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Frost at Midnight


    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, every where
    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 birth-place, 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 play-mate 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 shall 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 from eternity doth teach
    Himself in all, and all things in himself.
    Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
    Thy 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 sun-thaw; whether the eave-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 one of many published by the EServer, a nonprofit collective.