Study Guide

Christabel Stanzas 56-60

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Stanzas 56-60

Part II, Stanzas 56-60

"And in my dream methought I went
To search out what might there be found;
And what the sweet bird's trouble meant,
That thus lay fluttering on the ground.
I went and peered, and could descry
No cause for her distressful cry;
But yet for her dear lady's sake
I stooped, methought, the dove to take,
When lo! I saw a bright green snake
Coiled around its wings and neck.
Green as the herbs on which it couched,
Close by the dove's its head it crouched;
And with the dove it heaves and stirs,
Swelling its neck as she swelled hers!
I woke; it was the midnight hour,
The clock was echoing in the tower;
But though my slumber was gone by,
This dream it would not pass away—
It seems to live upon my eye!

"And thence I vowed this self-same day
With music strong and saintly song
To wander through the forest bare,
Lest aught unholy loiter there."

Thus Bracy said: the Baron, the while,
Half-listening heard him with a smile;
Then turned to Lady Geraldine,
His eyes made up of wonder and love;
And said in courtly accents fine,
"Sweet maid, Lord Roland's beauteous dove,
With arms more strong than harp or song,
Thy sire and I will crush the snake!"
He kissed her forehead as he spake,
And Geraldine in maiden wise
Casting down her large bright eyes,
With blushing cheek and courtesy fine
She turned her from Sir Leoline;
Softly gathering up her train,
That o'er her right arm fell again;
And folded her arms across her chest,
And couched her head upon her breast,
And looked askance at Christabel
Jesu, Maria, shield her well!

A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy;
And the lady's eyes they shrunk in her head,
Each shrunk up to a serpent's eye
And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread,
At Christabel she looked askance!—
One moment—and the sight was fled!
But Christabel in dizzy trance
Stumbling on the unsteady ground
Shuddered aloud, with a hissing sound;
And Geraldine again turned round,
And like a thing, that sought relief,
Full of wonder and full of grief,
She rolled her large bright eyes divine
Wildly on Sir Leoline.

The maid, alas! her thoughts are gone,
She nothing sees—no sight but one!
The maid, devoid of guile and sin,
I know not how, in fearful wise,
So deeply she had drunken in
That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
That all her features were resigned
To this sole image in her mind:
And passively did imitate
That look of dull and treacherous hate!
And thus she stood, in dizzy trance;
Still picturing that look askance
With forced unconscious sympathy
Full before her father's view—
As far as such a look could be
In eyes so innocent and blue!

  • Stanza 54 is where it starts to become really obvious that Sir Leoline is under some kind of spell.
  • Though bard Bracy's dream makes it really obvious that there's something fishy going on, Leoline just smiles and ignores what he's been told about the dove in the dream representing Christabel. Instead, Leoline believes that the dove was Geraldine, and that the snake represents the men that supposedly kidnapped Geraldine and left her there under the tree.
  • Bracy reminds Leoline (and us, again) that Christabel's mother is dead and that he is her only protector.
  • The bard is stunned that Leoline would ignore the clear warning that Christabel is in danger.
  • The reader is left to wonder whether Sir Leoline is under a spell worked by Geraldine or if maybe he's just kind of a jerkface. The way he is behaving with Geraldine seems a little lusty, so maybe Geraldine's plan is to just seduce the whole castle and have them all under her spell. If that's the case, then we must question whether Christabel is under a spell or if she's just really, really jealous of (or maybe just plain creeped by) Geraldine hooking up with her dad. The ambiguity is maddening, but it seems to be the point that Coleridge is making here—that nothing, even sexuality, is strictly black and white.
  • Christabel seems to be fighting against Geraldine's spell, letting more and more of the reality of the situation seep through. Christabel begins to see Geraldine's true form—that of the snake in bard Bracy's dream—more and more clearly, but she still can't speak about it.
  • What Christabel can do is tell her father that Geraldine needs to leave. Now.

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