Desire, Samuel Taylor Coleridge – an Analysis


Well, something to do about wanting, no?

Gut Reaction
It feels…short. To the point. And I suppose much like any other Samuel T Coleridge I have read but in a bitesized version. Lust fuels love. Done.

What does it all mean?
When you really love someone it is fuelled by desiring and wanting them, and so on. Very much like the fire triangle of oxygen, heat and fuel – distinguish one and the fire goes out?

Where true Love burns Desire is Love’s pure flame;
When you are in love, or when love is raging (‘burning’) through you, it is kept alive by desire because when you want someone, you love them and so on. We could get clinical and refer to things like endorphins and dopamine levels but that isn’t really very poetic, now is it?
The use of ‘burn’ and ‘flame’ is a reminder that love can hurt.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be love for a person either; if you love something you have passion (desire) for it and it feeds the love – charity, research, study and so on. I’m sure that isn’t what Coleridge was referring to, Romantic that he was.

It is the reflex of our earthly frame,
Desire is a natural bodily reaction in us humans. As adults we all ‘need’ sex, it’s even on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Or is it more – a natural animalistic instinct to want to procreate?

That takes its meaning from the nobler part,
The nobler part? Natural desire is the result of some noble feeling? Um, call me odd but I’ve never had sex I would describe as ‘noble’, and when I desire someone, trust me, there are no noble thoughts going on whatsoever. Or am I just being too crass and assuming by desire we mean sex? Is that not what human desire is, yearning for another humans touch?
Okay, so other definitions of ‘noble’. Well. Chemically inert if you like your science (I do). Of rank, birth, excellent quality, renown, superior of mind and morals. Hmm.
Or noble because we are all put on this earth to reproduce and desire ensures that happens?
I think I’m going to have to hit the Google Machine for this one! … *

And but translates the language of the heart.
Is this Coleridge’s way of saying we say what we think those we desire want to hear? The language of the heart – all these sentiments, sweet nothings, reminders of love – continued with because we feel obliged to or repeated because of the end result we anticipate?
I fear I am a heartless cynic…

* and Google Machine refers to nobler parts as everything from the heart, to the entrails, to the penis (standing tall…noble… Uh huh…), to something quite biblical. So… Let’s see if we can work this one out. A man, so I’m told, when feeling somewhat…wanting…becomes…aroused…and the best way for him to get, um, relief from that is to whisper a load of loving… stuff… to his partner and there you go! Job done! Mr Coleridge, you dirty little man, you!!! I like it!

Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
One stanza long, two open couplets of iambic pentameter.

Fatherly? Advice-giving? That tone of ‘some day, you will all understand’ by a well-intentioned relative when your heart is first broken?

Suggested rhyme scheme

End stopped lines, rhymes are end/terminal, full/ordinary and masculine/strong.

Similes and metaphors
Metaphors – flame, burn – reminder that love can be painful! Earthly frame – body. Nobler part -?

Personification of Love and Desire?

Author’s relationship with their subject
I’m picturing a wise old grandfather beside the fireplace doling out advice and Werther’s Original. Telling me that ‘in my day, all this love and desire nonsense was much simpler…’
I want a Werther’s…
And no. My grandad never had this kind of conversation with me. Just the Werther’s.

Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
Well, Coleridge is one of the great figureheads of the Romanticism of his age. I think my slightly more basal take on things points more to lust than romance but there you go.

Signing off
Hmm. When I decided to look at this poem I was thinking more in terms of a short four-liner to occupy an hour or so. Clearly I have far too active an imagination!
Desire is love, love is desire, each fuel the other and so on. Quite different from lust, or not so? You can want someone without loving them, but I suppose that is a very ‘modern’ view, not something that publicly happened in Coleridge’s day. Imagine what he’d have to say about friends with benefits…
Now. If you can lust after someone without loving them, can you love them without desiring them? Aside from familial love, obviously. I personally can’t imagine doing so, but who’s to say who is right?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

When I read this I think of the song… Whole Lotta Love


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