THE EOLIAN HARP
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Composed at Clevedon, Somersetshire
My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o’ergrown
With white-flowered Jasmin, and the broad-leaved Myrtle,
(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,
Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
Serenely brilliant (such would Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatched from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea
Tells us of silence.
And that simplest Lute,
Placed length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caressed,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere—
Methinks, it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so filled;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
And thus, my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-closed eyelids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquility:
Full many a thought uncalled and undetained,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!
And what if all of animated nature
Be but organic Harps diversely framed,
That tremble into thought, as o’er them sweeps
Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze,
At once the Soul of each, and God of all?
But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallowed dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
Meek Daughter in the family of Christ!
Well hast thou said and holily dispraised
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy’s aye-babbling spring.
For never guiltless may I speak of him,
The Incomprehensible! save when with awe
I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
Who with his saving mercies healèd me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wildered and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honored Maid!
It was the sensible thing to do. He married Sara, but his heart belonged to Mary Evans. As is often the case (alas) there is little indication that Mary’s affections were likewise attuned to Samuel and marrying Sara would further his scheme of a Pantisocratic community. He was torn, but at Robert Southey’s urging, he trusted his heart to follow his logic.
In Chapter Three of Mariner, Malcolm Guite writes:
…he summed up things between himself and Sara like this:
“you remember what a Fetter I burst [his love for Mary], and that it snapt as if it had been a sinew of my heart. However I returned to Bristol, and my addresses to Sara, which I at ﬁrst paid from Principle, not Feeling, from Feeling & from Principle I renewed; and I met a reward more than proportionate to the greatness of the Effort. I love and I am beloved, and I am happy.”
Indeed, there is real evidence that Coleridge and Sara were very happy together in the ﬁrst few years of their marriage and that Coleridge’s application of “principle and virtue,” as he saw it, did blossom into real love and affection.
Did you marry your first love?
Join the discussion on Facebook HERE
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.