Despite not enjoying the name recognition or popular acclaim that Wordsworth or Shelley have had, Coleridge is one of the most important figures in English poetry. His poems directly and deeply influenced all the major poets of the age. He was known by his contemporaries as a meticulous craftsman who was more rigorous in his careful reworking of his poems than any other poet, and Southey and Wordsworth were dependent on his professional advice. His influence on Wordsworth is particularly important because many critics have credited Coleridge with the very idea of «Conversational Poetry». The idea of utilizing common, everyday language to express profound poetic images and ideas for which Wordsworth became so famous may have originated almost entirely in Coleridge’s mind. It is difficult to imagine Wordsworth’s great poems, The Excursion or The Prelude, ever having been written without the direct influence of Coleridge’s originality. As important as Coleridge was to poetry as a poet, he was equally important to poetry as a critic. Coleridge’s philosophy of poetry, which he developed over many years, has been deeply influential in the field of literary criticism. This influence can be seen in such critics as A.O. Lovejoy and I.A. Richards.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel, and Kubla Khan
Coleridge is probably best known for his long poems, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christabel. Even those who have never read the Rime have come under its influence: its words have given the English language the metaphor of an albatross around one’s neck, the quotation of «water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink» (almost always rendered as «but not a drop to drink»), and the phrase «a sadder and a wiser man» (again, usually rendered as «sadder but wiser man»). The phrase «All creatures great and small» may have been inspired by The Rime: «He prayeth best, who loveth best;/ All things great and small;/ For the dear God who loveth us;/ He made and loveth all.» Christabel is known for its musical rhythm, language, and its Gothic tale.
Kubla Khan, or, A Vision in a Dream, A Fragment, although shorter, is also widely known. Both Kubla Khan and Christabel have an additional «Romantic» aura because they were never finished. Stopford Brooke characterised both poems as having no rival due to their «exquisite metrical movement» and «imaginative phrasing.»