Biographia Literaria by S.T Coleridge is a great literary work. It has occupied a permanent position in the whole range of English literary criticism. In this critical essay, the critic dicusses many important points. He has drawn some striking difference between poem and poetry.
In “chapter xiv’, he puts a large number of questions regarding the nature and function of poetry.Then he ventures to answer them. He also proves the role and significance of metre as an essential part of poetry. He does not give any exact definition of poetry too. Yet we find his remark on the nature of poetry and general discussion of Wordsworth’s poetic theory. We can bring a proper shape of poem from his comments on them. His comments on poem and poetry are artistic, philosophical and psychological.
At first it is necessary to know how coleridge distinguishes a poem from a prose composition. Coleridge says that a poem contains the elements as a prose composition. Both of them use words.so there is no difference between a poem and a prose composition. In this respect , coleridge says – “A poem contains the same elements as a prose composition.” But one difference is to be noticed here. Metre or rhyme or both is used in a poem.But they are not used in prose composition.
According to Coleridge, the immediate purpose of a poem is the communication of pleasure. But the immediate purpose of pros is the communication of truths. A poem must be an organic unity. Metre, rhyme, etc are used in a poem.but they are not used in prose. If metre is used superficially, it can be a poem. But a poem can not please us if there is no organic unity. Coleridge thinks the main aim of poetry is to give pleasure.
Coleridge does not regard metre as essential for poetry. He clearly says that poetry of highest kind may exist without metre. He also believes metre to be useful and necessary for writing poetry. In fact he is against for the use of metre and rhyme in poetry.he refers to Plato, Burnet, Jermeny who wrote without metre. He asserts metre and rhyme have been imposed on poetry in order to make it easily memorized. Coleridge distinguishes a poem from a poetry in his ‘Biographical Literaria’. He opines that poetry is wider term than a poem. Poetry is an activity of poet’s mind but a poem is merely one of the forms of its expression. Poetic creativity is basically an activity of imagination.He identifies imagination with the soul of poetry. It is a living power. This distinction between poetry and poem is not clear. To sum up, we can say that Coleridge’s distinction between a poem and a poetry is not clear enough. By the words, ‘poetry’ he means all kinds of imaginative activity. Only in this sense, he has drawn a distinction between ‘a poem’ and ‘poetry’.