By John Spencer Hill
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Additional resources for A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria
In the last two sections, having voluntarily cast aside his visionary mantle, Coleridge enters the arena of public action; and in this world, as Richard Haven points out, 'the visionary moment seems unreal or unimportant': 'the remembered moment has no ... ethical content to carry over and enrich the public and the practical. '28 32 A Coleridge Companion In the final analysis, then, the poem is broken on the unresolved opposition of what a former age would have called the vita activa and the vita contemplativa.
It had been determined that Coleridge's case was not hopeless but that, if he were to survive, he would require retirement and strict medical supervision. It was not enough to consult physicians; he needed to be under a trained and watchful eye day and night. James Gillman, whose practice was in Highgate, agreed to take him in as a patient and house-mate - for a month. In fact he was destined to spend the remaining eighteen years of his life in the fair haven of the Gillman household. At Moreton House there was, of course, no miraculous cure; but the Gillmans provided Coleridge with a sympathy, attentive care and profound admiration that restored his self-esteem and his faith in his own potential.
On the one hand, the presence of other minds - the poet's wife, Charles Lamb, the Wordsworths, the infant Hartley - is therapeutic or at least corrective in that it provides a second consciousness that prevents the poet from slipping into total self-absorption. Occasionally the felt presence of these bystanders is intrusive (as in 'The Eolian Harp'), but for the most part it is salutary and can serve, as in The Conversatz"on Poems 21 'This Lime-Tree Bower' or 'Frost at Midnight', as the powerful catalyst of visionary insight.
A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria by John Spencer Hill