Millennialism and Apocalypse Thought in S. T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth's Poetics

Millennialism and Apocalypse Thought in S. T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth's Poetics

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"Tintern Abbey": Millennialism and Apocalypse Thought in S. T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth's Poetics


Storming of the Bastille 1789 [1]

During and in the aftermath of the French Revolution, millennialist thought – independent of the myriad of economic and historical reasons for its precipitation – influenced many authors. Many people perceived the French Revolution as a foreshadowing of an Apocalypse that would usher in a new millenarian epoch, one levelling social distinctions between people and bringing about what was believed to be Christ's absolute rule. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was such a writer influenced by millennialist and apocalyptic belief in the late-eighteenth-century. His early writings and visions, such as in Religious Musings (1794-6), and Pantisocracy (1794), as well as his proposed communal experiment on the Susquehanna River in the United States, mark his belief in a millennium that would eliminate the social evils that he saw as detrimental to both individuals and the society in which he lived.


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Revelations 6 : 1-8, detail from Albert Durer [4]

The belief in millenarian and apocalyptic movements is one that was, and remains, today pervasive. Its origins are not entirely understood, but as Hillel Schwartz notes, "its root term, millennium, refers to a first-century eastern Mediterranean text, the Apocalypse of John or Book of Revelation." [2] Schwartz further notes that: "Among the world religions we can locate two constellations of millenarian thought about an epochal pulsing of time, one Zoroastrian-Jewish-Greek-Christian, the other Hindu-Buddist-Taoist-Confucian." [3] Broadly defined, it is:

The belief that the end of the w...


... middle of paper ...


..., in Romanticism: An Anthology, with CD-ROM, 2nd ed. Oxford & Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000.

[BACK] 11. Earl Leslie Griggs, Ed. Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. I. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956, 395, 397.

[BACK] 12. Duncan Wu and David Miall, eds. Romanticism: An Anthology, with CD-ROM, 2nd ed. Oxford & Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2000. ( 271).

[BACK] 13. Ibid, 191.

[BACK] 14. Ibid.

[BACK] 15. Wordsworth, "There is an active principle" (1798), 9-11.

[BACK] 16. Coleridge, quoted in Peterfreund, Stuart. "Coleridge and the Politics of Critical Vision." Critical Essays on Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. Leonard Orr. New York, Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994, 39.

[BACK] 17. Earl Leslie Griggs, Ed. Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956, 1013.

[BACK] 18. http://www.new-harmony.com/

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