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The themes of dejection in the writing of Wordsworth and Coleridge

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Everyone encounters dejection in his or her life, and various people have various different ways to combat the feelings of gloom, depression, and hopelessness. Some choose to pursue through music, art, poetry, or television, while others choose food, talking about it, or perhaps just holding all of the feelings inside. The fact of the matter is that dejection is a mysterious thing and everyone has varying perspectives of it. In Romanticism, dejection is a topic that is considered very deeply, especially by the poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Although their views are sometimes dramatically different, each poet has very intriguing thoughts on the matter of dejection and has different views on dealing with it. While it is to Wordsworth’s belief that depression can be conquered by memories of an immortal state, triggered by nature, Coleridge believes that depression is internal and can not be changed, but rather one must wait for depression to run its course.

Some people believe that depression can be relieved using remedies. Wordsworth also held this opinion. He believed that when one is born, he leaves a natural state of immortality to reside on Earth for a while before returning to immortality. Wordsworth states that from “trailing clouds of glory do we come/ from God, who is our home.” This is supported by his comparison of Earth to a “homely nurse” and man to its “foster child” in “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” To Wordsworth, man is a guest of the Earth, only to stay for a short time. He believes that birth is just “sleep and forgetting;” a forgetting of the immortal state of happiness that was once experienced. Wordsworth continues to say that dejection is able to be defeated by memories of immortality that are never truly forgotten, just pushed to the back of the human mind from time to time.

To access this vault of memories, Wordsworth regards nature as the key. Wordsworth begins this chain reaction by writing, “a single field I have looked upon, / Both of them speak of something that is gone.” The “something” that Wordsworth is speaking of is the memories of immortality. He further says “the thought of our past years in me doth breed / Perpetual benediction.” The past years that are spoken of are childhood memories; memories from when a person is closer to their natural, immortal state. Coleridge does not share Wordsworth’s philosophy and shares several of differing ideas about dejection.

While some share Wordsworth’s view of dejection, others tend to think that there are no cures for dejection. A man who believed this particular idea was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge wrote “Dejection: An Ode” to counter, in some ways, Wordsworth’s piece mentioned above. Coleridge was an unfortunate victim to an opium addiction and felt a great deal of depression, a symptom of opium abuse. It was Coleridge’s belief that dejection has no panaceas, but rather needs to run its course. Coleridge understood depression as a lack of joy. In his view, joy was an aspect to human emotion that came and went, but could not be altered by remedies such as nature. He wrote, “I see them all [aspects of nature] so excellently fair, / I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!” This demonstrates the frustration that Coleridge felt because he could not experience the same natural healing that Wordsworth so adamantly supported.

Depression was very real to Coleridge, but after thought, he strongly believed that depression was strictly internal. This was quite opposing to Wordsworth’s ideas of external remedies such as nature. Coleridge responded to these beliefs of his colleague by stating that he was happy that Wordsworth could feel these things, but reasoned that Wordsworth could only feel these things because he had the joy inside of him that Coleridge was lacking. This was also Coleridge’s explanation to why he, himself, could feel the beauty of nature that Wordsworth could.

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were two very intellectual and influential poets that had a great deal to write about on the subject of dejection and although they felt differently about the subject, their combined influence has shaped a lot of what people think of the topic today. While some think as Wordsworth thought, that there ways to counter depression, while others think that it can not be fought, and believe what Coleridge believed, that it is a reoccurring stage of life that will come and go naturally.

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