The Eolian Harp: composed August 20th 1795 at Clevedon, Somersetshire

A favourite poem of Coleridge’s, and one he worked on almost all his life.  He is writing about his honeymoon cottage. He and Sara Fricker married in October, but this poem suggests they were domesticating earlier in the year.  For the poem’s genesis, see Paul Cheshire, Coleridge Bulletin 17.  The poem is packed tight with lines of thought Coleridge will both develop and reject in later years. PW 115

 

Myrtle Cottage, ClevedonMy pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclin’d
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
To sit beside our cot, our Cot o’er grown
With white-flower’d Jasmin, and the broad-leav’d Myrtle,
(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,
Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
Serenely brilliant (such would Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatch’d from yon bean-field! and the world so hush’d!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea
Tells us of silence.
                              And that simplest Lute,
Plac’d length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caress’d,
Like some coy maid half-yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraidings, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where (Melodies) round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam’d wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so fill’d;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air,
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
    
And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst thro’ my half-clos’d eye-lids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquillity;
Full many a thought uncall’d and undetain’d,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various, as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!

And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual Breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?

But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallow’d dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
Meek Daughter in the family of Christ,
Well hast thou said and holily dispraised
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring.
For never guiltless may I speak of Him,
The Incomprehensible!! save when with awe
I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
Who with his saving mercies healéd me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wilder’d and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this Cot, and Thee, heart-honor’d Maid!