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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(1772-1834 / Devon / England)

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Fears In Solitude


A green and silent spot, amid the hills,
A small and silent dell ! O'er stiller place
No singing sky-lark ever poised himself.
The hills are heathy, save that swelling slope,
Which hath a gay and gorgeous covering on,
All golden with the never-bloomless furze,
Which now blooms most profusely : but the dell,
Bathed by the mist, is fresh and delicate
As vernal corn-field, or the unripe flax,
When, through its half-transparent stalks, at eve,
The level sunshine glimmers with green light.
Oh ! 'tis a quiet spirit-healing nook !
Which all, methinks, would love ; but chiefly he,
The humble man, who, in his youthful years,
Knew just so much of folly, as had made
His early manhood more securely wise !
Here he might lie on fern or withered heath,
While from the singing lark (that sings unseen
The minstrelsy that solitude loves best),
And from the sun, and from the breezy air,
Sweet influences trembled o'er his frame ;
And he, with many feelings, many thoughts,
Made up a meditative joy, and found
Religious meanings in the forms of Nature !
And so, his senses gradually wrapt
In a half sleep, he dreams of better worlds,
And dreaming hears thee still, O singing lark,
That singest like an angel in the clouds !

My God ! it is a melancholy thing
For such a man, who would full fain preserve
His soul in calmness, yet perforce must feel
For all his human brethren--O my God !
It weighs upon the heart, that he must think
What uproar and what strife may now be stirring
This way or that way o'er these silent hills--
Invasion, and the thunder and the shout,
And all the crash of onset ; fear and rage,
And undetermined conflict--even now,
Even now, perchance, and in his native isle :
Carnage and groans beneath this blessed sun !
We have offended, Oh ! my countrymen !
We have offended very grievously,
And been most tyrannous. From east to west
A groan of accusation pierces Heaven !
The wretched plead against us ; multitudes
Countless and vehement, the sons of God,
Our brethren ! Like a cloud that travels on,
Steamed up from Cairo's swamps of pestilence,
Even so, my countrymen ! have we gone forth
And borne to distant tribes slavery and pangs,
And, deadlier far, our vices, whose deep taint
With slow perdition murders the whole man,
His body and his soul ! Meanwhile, at home,
All individual dignity and power
Engulfed in Courts, Committees, Institutions,
Associations and Societies,
A vain, speach-mouthing, speech-reporting Guild,
One Benefit-Club for mutual flattery,
We have drunk up, demure as at a grace,
Pollutions from the brimming cup of wealth ;
Contemptuous of all honourable rule,
Yet bartering freedom and the poor man's life
For gold, as at a market ! The sweet words
Of Christian promise, words that even yet
Might stem destruction, were they wisely preached,
Are muttered o'er by men, whose tones proclaim
How flat and wearisome they feel their trade :
Rank scoffers some, but most too indolent
To deem them falsehoods or to know their truth.
Oh ! blasphemous ! the Book of Life is made
A superstitious instrument, on which
We gabble o'er the oaths we mean to break ;
For all must swear--all and in every place,
College and wharf, council and justice-court ;
All, all must swear, the briber and the bribed,
Merchant and lawyer, senator and priest,
The rich, the poor, the old man and the young ;
All, all make up one scheme of perjury,
That faith doth reel ; the very name of God
Sounds like a juggler's charm ; and, bold with joy,
Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place,
(Portentious sight !) the owlet Atheism,
Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,
Drops his blue-fringéd lids, and holds them close,
And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
Cries out, `Where is it ?'

[Image][Image][Image] Thankless too for peace,
(Peace long preserved by fleets and perilous seas)
Secure from actual warfare, we have loved
To swell the war-whoop, passionate for war !
Alas ! for ages ignorant of all
Its ghastlier workings, (famine or blue plague,
Battle, or siege, or flight through wintry snows,)
We, this whole people, have been clamorous
For war and bloodshed ; animating sports,
The which we pay for as a thing to talk of,
Spectators and not combatants ! No guess
Anticipative of a wrong unfelt,
No speculation on contingency,
However dim and vague, too vague and dim
To yield a justifying cause ; and forth,
(Stuffed out with big preamble, holy names,
And adjurations of the God in Heaven,)
We send our mandates for the certain death
Of thousands and ten thousands ! Boys and girls,
And women, that would groan to see a child
Pull off an insect's wing, all read of war,
The best amusement for our morning meal !
The poor wretch, who has learnt his only prayers
From curses, and who knows scarcely words enough
To ask a blessing from his Heavenly Father,
Becomes a fluent phraseman, absolute
And technical in victories and defeats,
And all our dainty terms for fratricide ;
Terms which we trundle smoothly o'er our tongues
Like mere abstractions, empty sounds to which
We join no feeling and attach no form !
As if the soldier died without a wound ;
As if the fibres of this godlike frame
Were gored without a pang ; as if the wretch,
Who fell in battle, doing bloody deeds,
Passed off to Heaven, translated and not killed ;
As though he had no wife to pine for him,
No God to judge him ! Therefore, evil days
Are coming on us, O my countrymen !
And what if all-avenging Providence,
Strong and retributive, should make us know
The meaning of our words, force us to feel
The desolation and the agony
Of our fierce doings ?

[Image][Image][Image] Spare us yet awhile,
Father and God ! O ! spare us yet awhile !
Oh ! let not English women drag their flight
Fainting beneath the burthen of their babes,
Of the sweet infants, that but yesterday
Laughed at the breast ! Sons, brothers, husbands, all
Who ever gazed with fondness on the forms
Which grew up with you round the same fire-side,
And all who ever heard the sabbath-bells
Without the infidel's scorn, make yourselves pure !
Stand forth ! be men ! repel an impious foe,
Impious and false, a light yet cruel race,
Who laugh away all virtue, mingling mirth
With deeds of murder ; and still promising
Freedom, themselves too sensual to be free,
Poison life's amities, and cheat the heart
Of faith and quiet hope, and all that soothes,
And all that lifts the spirit ! Stand we forth ;
Render them back upon the insulted ocean,
And let them toss as idly on its waves
As the vile sea-weed, which some mountain-blast
Swept from our shores ! And oh ! may we return
Not with a drunken triumph, but with fear,
Repenting of the wrongs with which we stung
So fierce a foe to frenzy !

[Image][Image][Image][Image] I have told,
O Britons ! O my brethren ! I have told
Most bitter truth, but without bitterness.
Nor deem my zeal or factious or mistimed ;
For never can true courage dwell with them,
Who, playing tricks with conscience, dare not look
At their own vices. We have been too long
Dupes of a deep delusion ! Some, belike,
Groaning with restless enmity, expect
All change from change of constituted power ;
As if a Government had been a robe,
On which our vice and wretchedness were tagged
Like fancy-points and fringes, with the robe
Pulled off at pleasure. Fondly these attach
A radical causation to a few
Poor drudges of chastising Providence,
Who borrow all their hues and qualities
From our own folly and rank wickedness,
Which gave them birth and nursed them. Others, meanwhile,
Dote with a mad idolatry ; and all
Who will not fall before their images,
And yield them worship, they are enemies
Even of their country !

[Image] [Image] [Image] Such have I been deemed--
But, O dear Britain ! O my Mother Isle !
Needs must thou prove a name most dear and holy
To me, a son, a brother, and a friend,
A husband, and a father ! who revere
All bonds of natural love, and find them all
Within the limits of thy rocky shores.
O native Britain ! O my Mother Isle !
How shouldst thou prove aught else but dear and holy
To me, who from thy lakes and mountain-hills,
Thy clouds, thy quiet dales, thy rocks and seas,
Have drunk in all my intellectual life,
All sweet sensations, all ennobling thoughts,
All adoration of God in nature,
All lovely and all honourable things,
Whatever makes this mortal spirit feel
The joy and greatness of its future being ?
There lives nor form nor feeling in my soul
Unborrowed from my country ! O divine
And beauteous island ! thou hast been my sole
And most magnificent temple, in the which
I walk with awe, and sing my stately songs,
Loving the God that made me !--

[Image][Image][Image][Image][Image] May my fears,
My filial fears, be vain ! and may the vaunts
And menace of the vengeful enemy
Pass like the gust, that roared and died away
In the distant tree : which heard, and only heard
In this low dell, bowed not the delicate grass.

But now the gentle dew-fall sends abroad
The fruit-like perfume of the golden furze :
The light has left the summit of the hill,
Though still a sunny gleam lies beautiful,
Aslant the ivied beacon. Now farewell,
Farewell, awhile, O soft and silent spot !
On the green sheep-track, up the heathy hill,
Homeward I wind my way ; and lo ! recalled
From bodings that have well-nigh wearied me,
I find myself upon the brow, and pause
Startled ! And after lonely sojourning
In such a quiet and surrounded nook,
This burst of prospect, here the shadowy main,
Dim tinted, there the mighty majesty
Of that huge amphitheatre of rich
And elmy fields, seems like society--
Conversing with the mind, and giving it
A livelier impulse and a dance of thought !
And now, belovéd Stowey ! I behold
Thy church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms
Clustering, which mark the mansion of my friend ;
And close behind them, hidden from my view,
Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe
And my babe's mother dwell in peace ! With light
And quickened footsteps thitherward I tend,
Remembering thee, O green and silent dell !
And grateful, that by nature's quietness
And solitary musings, all my heart
Is softened, and made worthy to indulge
Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human kind.

Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2001
Edited: Monday, May 14, 2001

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Read poems about / on: solitude, war, god, green, farewell, father, heaven, nature, peace, freedom, mother, joy, women, lonely, faith, change, light, power, truth, murder

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Comments about this poem (Fears In Solitude by Samuel Taylor Coleridge )

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  • Rookie Patricia Northall (3/5/2014 2:23:00 PM)

    I agree with the first comment, it is far too long, and he does tend to stray from one train
    of thought to another without clarity. But, then reading the remaining comments they feel
    it is very good poetry, and see the meaning of war, bloodshed, and understand why he
    wrote the poem. I am not a scholar, so I'm afraid my comments are very basic, and rest
    on whether I understand the message of the poem immediately, and the writer's inspiration,
    I found it a very confusing poem to read, and follow. (Report) Reply

  • Bronze Star - 6,257 Points Mr. Nobody (3/4/2014 9:53:00 PM)

    Too long for my short attention span,
    therefore my friend, sorry, I am no fan! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 8 Points Thomas Vaughan Jones (3/4/2014 3:13:00 PM)

    Coleridge's most famed work was arguably, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Sadly, as his mental health failed, he became a religious fanatic and began to ramble. The language in this piece is understandably archaic, as a long time has elapsed since he roamed the Lake District, and the punctuation makes this political mantra even more obscure. Rejected love and religious mania have not, in my opinion, created a poem of any great note here. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Terence George Craddock (3/4/2010 5:07:00 PM)

    Fears In Solitude by Samuel Taylor Coleridge is not a simple Romantic Lyric poem reflecting upon nature. The poem was written in April 1798 and is not neutral musings about nature, an imaginative flight and return to reality, but rather a reaction to fearful politics of the time. The poem is problematic, a misfit conversational poem of the eighteenth century, with a structural pattern rather like the seventeenth century meditation poem. It is a composition of place and analysis, written during the alarm of invasion. The belief the French threatened to invade Great Britain, and support the Irish rebellion, results in national preparation for possible invasion.
    ‘It weighs upon the heart, that he must think
    What uproar and what strife may now be stirring
    This way or that way o'er these silent hills-
    Invasion, and the thunder and the shout,
    And all the crash of onset; fear and rage, ’
    Coleridge writes this patriotic defense of homeland, with unity of mankind and nature, expressed with a fear that invasion will destroy this unity. Coleridge’s belief is man should live a simple life in harmony with nature. However Coleridge is still critical of some British politics which are like a plague that spreads similar vile practice to other nations.
    ‘Our brethren! Like a cloud that travels on,
    Steamed up from Cairo's swamps of pestilence,
    Even so, my countrymen! have we gone forth
    And borne to distant tribes slavery and pangs,
    And, deadlier far, our vices, whose deep taint
    With slow perdition murders the whole man, ’
    This to my mind is a direct attack on the slave trade, Pitt supports anti slavery but the revenue is needed to support a war against France, and Pitt feared if Britain abolishes slavery at this time France will take Britain’s former place in the slavery market and become even more powerful.
    Coleridge is not writing a simple conversational poem, investigating landscape in reflective contrast to the effects of the French revolution, within the spiritual nationalistic nature of empires at this time. Coleridge is conflicted, suffering from a lack of heart, he has no eternal truths; he was an early supporter the French revolution, as a Jacoblin and radical but has now recanted. His belief this revolution will bring needed political change to Great Britain and Europe, dissolves with the revolutionary crimes of the new French government and the swift invasions of European nations that follow. Coleridge with lost faith in the revolutionary cause, turns from radical to more conservative. Proof of this and the political nature of the poem, are the removed lines attacking William Pitt and the British government in some later editions. The pastoral images beginning and ending the poem, rejoice in mankind in harmony and peace with the ‘fresh and delicate’ balance of nature. A long poem due to the necessity of what the poet needs to exclaim. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Pruchnicki (3/4/2010 12:11:00 PM)

    The feisty and bloodthirsty skylark is something I never saw or heard of in all my born days! More likely the tiny passerine is an anthropomorphic symbol of joy (see Shelley's 'To a Skylark' and Keats' 'Ode to a Nightingale') or a symbol of the visionary imagination! Coleridge is well aware of man's inhumanity towards his fellow creatures. The 'Fears' that beset the poet in his solitude concern the dangers whether or not they may seem factious or ill-timed are only too real. Coleridge decries the meaningless mumbo-jumbo and ignorance of the clergy to the 'sweet words of Christian promise'! Do not consider Coleridge a dreamy and limp-wristed scribbler - he had trained as a soldier as a young man and distrusted the politician who can rattle off all the 'dainty terrms for fratricide' and allow the deaths of 'thousands or ten thousands'! If we don't think about this slaughter, who will? (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (3/4/2010 5:49:00 AM)

    There is a deep irony in this piece. The country in which Coleridge finds such solace, and the peace of which he implicitly contrasts with the dreadful bloodthirstiness of the world of man is itself red in tooth and law. The skylark which flies above him to his joy is looking for something to kill or perhaps defending its territory. The terrain itself, is the result of man’s wresting from nature a viable home.

    The difference between man and nature is less than the Romantics thought. To be able to sit unmolested in the countryside is the result of thousands of years of bloody and ruthless strife. He is right about the people who glory in war, but wrong that nature is that much different. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 212 Points Ramesh T A (3/4/2010 1:44:00 AM)

    Pure poetry of a great poet Coleridge cannot be taken lightly! Whatever he said is eternal truth! Everything is repeating underscoring the need for the transformation of humanity! The cool, calm and beautiful Nature makes him muse over the wrongs of State and hypocrisy everywhere and the fear he gets is genuine to feel. Introspection is needed to restore the peace and beauty of Nature to enjoy ever! The message is still thought provoking though it was composed in the 18th century and makes one believe ht history repeats itself again and not the world is changing for the better! I appreciate my favourite poet's view forever! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Michael Whinney (3/4/2005 11:42:00 AM)

    Great poetry and so applicable to our present day in UK! I have read and re-read as ther is so much to ponder in it. Thank you.
    What date was it written please? Early or late? (Report) Reply

Read all 8 comments »

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