[Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London]Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lostBeauties and feelings, such as would have beenMost sweet to my remembrance even when ageHad dimm’d mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,Friends, whom I never more may meet again,On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,To that still roaring dell, of which I told;The roaring dell, o’erwooded, narrow, deep,And only speckled by the mid-day sun;Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rockFlings arching like a bridge;—that branchless ash,Unsunn’d and damp, whose few poor yellow leavesNe’er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,Fann’d by the water-fall! and there my friendsBehold the dark green file of long lank weeds,That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edgeOf the blue clay-stone.Now, my friends emergeBeneath the wide wide Heaven—and view againThe many-steepled tract magnificentOf hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light upThe slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two IslesOf purple shadow! Yes! they wander onIn gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pinedAnd hunger’d after Nature, many a year,In the great City pent, winning thy wayWith sad yet patient soul, through evil and painAnd strange calamity! Ah! slowly sinkBehind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friendStruck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing roundOn the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seemLess gross than bodily; and of such huesAs veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makesSpirits perceive his presence.A delightComes sudden on my heart, and I am gladAs I myself were there! Nor in this bower,This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’dMuch that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blazeHung the transparent foliage; and I watch’dSome broad and sunny leaf, and lov’d to seeThe shadow of the leaf and stem aboveDappling its sunshine! And that walnut-treeWas richly ting’d, and a deep radiance layFull on the ancient ivy, which usurpsThose fronting elms, and now, with blackest massMakes their dark branches gleam a lighter hueThrough the late twilight: and though now the batWheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,Yet still the solitary humble-beeSings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall knowThat Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,No waste so vacant, but may well employEach faculty of sense, and keep the heartAwake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes‘Tis well to be bereft of promis’d good,That we may lift the soul, and contemplateWith lively joy the joys we cannot share.My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rookBeat its straight path along the dusky airHomewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)Had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,While thou stood’st gazing; or, when all was still,Flew creeking o’er thy head, and had a charmFor thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whomNo sound is dissonant which tells of Life.SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
I will not bore the readers with a critical appreciation of the poem, with years of doing that I think I have come to hate it on so many levels. But yes, I leave with the reader my thoughts on the poem and how it has influenced me in my life.
This poem by Coleridge has remained my favorite since the undergraduate days. I had been introduced to Coleridge with the “Ancient Mariner” when in High School and frankly, it seemed to dreary and dark for me to like. As a young person, too young perhaps to recognize that darkness exists everywhere and most often we do not notice it because of the light. The significance of this poem came to me one dreary afternoon working in my first job, straight out of a B-School. I yearned to be with my friends in the dingy canteen of my institute filling up on egg fried rice or biriyani, with a bottle of thumbs up, catching up on the latest movies on a sleepy afternoon after bunking off classes, gossiping during group study in a friend’s home. I didn’t want to wade through hundreds of badly typed, framed, misspelled resumes and sort them in order of whether they came from North or South of the city.
This poem has graced my cubicle wall for years behind calendars, post it notes, notices, labor laws, minimum wage declarations and what not. It has shared space with photos of boy friend, heart-throb, sometimes a deity of some importance. It has remained in my heart and pops up in my head from time to time.
It is usually a time when I am feeling down, unhappy with my current location and circumstance, wishing for being somewhere else, seeing in my mind’s eye the fantastic opportunity for enjoyment that I am missing by not being somewhere that I want to be. That’s when like Coleridge I have my tiny bit of epiphany, I see myself in the wider context of my life and where I stand today and how much I have gained and how little I have suffered in comparison to so many I know… and these sober me. They leave me a little more thankful for the life I am lucky to live. For that moment, at least, I am not unhappy, nor craving to be somewhere, for that moment I am okay where I am because at that moment I see how my imagination will always be with me and if ever I want to visit a place I miss, it will be clear and true in my memory. I will see it in my mind and I will not be saddened by the distance between us. I will only think of the happy memories that place in my mind has created and left with me.
Coleridge’s poem has touched me on a deeper level than I can fully describe. It remains one of my absolute favorites.
Reference Sources: poetryfoundation.org, Image Courtesy [Copyright not held by me]