This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison
Pantheism…Is he, or isn't he?
Welcome to the most famous nineteenth-century religious controversy you've never heard of. The great Pantheism debate! In one corner we have the Pantheists, who insist that "God is everything and everything is God" (source). In other words, God and Nature are the same thing. In the other corner we have the existing European religious establishment, which insists that God is the Creator of Nature but remains separate from it. For the establishment, Pantheism was no different from atheism. There has been much speculation about the extent to which Coleridge might have been a Pantheist, and this poem only complicates the question. Line 23 ever-so-gently suggests that the whole world is a big Church, which sounds Pantheist to our ears. Similarly, lines 40-44 claim that the natural landscape contains the "Almighty Spirit" of God, which could be Pantheistic, but then you've got the old Christian image of a "veil" suggesting that God is either in or behind nature. It appears as though this poem won't resolve the debate over Coleridge, but it does provide plenty of food for thought.