By John Spencer Hill
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Additional resources for A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria
The second movement (lines 34-64), which is much less successful, rises from remembered experience into speculation - only to sink back, bathetically, into the arms of orthodoxy. In the opening twelve lines the situation and setting are vividly established in a rustic tableau: most soothing sweet it is To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o'ergrown With white-flower'dJasmin . . (2-4) The scene is not merely languorously pastoral. It is clearly paradisiacal. The tranquil lovers by their cottage overgrown with luxuriant vegetation recalls the prelapsarian bower of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost, IV 690-703 - an echo reinforced both by the references to jasmine and myrtle (plants mentioned by Milton) and by Coleridge's effort to allegorise these flowers as Edenic emblems of Innocence and Love (line 5).
35 Instrumental in this centrifugal identification is Coleridge's relationship with Lamb, whose experience is an analogue of his own. As Lamb, long in 'the great City pent', has had to win his way through evil and strange calamity36 with patient soul, so too Coleridge, imprisoned in self-pity, has had to work his way through a descent to light - from the lime-tree bower, through the dark and narrow dell, to the open landscape stretching beneath the wide wide heaven. And it is his warm feeling for Lamb, his vicarious participation in his friend's joy, that is the motivating factor in this spiritual growth.
It is, as Michael Schmidt says, 'one of our great poems, a personal poem of shared joy, momentary optimism, sincere generosity of impulse'. 31 While these features of openness and selfless friendship need to be stressed, one must see as well that beneath the poem's relaxed exterior there lies a tightlyknit structure which is the vehicle of a deeply felt imaginative VISIon. The poem is based on the rondo pattern characteristic of the Conversation Poems: from the lime-tree bower to which he has been confined the poet ranges out in imagination and then returns to the bower again.
A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems and the Biographia Literaria by John Spencer Hill