Text of the Poem

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-flower'd Jasmin, and the broad-leav'd 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 should Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatch'd from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea
Tells us of silence.

                        And that simplest Lute,
Plac'd 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 every where—
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 eye-lids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquillity;
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 belovéd 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 healéd me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wildered and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this cot, and thee, heart-honour'd Maid!


  1. “Plastic” is used here as an adjective meaning soft, supple, and malleable, the opposite of rigid and inflexible or unbending.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. “Phantasies,” a variant spelling of “fantasies,” refers to thoughts or desires born of the imagination. In context, Coleridge’s speaker describes the “wild and various” ideas that come to him through nature, comparing them through a simile to the “random gales” of music created on the eolian harp. The passage moves the poem from a description of the music of the harp to an expression of an unconventional spiritual belief in the lines that follow.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. In context, “main” refers to the sea, undoubtedly Bristol Channel near Clevedon, the poem’s setting. The passage includes both personification and a simile in describing sunshine reflected by the surface of the water. The sunbeams look “like diamonds” (a simile) as they “dance” on the sea (personification). The image is one of light and beauty that is consistent with the poem’s celebration of nature.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The passage includes two examples of personification, as the breeze and Music are given human traits. The breeze sings, and Music, a feminine being, sleeps on the harp when the air is still.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. The harp’s music is again described with a simile. It is compared to the bewitching sound made by elves at twilight in “Fairy-Land” as they float on gentle breezes. The description underscores the beauty of the music and imbues it with magical qualities.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. The music of the harp is now described with a simile, comparing it to the flirtatious protests of a maiden pretending to resist her lover’s advances. As such, the music is “sweet” and alluring.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. In the context of the line, “desultory” means sporadic or inconsistent, indicating that only an occasional breeze passes over the strings of the eolian harp in the window. The description of the breeze implies that the music it creates in the harp is not continuous nor forceful.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. “Simplest Lute” refers to an eolian harp, a type of instrument that produces music when wind passes over it and makes its strings vibrate. Coleridge’s speaker draws Sara’s attention to the music being created by an eolian harp placed in a window of the cottage.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The “star of eve” refers to the evening star, a common name for the planet Venus which appears in the western sky after sunset. The beauty of the “star” compensates for the lost beauty of the sunset, suggesting that beauty is found in all of nature.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The “s” sound in “slow” alliterates with “saddening,” “star,” “serenely,” “scents,” “snatched,” “so,” “stilly,” “sea,” “silence,” and “simplest.” The soft sibilance of the “s” sound creates the “hushed” atmosphere Coleridge is describing.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. An example of alliteration, the initial “l” sound in “late” is repeated in “light.” The sound device introduces the extensive use of alliteration in the lines that follow, adding a lyrical, flowing quality to the verse.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. As used here, “meet” means suitable, proper, or appropriate. In several ancient cultures, jasmine symbolized purity, and the flower of the myrtle symbolized lasting love. Jasmine and myrtle “overgrowing” the cottage suggests a romantic relationship between Coleridge’s speaker and Sara.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. Jasmine is a climbing plant known for its fragrant white flowers; myrtle is an evergreen shrub that produces white flowers and red berries. The abundance of these flowering plants at the cottage emphasizes the natural beauty of the poem’s setting.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  14. “Cot” is an abbreviated form of “cottage,” a small, simple home often found in the English countryside. The word underscores the poem’s rural setting.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. Coleridge’s speaker addresses Sara immediately at the beginning of the poem and establishes that she is beside him. This indicates that he will be speaking to her throughout the stanzas.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  16. “Pensive” means reflective or contemplative and suggests being quietly lost in thought. The connotations of the word create an atmosphere of silence and serenity as the poem begins.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor