Study Guide

Christabel Good vs. Evil

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Good vs. Evil

There she sees a damsel bright,
Drest in a silken robe of white, (58-59)

The narrator nearly blinds us here with the blazing, glorious vision of Geraldine as we see her for the first time. Though she seems like the vision of godliness in white, we are suspicious because the vision seems overwrought. We all know that liars tend to embellish things, and this seems like a pretty big embellishment.

Then Christabel stretched forth her hand,
And comforted fair Geraldine:
O well, bright dame! may you command
The service of Sir Leoline;
And gladly our stout chivalry
Will he send forth and friends withal
To guide and guard you safe and free
Home to your noble father's hall. (104-111)

Christabel is in the role of a knight in shining armor, saving the fair maiden Geraldine. Only, the knight isn't in armor and the fair maiden ends up hypnotizing her with some kind of magical trickery.

O weary lady, Geraldine,
I pray you, drink this cordial wine!
It is a wine of virtuous powers;
My mother made it of wild flowers. (190-193)

Christabel outright says that the wine has powers of good here. It would only be less subtle if it burned Geraldine when she drank it.

It was a lovely sight to see
The lady Christabel, when she
Was praying at the old oak tree.
Amid the jaggèd shadows
Of mossy leafless boughs,
Kneeling in the moonlight,
To make her gentle vows;
Her slender palms together prest,
Heaving sometimes on her breast;
Her face resigned to bliss or bale—
Her face, oh call it fair not pale,
And both blue eyes more bright than clear,
Each about to have a tear. (279-291)

Again, we think the narrator is over-doing it here, but that's a Romantic poet for you.

But soon with altered voice, said she—
"Off, wandering mother! Peak and pine!
I have power to bid thee flee."
Alas! what ails poor Geraldine?
Why stares she with unsettled eye?
Can she the bodiless dead espy?
And why with hollow voice cries she,
"Off, woman, off! this hour is mine—
Though thou her guardian spirit be,
Off, woman, off! 'tis given to me." (204-213)

It appears that Geraldine's magic is so strong that even this little flash of her evil side goes unnoticed by Christabel. The power of good from Christabel's mother can't fight it off.

Fair Geraldine, who met the embrace,
Prolonging it with joyous look.
Which when she viewed, a vision fell
Upon the soul of Christabel,
The vision of fear, the touch and pain!
She shrunk and shuddered, and saw again—
(Ah, woe is me! Was it for thee,
Thou gentle maid! such sights to see?)

Again she saw that bosom old,
Again she felt that bosom cold,
And drew in her breath with a hissing sound:
Whereat the Knight turned wildly round,
And nothing saw, but his own sweet maid
With eyes upraised, as one that prayed. (449-462)

Christabel sees a demon, but Sir Leoline sees a perfect angel. Hey, that sounds like the perfect set-up for a Lifetime movie.

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