poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a leader of the British Romantic movement, was born on October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England. His father, a vicar of a parish and master of a grammar school, married twice and had fourteen children. The youngest child in the family, Coleridge was a student at his father's school and an avid reader. After his father died in 1781, Coleridge attended Christ's Hospital School in London, where he met lifelong friend Charles Lamb. While in London, he also befriended a classmate named Tom Evans, who introduced Coleridge to his family. Coleridge fell in love with Tom's older sister, Mary.

Coleridge's father had always wanted his son to be a clergyman, so when Coleridge entered Jesus College, University of Cambridge in 1791, he focused on a future in the Church of England. Coleridge's views, however, began to change over the course of his first year at Cambridge. He became a supporter of William Frend, a Fellow at the college whose Unitarian beliefs made him a controversial figure. While at Cambridge, Coleridge also accumulated a large debt, which his brothers eventually had to pay off. Financial problems continued to plague him throughout his life, and he constantly depended on the support of others.

En route to Wales in June 1794, Coleridge met a student named Robert Southey. Striking an instant friendship, Coleridge postponed his trip for several weeks, and the men shared their philosophical ideas. Influenced by Plato's Republic, they constructed a vision of pantisocracy (equal government by all), which involved emigrating to the New World with ten other families to set up a commune on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Coleridge and Southey envisioned the men sharing the workload, a great library, philosophical discussions, and freedom of religious and political beliefs.

After finally visiting Wales, Coleridge returned to England to find that Southey had become engaged to a woman named Edith Fricker. As marriage was an integral part of the plan for communal living in the New World, Coleridge decided to marry another Fricker daughter, Sarah. Coleridge wed in 1795, in spite of the fact that he still loved Mary Evans, who was engaged to another man. Coleridge's marriage was unhappy and he spent much of it apart from his wife. During that period, Coleridge and Southey collaborated on a play titled The Fall of Robespierre (1795). While the pantisocracy was still in the planning stages, Southey abandoned the project to pursue his legacy in law. Left without an alternative plan, Coleridge spent the next few years beginning his career as a writer. He never returned to Cambridge to finish his degree.

In 1795 Coleridge befriended William Wordsworth, who greatly influenced Coleridge's verse. Coleridge, whose early work was celebratory and conventional, began writing in a more natural style. In his "conversation poems," such as "The Eolian Harp" and "This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison," Coleridge used his intimate friends and their experiences as subjects. The following year, Coleridge published his first volume of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, and began the first of ten issues of a liberal political publication entitled The Watchman. From 1797 to 1798 he lived near Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy, in Somersetshire. In 1798 the two men collaborated on a joint volume of poetry entitled Lyrical Ballads. The collection is considered the first great work of the Romantic school of poetry and contains Coleridge's famous poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

That autumn the two poets traveled to the Continent together. Coleridge spent most of the trip in Germany, studying the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Jakob Boehme, and G. E. Lessing. While there he mastered the German language and began translating. When he returned to England in 1800, he settled with family and friends at Keswick. Over the next two decades Coleridge lectured on literature and philosophy, wrote about religious and political theory, spent two years on the island of Malta as a secretary to the governor in an effort to overcome his poor health and his opium addiction, and lived off of financial donations and grants. Still addicted to opium, he moved in with the physician James Gillman in 1816. In 1817, he published Biographia Literaria, which contained his finest literary criticism. He continued to publish poetry and prose, notably Sibylline Leaves (1817), Aids to Reflection (1825), and Church and State (1830). He died in London on July 25, 1834.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Arch (1798)
Arch (1800)
Biographia Literaria (1907)
Christabel: Kubla Khan, a Vision; The Pains of Sleep (1816)
Fears in Solitude (1798)
Lyrical Ballads, with a few Other Poems (1798)
Poems (1803)
Poems on Various Subjects (1796)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Oxford Authors (1985)
Selections from the Sybilline Leaves of S. T. Coleridge (1827)
Sibylline Leaves: A Collection of Poems (1817)
Sonnets from various authors (1796)
The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1969)
The Complete Poetical Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1912)
The Devil's Walk: A Poem (1830)
The Literary Remains in Prose and Verse of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1839)
The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge (1828)

Prose

A Moral and Political Lecture (1795)
Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character (1825)
Biographia Literaria, or Biographical Sketches of my Literary Life and Opinions (1817)
Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1973)
Conciones ad Populum, or Addresses to the People (1795)
Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit (1841)
Essays on His Own Times; forming a second series of "The Friend," (1850)
Hints towards the Formation of a more Comprehensive Theory of Life (1848)
On the Constitution of Church and State (1830)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Selected Letters (1987)
Seven Lectures upon Shakespeare and Milton (1856)
Specimens of the Table Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1835)
The Friend: A Literary, Moral, and Political Weekly Paper (1810)
The Friend; A Series of Essays (1812)
The Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1895)
The Notebooks of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1957)
The Philosophical Lectures of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1949)
The Plot Discovered, or an Address to the People Against Ministerial Treason (1795)
The Statesman's Manual, or The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight: A Lay Sermon (1816)
Unpublished Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1932)
Zapolya: A Christmas Tale (1817)

Drama

Remorse, A Tragedy, in Five Acts (1813)
The Fall of Robespierre. An Historic Drama (1794)

Periodicals

The Watchman: A Periodical Publication (1796)

Frost at Midnight

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772 - 1834
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.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a leader of the British Romantic movement, was born on October 21, 1772, in Devonshire, England.

by this poet

poem
All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—	 
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—	 
And Winter, slumbering in the open air,	 
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!	 
And I, the while, the sole unbusy thing,	         
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.	 
 
Yet well I ken the
poem
Beneath the lamp the lady bowed,
And slowly rolled her eyes around;
Then drawing in her breath aloud,
Like one that shuddered, she unbound
The cincture from beneath her breast:
Her silken robe, and inner vest,
Dropt to her feet, and full in view,
Behold! her bosom, and half her side—
A sight to dream of, not to
poem
What is an Epigram? A dwarfish whole,
Its body brevity, and wit its soul.