Sunday, December 2, 2007

Conversation poem

Rebecca Neighbors

According to the Norton Anthology, the conversation poem is a “sustained blank verse lyric of description and meditation, in the mood of conversation addressed to a silent auditor” (426). The conversation poem allows the poets to mold their respective conversational partners into representatives of particular groups in order to reveal their own theories and ideologies.

William Wordsworth’s Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey is a conversation poem. Although he addresses his sister as “my dear, dear Friend” and “my dear, dear Sister”, the sister’s response is not included in the poem (116, 121). Only the speaker’s part of the conversation is in the poem; the reader must guess the other half. The conversation poem enables Wordsworth to establish his sister as a representative of people who have not matured in experiencing nature and only recognize the beauty rather than perceiving God in nature.

Samuel Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight is also a conversation poem. Coleridge addresses his infant son, his “dear Babe” in line 44. Following the nature of the conversation poem, the response of the son is not written. Without his son’s response, Coleridge can uninterruptedly explain his hopes for the future of his infant.

Another example of a conversation poem is Coleridge’s Eolian Harp, in which he addresses his lover Sarah. More so than in the other poems, the other half of the conversation almost emerges. Though Coleridge does not write Sarah’s response, his own reaction indicates that she does not agree with his theory that God is in nature. The use of conversation in this poem establishes Sarah as a representative of Christianity and Coleridge as a neo-pantheist. Through this, Coleridge brings into question religious perspective.

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