“Phantom” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

All look and likeness caught from earth
All accident of kin and birth,
Had pass’d away. There was no trace
Of aught on that illumined face,
Uprais’d beneath the rifted stone
But of one spirit all her own ;—
She, she herself, and only she,
Shone through her body visibly.

According to the editor’s note in my book, this short poem is one of Coleridge’s attempts at describing Sara Hutchinson as she appeared to him in a dream. But as is often the case with Coleridge’s work, there is more meaning hidden below the surface.

As one who was fascinated by the supernatural and metaphysics, we can assume that Coleridge believed that the human body is inhabited by a soul that continues to exist after a person has died. When a person enters into an altered state of consciousness—whether through sleep/dreams or psychotropic substances or meditation—that person becomes more open to perceiving non-corporeal entities. Coleridge makes it clear in this poem that he believes the spirit is the true essence of a person and not the physical form. Based upon the way he describes his interaction with Sara, I suspect that Coleridge believed he actually crossed a threshold while in the dream state and met with the spirit of Sara Hutchinson.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to ““Phantom” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  1. Fascinating Jeff, as I have experienced a similar dream state with a recently deceased friend who I was very close to. The way she looked was different from how she looked at any particular time of her life. It’s difficult to describe, but she looked beautiful beyond how any human looks. Somehow, I knew it was her and we had a wonderful conversation that was very reassuring as to her state of peacefulness.

    Thanks for this post!
    Debra

    • Hi Debra.

      Thank you for sharing that, and I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I too had a somewhat similar experience many years ago when my mom passed, but instead of seeing her in the dream, I was jolted out of deep sleep and sensed a presence in the room with me. About 15 minutes later I got the call that my mom was taken to the hospital. She was dead before I could get there.

      So yes, I believe without a doubt that the soul exists separate from the physical body.

      Jeff

  2. Coleridge wrote a lot about alienation and suffering, so I believe this to be another example of it. I think he was very much enamored by the supernatural (and by Sara, of course).

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