I Think I’m Seeing Double

Throughout the first six books of Wordworth’s The Prelude, he constantly exchanges identities, projecting his consciousness into that of his friend Coleridge, a mysterious Arab, and even inanimate objects like clouds. Coleridge too, in his “Kubla Khan,” moves between several states of consciousness as represented in his changing from third to first person (compare the first lines of the poem to the final stanza). This malleability of self and existence translates directly to apocalypse – unveiling and revealing of a new self, person, or identity.

The concept of rebirth is popular in many world religions, including “born again” Christians and reincarnated Buddhists. Rebirth is always associated with some kind of cleansing or renewal (sounds like a flood, does it not?), but Wordsworth and Coleridge go further than mere reincarnation. Take a look at Wordsworth’s comment on his connection with Coleridge: “That other spirit, Coleridge, who is now/So near to us, that meek confiding heart,/so reverenced by us both” (Book 6, lines 237-39). The language is very intimate, almost as if he and Coleridge are one. In moments like these in The Prelude, as well as in “Kubla Khan,” the authors are not switching between separate consciousnesses, but are experiencing both simultaneously.

So, what does this have to do with apocalypse? I already mentioned the unveiling concept, the apt imagery of a flood to represent a new world or existence. But let’s think about the connection to Christ, the self-proclaimed “Alpha and Omega, Beginning and End.” After this short examination of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s “dual existence,” it’s not too farfetched to suggest that the two poets are allowing the rest of humanity to share in Christ’s famous title. Perhaps the apocalypse is not so much a frightening end-of-the-world event as much as it is an opportunity for humankind to partake in the identity of Christ, a dual existence in time.


~ by lostinthekeys on September 13, 2012.

One Response to “I Think I’m Seeing Double”

  1. I liked how you address the seeming multiplicity of self that is experienced by the characters in the poems. The concept of the apocalypse as a dissolution of one’s identity and the assumption of another was interesting and original. In the “Dream of the Arab” section, do you think a there’s connection between the books that the Arab was trying to save and this ability to switch between existences? Do the books that the Arab was trying to save (or literature in general) play any role in this process?

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