S.T Coleridge’s Christabel Summary
1—22. According to the clock in Sir Leoline’s castle, it is midnight. The cock has begun to crow. Sir Leoline’s mastiff bitch howls sixteen times and the night is chilly; it is a moonlit night, but the cloud obscures the moon light. Being the month of April, spring has only just commenced.
23—36. Christabel, beloved of her father, Sir Leoline, is alone in the forest late at night, praying for the welfare of her Iover who is far away; silently, she is kneeling and praying beneath the huge oak tree. –
37—78. Christabel is suddenly disturbed in her silent prayers by a nearby moaning sound. It cannot be the wind that makes the moaning sound—for there is very little wind in the air. Christabel walks round to the other side of the oak and sees there a beautiful lady lying in some disorder. When asked to explain who she is, the lady says that she is too weary to speak; but, presently, she starts telling her story.
79—103. The lady says that her name is Geraldine; she had been kidnapped by five warriors in the morning; she had been secured on the back of a horse; the whole day they had travelled and, when night came, one of the five had taken her from the horse back and left her at the foot of the oak tree. They had vowed to come back soon. When they left her, she had become unconscious—it was the castle clock that awoke her. Having told her story, the lady requests Christabel once again to stretch forth her hand and help her to escape from her enemies.
104—122. Hearing Geraldine’s sad story, Christabel extends her hand to her and promises her that Sir Leoline will send her (Geraldine) safe to her own father’s ball. As they walk slowly together, Christabel tells Geraldine that Sir Leoline being too weak in health, should not be disturbed till the morning. Geraldine can, however, sleep for the night in Christabel’s room on the same couch.
123—174. Walking together, Geraldine and Christabel cross the moat; Christabel opens the door in the middle of the gate, and they cross the court, and then the hall. Seeing them, the mastiff bitch moans angrily : when they pass the dying fire leaps up into a sudden blaze. They find their way from stair to stair, and at last they enter Chiristabel’s room.
175—219. Christabel’S room is contrived by clever workmen and sculptors like a real lady’s chamber. Christabel trims the silver lamp and makes it bright. Meanwhile, Geraldine sinks upon the floor, as though she is very tired. Christabel offers her a cordial wine made out of wild flowers by her late mother. Geraldine is now suddenly frightened by some mysterious presence— probably the spirit of Christabel’s mother—and cries out wildly. She presently recovers her poise and pretends that her fit has subsided and that she is all right once again.
220—244. Geraldine drinks some more wine and regaining her strength, stands erect on the floor; she is alluring and strange, as if she has come from a distant place. She asks Christabel to undress and go to bed. But Christabel cannot sleep now, and hence she reclines on her elbow and observes Geraldine from the bed.
245—278. Slowly and with a shudder as it were, Geraldine too undresses, she neither speaks nor stirs for a time; her face shows sorrow and hesitation; but suddenly she seems to make up her mind and lies down by Christabel’s side. She now takes Christabel in her arms and pronounces a charm upon her, which puts her under Geraldine’s power.
279-331. Christabel, as she was kneeling and praying at the foot of the old oak tree, looked so innocent so beautiful. Now she is lying by the side of Geraldine, and dreaming the most fearful dreams. Her eyes are open, and yet she is unconscious; such a fearful change has come upon her. But by her side, Geraldine is slumbering in ease, unmindful of the happiness she has wrecked. An hour passes; the hour of Geraldine’s absolute triumph is over. The night-birds are calling lustily and Christabel too comes out of her night marish trance; she sheds tears of happiness and smiles like a child; for she has now seen a sweet vision, the vision of her guardian spirit, the Vision of her dead mother, Lady Leoline.
332—359. It is the custom in Sir Leoline’s Castle for the sacristan to count the beads and mutter prayers forty-five times between two consecutive strokes of the morning bell. This is so because, according to Sir Leoline, life is really a living death. When the sacristan rings the bell, the sounds are taken up by the ghosts of three other sacristans in the neighbouring country and each matin bell thus echoes far and wide. When the three echoing sounds cease, the devil himself concludes the series with a merry peal from Borrowdale.
360—392. When she listens to the devil’s jubilant voice, Geraldine rises from her bed and awakens the lady Christabel also. For a little while Christabel is not sure whether the Geraldine she sees is the sinful Geraldine she had met (or had she only dreamt of her) last night or whether it is rather a pure-minded and innocent lady. In spite of her confusion, Christabel greets Geraldine kindly and leads her to meet Sir Leoline.
304—407. Christabel leads Geraldine to Sir Leoline’s room. After embracing his own daughter, be gives proper welcome to the Lady Geraldine. He learns her story and learns also that her father is Lord Roland de Vaux of Tryermaine. This suddenly and unaccountably upsets the Baron.
408—430. Sir Leoline and Lord Roland de Vaux had been formerly friends; but busybodies and scandalmongers poisoned their friendship. Through misunderstanding, each spoke harsh words to the other, and so they parted—and never met again. But neither of them was afterwards able to find another equally true friend. Their friendship shattered, they now stood like two cliffs cleft in two with a deep chasm between them. As Sir Leoline now gazes upon Geraldine’s face, it appears rather like the face of the youthful Lord Roland, so familiar to him in former times.
431—382. Now the Baron forgets his age and full of anger affirms that he will punish the men who have so infamously wronged Geraldine. He will challenge them to combat and kill them there and then. He also tearfully takes Geraldine in his arms, and she too meets his embrace readily. Meanwhile, Christabel sees—as in a flash—the real Geraldine; for a while she is awed and horror-stricken; but presently she sees her guardian spirit, and she is once again calm, and she is even able to smile rapturously. To her father’s query, she merely replies, ‘All will yet be well !’ ‘ While Christabel knows the truth, but cannot reveal it, Sir Leoline is wholly deceived by appearances and looks upon Geraldine as a thing divine; and Geraldine cunningly begs him to send her away to her father’s castel since she does not want to be a source of annoyance to Christabel.
483—518. Sir Leoline calls Bracy the bard and entrusts him with the task of proceedings to Tryermain and informing Lord Roland of his daughter’s safety. Bracy is also to invite Lord. Roland, with all his retinue, to Sir Leoline’s castle; and the Baron will meet Lord Roland half-way and express regret for the insulting words be had spoken long ago. And so they will be friends again.
519—563. Bracy the bard answers the Baron as follows: “ft is always a pleasure to obey you; by your permission let me not go on my journey today. I dreamed last night that the dove, by name Christabel, which you and your daugher alike love, was lying on the ground and screaming in pain. On looking closer at it, I found that a snake had coiled around its wings and neck. Presently, I awoke and found that it was midnight. Today I wish to wander in the forest and drive away with my saintly songs the snake-like, unholy creature that, according to my dream, is loitering there”.
564—620. When Bracy concludes, the Baron supposing that the dove in the dream signified Geraldine, tells her, “Your father and I will kill the snake (i e., your enemies)”. Geraldine blushingly turns away from the Baron and archly fixes upon Christabel dull, malicious eyes of a snake; immediately Geraldine’s look reverts to its previous brightness and she meets the Baron’s gaze. As for Chrisiabel, she shudders aloud with a hissing sound, she has no thought but the memory of the serpent glance; her own eyes shrink in irresistible response into the smallness and maliciousness of the serpent eye; and she stares at her own fattier with this deformed look. After a little while, her features relax, she is again her own sweet self; she prays inwardly and kneeling before her father, earnestly entreats him to send Geraldine away at once. The spell is still so strong that she is unable to say more by way of explanation.
621—-655 This request throws Sir Leoline into some confusion. On the one band, he loves his daughter his wife had died praying for the welfare of his daughter Christabel, his child and his late wife’s child, is doubly dear to him. On the other by making this request, Christabel has dishonoured him, spoilt his hospitality to his friend’s daughter. He suddenly makes up his mind, orders Bracy to go no his errand at once, and leaving Christabel alone, leads forth the lady Geraldine.
656—677. As a little child—a nimble fairylike child with beautiful cheeks_Christabel was always happy and always gladdened her father’s eyes. On this occasion, however, he treated her roughly; but this was due to the very excess of his love. It is strange that contradictory thoughts_love and anger_should sometimes live together; it is strange that people should love and at the same time say or do cruel things to the Objects of love. But such “Giddiness of heart and brain” is generally caused by anger and pain.