Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker: Inspiration and by David Jasper

By David Jasper

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The individual lives in the whole and the whole in the individual. )2 7 Coleridge, in his definition of symbol in The Statesman's Manual (1816) regards it as that which draws the whole out of attention to the particular. The poet, reducing the unmanageable many into one, sees in the individual, whether person or flower, mountain or natural phe- 18 Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker nomen on, something of eternity and the infinite. In the symbol, the poet fans the flame of faith, which otherwise is in danger of being 'buried in the dead letter, or its name and honors usurped by a counterfeit product of the mechanical understanding'.

The sense of continual process, development and restlessness became a keystone of his notion of art as perpetually creative and de-creative, of irony as contradicting the temptation to settle upon finite conclusions, and offaith as a yearning in the finite being to reach out to the infinite where all coheres in the Absolute and the One, of which we now perceive but the many parts. In 1795, however, the notion learnt from Priestley was an important element in his 'optimist' philosophy, and in the writings of Unitarian acquaintances like the Revd John Prior Estlin of Bristol, 44 which Coleridge was soon to question and reject, as early as The Watchman (1796).

72 Finally, in this Introduction, Coleridge reiterates that the sonnet, inasmuch as it 'domesticates with the heart', becomes a part of the reader's identity and forces him to reflect upon himself and to perceive in himself the infinite 34 Coleridge as Poet and Religious Thinker possibilities glimpsed in the 'union between the intellectual and the material'. In 1797, Coleridge published a second edition of his Poems, an abbreviated form of the Poems on Various Subjects, and with his 1796 Preface reprinted, largely unchanged.

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