Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Truth Manifest in Christianity
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"A Hymn" (1814) illustrates Coleridge's conviction that Christianity serves as the only vehicle through which absolute truth can become actualized in the life of man. The title of the preceding poem epitomizes the life of Coleridge: a self-appointed quest to capture the true meaning and value in life and to relay this essential knowledge to the reader. Coleridge begins the poem by establishing God as the Creator of not only man, but everything external to man (i.e., Nature). All of creation directly corresponds to Divine intervention. My Maker! of thy power the trace In every creature's form and face The wond'ring and soul surveys: Thy wisdom infinite above Seraphic thought, a Father's love As infinite displays! Coleridge also acknowledges the existence of the soul: an essential belief in the Christian doctrine of free-will and eternal life. Creation, through its magnificence and splendor, reveals through the soul the infinite love God has for man. Thus, Coleridge indirectly establishes that the acceptance of Christian doctrine precludes the internalization of God's infinite power and wisdom. He continues: From all that meets the eye or ear, There falls a genial holy fear Which, like the heavy dew of morn, Refreshes while it bows the heart forlorn. The "holy fear" of the preceding stanza symbolizes Coleridge's anxiety to communicate the powers of Christianity to his audience. Coleridge visualizes man separated from the lasting happiness inherent in a loving relationship with God and His creative work of Nature. He yearns to convert man from his sinful, ignorant state of disassociation with God to the glorious, enlightened realm of unity with all creation. Great God! thy works how wondrous fair! Yet sinful man didst thou declare The whole Earth's voice and mind! Lord, ev'n as Thou ever-present art, Oh may we still with heedful heart Thy presence know and find! Then, come, what will, of weal or woe, Joy's bosom-spring shall steady flow; For though 'tis Heaven Thyself to see, Where but thy Shadow falls, Grief cannot be-- ! ( 1 ) Coleridge's reference to "sinful man" inhabiting the earth refers to the fall of man into original sin. Man's only hope to regain the paradise of the past centers on the discovery of an "ever-present" God, for God tangibly exists in Nature. The consequence of this reunification between man and God, regardless of life's trying Circumstances, is a deep-rooted, pervasive joy.