Thou shalt wander like a breeze


Today is the birthday of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), and so I post this excerpt from one of his poems, Frost at Midnight. Coleridge’s better-known works include the innovative yet strange (one might even say alarming) poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan, but I chose one that reveals another side of this unhappy, troubled, brilliant man: a tender-hearted and optimistic poem written while caring for his new infant son Hartley. Clearly he anticipates a loftier path for Hartley than the one he has followed himself.

Accompanying it is a detail from a larger painting.

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.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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