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The zeitgeist of Romanticism, while notoriously broad in its philosophy, had definite universal views upon the concepts of the individual, nature and imagination; which constitutes the basis of what today are known as the main aspects of the movement. Such aspects, addressed in Samuel Coleridge’s “The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison”, include the focus upon the natural world, which is associated with both its ability to transform the individual as well as its connection to religion, the potential of imagination and the position of the individual within his sphere of being. These issues are reflected in “The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” in its treatment of subject matter as well as its structure.
Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” reflects the Romantic notion of the power of the imagination and its role in the transformation of the individual. As Milton asserts in Paradise Lost, ‘the mind is its own place, and it itself can make a heaven of hell and hell of heaven,’ the Romantics believed that the imagination had the extraordinary power to initiate the transformation of the state of the individual, particularly when used in response to the natural world. In “This Lime-Tree Prison My Bower”, an examination of such concept can be seen in Coleridge’s reversal of attitude. Initially, Coleridge exhibits an attitude of resentment as he sits in ‘this lime-tree bower my person.’ He laments, ‘here must I remain…. meanwhile friends… wonder in gladness,’ with a sense of melodramatic hyperbole expressing his petulant mood. Imagination, however, allows Coleridge to overcome his state of self-pity, as he becomes transfixed upon a fictionalized nature. His imagination journey through the ‘roaring dell’ to the ‘western ridge’ instils a feeling of awe, evinced through the richness of colour with which he describes the ‘glorious Sun… purple heath flowers… blue Ocean,’ and ‘yellow light.’ Indeed imagination allows Coleridge to attain a heightened appreciation for his surroundings, noticing ‘much that has sooth’d him’, alluding to the uplifting light imagery of ‘the transparent foliage, some broad and sunny leaf… dappling its sunshine.’ His renewed attitude is apparent in his new perception of the bower, for it is no longer a resented ‘prison’, but an affectionate ‘little lime-tree bower.’ Indeed, he is ‘glad as if/as if I myself were [with my friends]’, emphasising the power of the imagination to transform the attitudes of the individual. Thus “The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison”, through the depiction of the poet’s imaginative journey through nature, portrays the Romantic concept of the imagination’s potential to transform the attitude of the individual.
The poem “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” also explores the Romantic role of the individual within the universe. The focus on the isolation of the individual as well as his place within his sphere of existence is a key aspect of Romanticism. The structure of the poem itself, in conversational first person style from the author’s perspective, allows for a more introspective, subjective approach to the subject matter and invites the reader to participate in Coleridge’s stream of consciousness. A focus on the isolation of the individual is clearly established in the first line ‘well, they are gone, and here must I remain’ with the juxtaposition of personal pronouns emphasising his isolation. Coleridge also echoes another aspect of Romanticism with the exploration of the position of the individual within his sphere of being, by examining the connection between the individual and the natural world. In “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison”, the poet’s train of thought is overcome by the Sublime – the vastness and infinity of natural phenomena- expressed by the vibrant imagery Coleridge applies to nature in the second stanza: ‘shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb… richlier burn, ye clouds… live in the yellow light.. and kindle, thou blue Ocean!’ Coleridge, through his experience of the sublime, is able to come to terms with his place in the universe, reaching an epiphany in the third stanza. He contends thus that nature satisfies the senses, and is all that is needed by the individual, and that it can ‘keep the heart/Awake to Love and Beauty.’ Therefore, “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” reflects a key aspect of Romanticism in its exploration of the isolation and role of the individual in his sphere of existence.
Finally, Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” reflects the power and connection with the divine that the Romantics attributed to the natural world. With a pantheistic viewpoint, the Romantics believed that one could transcend physical barriers and achieve a higher state of consciousness through one’s immersion in nature. As Coleridge sits in the lime-tree bower, his awareness of the power of nature manifests in the second stanza; he imagines the ‘wide wide Heaven… the many steepled tract magnificent,’ conferring through religious imagery a sense of divinity upon the ‘hilly fields and meadows.’ The power of nature further manifests in the poem as Coleridge achieves a sense of religious fervour upon the pondering of nature. He invokes ‘slowly sink/Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!’ The use of the imperative lends a majestic and serene tone, emphasising the divine, godlike nature of what he later refers to as the ‘mighty Orb’s dilated glory.’ The Sun begins to take on a religious, spiritual dimension; its ‘yellow light’ enables elements of nature to ‘live.’ Finally, Coleridge is ‘struck with deep joy’ at the power of the natural world, alluding to ‘the wide landscape… of such hues/A veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes Spirits perceive his presence.’ Coleridge’s allusion to the ‘Almighty’ further reinforces his awareness of the Divine in nature and that a spiritual connection may be achieved through communion with the natural world, subsequently achieving a state of transcending reality. Therefore, “The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” is reflective of an aspect of Romanticism in its treatment of nature as possessing a spiritual dimension transcending earthly realities.
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