Study Guide

Dejection: An Ode What's Up With the Title?

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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What's Up With the Title?

Those three little words mean so much, don't they? Sorry, you can put the flowers and candy away. We don't mean, "I love you." We're talking about "Dejection: an Ode."

Let's start with word 1. "Dejection" is pretty much what this poem is all about. It's worth noting some of the words that Coleridge didn't go with for the title, words like "sadness," "misery," "loneliness," or "dumpsville." Maybe that last one is a stretch, but our point is that the poem's speaker is not just simply sad. The dude is dejected. That choice of words brings with it a sense of weariness and numbness, the kind of spiritual exhaustion that can only come from a profoundly depressed state.

So our speaker is beyond simply sad, and the title reflects that. But we still have words 2 and 3 to consider. An ode is typically thought of as a good thing. It's a formal way to celebrate the qualities of a person, place, or thing.

What's so great about dejection, though? No much, if our speaker's to be believed. Here, Coleridge is using a more historical definition of the word "ode," which could mean any kind of formal address to something that's not present.

Whether you take ode as simply praise, or by its more historical use, it's clear that Coleridge is trying to elevate his mood. We don't mean elevate as in "improve." We mean that he's lending the mood of dejection a kind of importance, a philosophical weight. This is more than just a poem that says "O, woe is me." It's a deep dive into how our emotions actually work. What causes such a profound emotional funk? What's required in life to sustain our happiness and energy?

The title lets us know right from the get-go that the poem will be tackling bigger questions like these. And for that, we think Coleridge is "ode" some thanks. Yeah… sorry—sometimes we just can't help ourselves.

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