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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.