Samuel Taylor Coleridge (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England. His critical work, especially on William Shakespeare, was highly influential, and he helped introduce German idealist philosophy to English-speaking culture.
His poetic contribution to the cause of peace was decisive for the movement of the English Romanticism. The denunciation of war as something evil for all humankind was a constant in all his work. In his poem known as “And war still violates the unfinished works of peace” Coleridge says:
“Then War and all its dread vicissitudes
Pleasingly agitate their stagnant hearts;
Its hopes, its fears, its victories, its defeats,
Insipid royalty’s keen condiment!
Therefore uninjured and unprofited,
(Victims at once and executioners)
The congregated husbandmen lay waste
The vineyard and the harvest. As along
The Bothnic coast, or southward of the Line….”
In this same poem, the poet recognizes that the times of peace have always been short throughout history and that war has dominated the fate of humankind during the last centuries. However, he believes that in the end peace will prevail over war.
“And hence, for times and seasons bloody and dark,
Short Peace shall skin the wounds of causeless War,
And War, his strained sinews knit anew,
Still violate the unfinished works of Peace.
But yonder look! for more demands thy view!’
He said: and straightway from the opposite Isle
A vapour sailed, as when a cloud, exhaled
From Egypt’s fields that steam hot pestilence,
Travels the sky for many a trackless league,
Till o’er some death-doomed land, distant in vain,
It broods incumbent. Forthwith from the plain,
Facing the Isle, a brighter cloud arose,
And steered its course which way the vapour went”.
In his famous poem “Fire, Famine and Slaughter: a War Eclogue”, Coleridge poetically evokes the dialogue between gunfire, hunger which strikes humanity in the context of war, and finally, the humanitarian consequences of conflicts at the level of human victims.
According to the poet, the origin of the war must be sought in the mistrust and the existing enmity between the human beings. This situation of confrontation causes the outbreak and complete destruction of social peace, generating a deep torment on all those people who suffer directly the consequences of this unreason. In his poem “From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War!”, Coleridge says the following:
“Mistrust and Enmity have burst the bands
Of social peace: and listening Treachery lurks
With pious fraud to snare a brother’s life;
And childless widows o’er the groaning land
Wail numberless and orphans weep for bread!
Thee to defend, dear Saviour of Mankind!
Thee, Lamb of God! Thee, blameless Prince of Peace!
From all sides rush the thirsty brood of War!”
Coleridge defines war in his poem “The demon War and its attendants, maniac Suicide and giant Murder” as a state of utter madness, insanity and foolishness of the human race, provoked by utterly crazed and paranoid spirits:
“But soon a deep precursive sound moaned hollow:
Black rose the clouds, and now (as in a dream)
Their reddening shapes, transformed to warrior-hosts,
Coursed o’er the sky, and battled in mid-air.
Nor did not the large blood-drops fall from heaven
Portentous! while aloft were seen to float,
Like hideous features looming on the mist,
Wan stains of ominous light! Resigned, yet sad,
The fair Form bowed her olive-crowned brow,
Then o’er the plain with oft reverted eye
Fled till a place of tombs she reached, and there
Within a ruined sepulchre obscure
Despite the grave consequences of the war, Coleridge firmly believes in peace as the natural state of humanity. War is a serious illness of the soul that needs to be expelled from our lives thanks to the unceasing efforts of all those Princes of Peace distributed throughout the world:
“Peace, peace on earth! the Prince of Peace is born.
Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
Oh, why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet music’s loudest note, the poet’s story, –
Did’st thou ne’er love to hear of fame and glory?
And is not war a youthful king,
A stately hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring…”
But, in according to Coleridge: where could this desired peace be finally found?
In his famous poem “Domestic peace”, the poet dreams on peace in the following way:
“Tell me, on what holy ground
May Domestic Peace be found–
Halcyon Daughter of the skies!
Far on fearful wings she flies,
From the pomp of sceptered State,
From the Rebel’s noisy hate,
In a cottaged vale She dwells
Listening to the Sabbath bells!
Still around her steps are seen
Spotless Honour’s meeker mien,
Love, the sire of pleasing fears,
Sorrow smiling through her tears,
And conscious of the past employ
Memory, bosom-spring of joy”.
Source: Paz sin Fronteras