Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - To a Gentleman
Composed on the night after his recitation of a Poem on the Growth of an Individual Mind. [The Prelude]
January 1807

Friend of the Wise! and teacher of the Good!
Into my heart have I received that Lay
More than historic, that prophetic Lay
Wherein (high theme by thee first sung aright)
Of the foundations and the building up
Of the human spirit, thou hast dared to tell
What may be told, to th'undertanding mind
Revealable; and what within the mind
By vital Breathings, like the secret soul
Of vernal growth, oft quickens in the Heart
Thoughts all too deep for words! -

Theme as hard as high!
Of smiles spontaneous, and mysterious fears
(The first born they of Reason and twin-birth)
Of tides obedient to external force,
And currents self-determined, as might seem,
Or by some inner Power; of moments awful,
Now in thy inner life, and now abroad,
When Power stream'd from thee, and thy soul received
The light reflected, as a light bestow'd -
Of Fancies fair, and milder hours of youth,
Hyblean murmurs of Poetic Thought
Industrious in its Joy, in Vales and Glens
Native or outland, Lakes and famous Hills!
Or on the lonely High-road, when the Stars
Were rising; or by secret Mountain-streams,
The Guides and Companions of thy way!

Of more than Fancy, of the Social Sense
Distending wide, and Man belov'd as Man,
Where France in all her Towns lay vibrating
Even as a Bark becalm'd beneath the Burst
Of Heaven's immediate Thunder, when no cloud
Is visible, or shadow on the Main.
For thou wert there, thine own brows garlanded,
Amid the tremor of a realm aglow,
Amid a mighty nation jubilant,
When from the general Heart of Human kind
Hope sprang forth like a full-born Deity!
-- Of that dear Hope afflicted and struck down,
So summon'd homeward, thenceforth calm and sure
From the dread Watch-Tower of man's absolute Self,
With light unwaning on her eyes, to look
Far on - herself a glory to behold,
The Angel of the vision! Then (last strain)
Of Duty, chosen Laws cotrolling choice,
Action and Joy! - An orphic song indeed,
A song divine of high and passionate thoughts,
To their own Music chaunted!

O great Bard!
Ere yet that last strain dying awed the air,
With stedfast eye I view'd thee in the choir
Of ever enduring men. The truly Great
Have all one age, and from one visible space
Shed influence! They, both in power and act,
Are permanent, and Time is not with them,
Save as it worketh for them, they in it.
Nor less a sacred Roll, than those of old
And to be placed, as they with gradual fame
Among the Archives of Mankind, thy work
Makes audible a linked lay of Truth,
Of Truth profound a sweet continuous lay,
Not learnt, but native, her own natural notes!
Ah! as I listen'd with a heart forlorn
The pulses of my Being beat anew:
And even as Life returns upon the Drown'd,
Life's joy rekindling rous'd a throng of Pains -
Keen Pangs of Love, awakening as a babe
Turbulent, with an outcry in the heart;
And fears self-will'd, that shunn'd the eye of Hope;
And Hope that scarce would know itself from Fear;
Sense of past Youth, and Manhood come in vain,
And Genius given, and Knowledge won in vain;
And all which I had cull'd in Wood-walks wild,
And all which patient toil had rear'd, and all,
Commune with thee had open'd out - but Flowers
Strew'd on my corse, and borne upon my Bier,
In the same Coffin, for the self-same Grave!

That way no more! and ill beseems it me,
Who came a welcomer in Herald's Guise,
Singing of Glory, and Futurity,
To wander back on such unhealthful road,
Plucking the poisons of self-harm! And ill
Such Intertwine beseems triumphal wreaths
Strew'd before thy advancing!

Nor do thou,
Sage Bard! impair the memory of that hour
Of thy communion with my nobler mind
By Pity or Grief, already felt too long!
Nor let my words import more blame than needs.
The tumult rose and ceas'd: for Peace is nigh
Where wisdom's voice has found a listeing heart.
Amid the howl of more than wintry storms,
The Halcyon hears the voice of vernal Hours
Already on the wing!

Eve following Eve,
Dear tranqul time, when the sweet sense of Home
Is sweetest! moments for their own sake hail'd
And more desired, more precious for thy song,
In silence listening, like a devout child,
My soul lay passive, by they various strain
Driven, as in surges now beneath the stars,
With momentary Stars of my own birth,
Fair constellated Foam, still darting off
Into the darkness; now a tranqul sea,
Outspread and bright, yet swelling to the Moon.

And when - O Friend! my comforter and guide!
Strong in thy self, and powerful to give strength! -
Thy long sustained Song finally closed,
And thy deep voice had ceased - yet thou thyself
Wert still before my eyes, and round us both
That happy vision of beloved Faces -
Scarce conscious, and yet conscious of its close
I sate, my being blended in one thought
(Thought was it?  or Aspiration? or Resolve?)
Absorb'd, yet hanging still upon the sound -
And when I rose, I found myself in prayer.

Extravagant praise indeed, and praise which leaves little room for a successful encore.