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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Frost at Midnight >


Fears in Solitude etc (1798, 26)
composed February 1798 (26)

The Frost performs its secret ministry, 
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet's cry 
Came loud - and hark, again! loud as before. 
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest, 
Have left me to that solitude, which suits 
Abstruser musings : save that at my side 
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully. 
'Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs 
And vexes meditation with its strange 
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood, 
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood, 
With all the numberless goings-on of life, 
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame 
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not; 
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate, 
Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing. 
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature 
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live, 
Making it a companionable form, 
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit 
By its own moods interprets, every where 
Echo or mirror seeking of itself, 
And makes a toy of Thought. 

But O! how oft, 
How oft, at school, with most believing mind, 
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars, 
To watch that fluttering stranger! and as oft 
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt 
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower, 
Whose bells, the poor man's only music, rang 
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day, 
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me 
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear 
Most like articulate sounds of things to come! 
So gazed I, till the soothing things I dreamt, 
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams! 
And so I brooded all the following morn, 
Awed by the stern preceptor's face, mine eye 
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book : 
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched 
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up, 
For still I hoped to see the stranger's face, 
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, 
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike! 

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side, 
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm, 
Fill up the interspersèd vacancies 
And momentary pauses of the thought! 
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart 
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee, 
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore, 
And in far other scenes! For I was reared 
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, 
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. 
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze 
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags 
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds, 
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores 
And mountain crags : so shalt thou see and hear 
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible 
Of that eternal language, which thy God 
Utters, who from eternity doth teach 
Himself in all, and all things in himself. 
Great universal Teacher! He shall mould 
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

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