorrow’(43, 48) or ‘victim’(45). I would like to highlight the appearance of the word ‘dungeons’(10) for a very obvious reason looking at the topic that we are dealing with in this essay. In the poem called ‘The Dungeon’ we can find the same kind of semantical field with words such as ‘solitude’, groaning’, ‘tears’(13), ‘savage’(14), ‘evil’(17), ‘deformity’(19) or ‘angry’(29). But we can also find another lexical field that evokes some kind of hope in the last stanza with words such as ‘sunny’, ‘fair’(23), ‘love’, ‘beauty’(30). The reason for this is that the author/s are at this point talking about what live should be according to nature.
According to the
language used in both poems, we can find very strong images evoking us what the
titles just announced. We must say that the two works share some of the key
images. Therefore, in the poem called ‘The Dungeon’ the author/s build up a
vision of a prototypical prisoner in lines 7 to 9. His life started in the low
class. With a life like this, he did not have much chance of living than
choosing the crime as a way of live. In line 10 we find the next step in his
life, that is that he’s thrown in jail by those who create his estate of
poverty. In lines 13 to 19 the poet/s describe what
life in jail must be. That is living surrounded by other criminals in very poor
health conditions and always despaired for their situation. From line 20 to 30
they describe what life should be according to what nature actually offered us, this is happiness and joy of living. In the first stanza
Convict’ we can find as well an image of a free and blossoming nature, that
makes the next images of desperation and closure even stronger. This
desperation is clearly seen in lines 13 to 16 and also in lines 43 and
Now we are going to go for what for me is the straight meaning of the poems. As we said before, both poems are written in a very simple and clear language. Therefore, their interpretation is quite easy. In ‘The Dungeon’, the meaning is related to the images that they evoke. In the first stanza then, the poet/s talk about a convict, its origins, the reasons why he was inducted to commit crimes and how the social system descends upon him with wrath. In the second stanza the life of the convicts in prison is clearly described. Finally, in the third stanza the poets/s talk about what life should be, that is freedom in nature instead of reclusion. In conclusion, Coleridge and Taylor are for me asking society if this is the only way to extinct crime, for it is a very cruel way of doing it. In the poem ‘The Convict’ they deal with a very similar topic. In the first and second stanzas the poets describe the process through which a man passes from being free to be put in jail. In the second part of the poem, that is from third to the eleventh stanza the author/s describe how life in prison is for the convict, including the bad health conditions, the solitude, the desperation a man can feel in such a place like that, specially at night. As we have just seen, there is not only a parallelism in the topic and in the way of exposing it but also in the structure of the poem referring to the content.
Personally, I have really enjoyed both the reading and the analysing of these poems, for they show a very simple and clear vocabulary and structure and a straightforward meaning. I also think that the poet/s perfectly transmit their opinion and their feelings to the readers by all the devices explained before.