Frost at Midnight

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 
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, everywhere
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 birthplace, 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 playmate 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 interspersed 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 fro eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
They spirit, and by giving make it ask.
   Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sunthaw; whether the eve-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.
 

Poems by This Author

Answer to a Child's Question by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove
Christabel [excerpt] by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed
Constancy to an Ideal Object by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Since all that beat about in Nature's range
Fragment 3: Come, come thou bleak December wind by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Come, come thou bleak December wind
Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
Love by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
All thoughts, all passions, all delights
Ne Plus Ultra by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Sole Positive of Night!
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It is an ancient mariner
This Lime Tree Bower My Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain
What Is an Epigram? by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole
Work Without Hope by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair