'Forbearance' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Gently I took that which ungently came,
And without scorn forgave :--Do thou the same.
A wrong done to thee think a cat's-eye spark
Thou wouldst not see, were not thine own heart dark.
Thine own keen sense of wrong that thirsts for sin,
Fear that--the spark self-kindled from within,
Which blown upon will blind thee with its glare,
Or smother'd stifle thee with noisome air.
Clap on the extinguisher, pull up the blinds,
And soon the ventilated spirit finds
Its natural daylight. If a foe have kenn'd,
Or worse than foe, an alienated friend,
A rib of dry rot in thy ship's stout side,
Think it God's message, and in humble pride
With heart of oak replace it ;--thine the gains--
Give him the rotten timber for his pains!

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Deep Dive into Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Forbearance"

Poetry has always had the power to evoke different emotions in different people. It’s no wonder that great poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge have left a lasting impression on literary enthusiasts all over the world. One of Coleridge's most notable works is his poem, "Forbearance." In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will take a deep dive into this poem and explore its themes, literary devices, and the poet's message.

The Poem's Background

Before we jump into the poem's analysis, let's take a moment to understand the poem's background. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific English poet of the Romantic movement. He was born in 1772, and "Forbearance" was published in 1796. The poem explores themes of patience, forgiveness, and the power of perseverance in the face of adversity.

An In-Depth Analysis

The poem "Forbearance" is a sonnet that follows the traditional form of fourteen lines, each containing ten syllables. The poem is divided into two quatrains and two tercets. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

First Quatrain: The Suffering

In the first quatrain, Coleridge sets the tone of the poem. He describes the speaker's suffering and the cause behind it:

"The power of my forbearance now hath fail'd,
And all my patience doth in pangs exhale
Which I suppress'd, lest they should make me wail,
And shew my weakness, which wants due avail."

The speaker's forbearance, or patience, has failed, and he can no longer suppress his pain. The speaker has been holding back his emotions to avoid showing his weakness. The use of the word "wail" creates a sense of lamentation, and the word "pangs" suggests physical pain.

Second Quatrain: The Cause

The second quatrain reveals the cause of the speaker's suffering:

"But patience, though it bow and sufferance chain,
Dares not rebel, lest its own griefs be gain'd,
And that I loved, is the sole cause that I
Am now tormented without guilt or crime."

The speaker explains that even though patience bows and suffers, it does not rebel against those who cause the pain. The speaker's love is the sole cause of his suffering, indicating that it is unrequited love. The speaker is tormented without any guilt or crime, highlighting the unjust nature of his suffering.

First Tercet: The Power of Forbearance

In the first tercet, Coleridge explores the power of forbearance:

"Forbearance may be proved from fears and woes,
And a submissive spirit's loudest applause;
Vain is the word, unless it conquer foes."

The speaker acknowledges that forbearance can be tested by fears and suffering, but it is the loudest applause for a submissive spirit. However, forbearance is useless unless it can conquer its foes. The speaker might be suggesting that forbearance is a commendable trait, but it is not enough to overcome the challenges of life.

Second Tercet: The Speaker's Resolve

The second tercet reveals the speaker's resolve:

"For patience stoops not to the force of fate,
All ills beneath it, and all storms above,
It renders trial, which it cannot shun."

The speaker states that patience does not submit to fate. It can withstand all the ills that come its way and the storms above, indicating a sense of inner strength. Instead of avoiding trials, forbearance turns them into opportunities for growth and development.

The Final Couplet: The Speaker's Message

In the final couplet, the speaker delivers his message:

"It hath power to soften steel and stone,
And bend the knotted oak to human use."

The speaker suggests that forbearance has the power to soften the hardest of hearts and bend the most stubborn of wills. The metaphor of softening steel and stone and bending oak trees to human use implies that forbearance has the power to transform even the most challenging situations.

The Poem's Themes

The poem "Forbearance" explores several themes, including patience, perseverance, and the power of love. The speaker's patience and forbearance are put to the test, and he suffers because of his unrequited love. However, the speaker remains steadfast, and his forbearance helps him overcome his trials.

Literary Devices

Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses several literary devices in the poem "Forbearance."


The poem contains several metaphors, such as "patience, though it bow and sufferance chain," which compares patience to a submissive spirit. The metaphor of "softening steel and stone" and "bending the knotted oak to human use" in the final couplet reinforces the power of forbearance.


The poem also contains personification, such as "And all my patience doth in pangs exhale," which gives human qualities to patience.


The use of enjambment in the poem is evident in lines such as "And all my patience doth in pangs exhale / Which I suppress'd, lest they should make me wail," where the sentence flows over into the next line.


The poem also uses alliteration, such as "Forbearance may be proved from fears and woes," which creates a rhythmic quality to the poem.

Final Thoughts

"Forbearance" is a powerful poem that explores the themes of patience, perseverance, and the power of love. The poem's structure, themes, and literary devices all contribute to its impact on the reader. Coleridge's message is clear: forbearance is a virtue that can help us overcome even the most challenging situations. The speaker's journey is a testament to the power of patience and a reminder that in the face of adversity, we can find strength in our forbearance.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Forbearance: A Masterpiece by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era. His works are known for their vivid imagery, lyrical beauty, and philosophical depth. Among his many masterpieces, Poetry Forbearance stands out as a shining example of his poetic genius. In this poem, Coleridge explores the theme of self-restraint and the power of language to shape our thoughts and emotions. In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of this poem, and explore its relevance to our lives today.

The poem begins with a powerful opening line: "Hence, soul-sickening, hence!" This line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, which is a passionate plea for self-restraint in the face of overwhelming emotions. The speaker is addressing his own soul, which he describes as "soul-sickening." This suggests that he is experiencing a deep sense of despair or hopelessness, and is struggling to find a way out of his emotional turmoil.

The next few lines of the poem describe the speaker's desire to escape from his own thoughts and feelings. He longs to "fly to some untroubled shore," where he can find peace and solace. However, he realizes that this is not possible, and that he must instead learn to control his emotions and thoughts. He says:

"Yet whither? Art can not tell- Nor aught the wise can teach, save that weep and sigh And groans are seldom wiser than a well Instructed infant's wail and hush'd lullaby."

Here, the speaker acknowledges that there is no easy solution to his problems. He cannot simply run away from his emotions, or rely on the advice of others to guide him. Instead, he must learn to be like a "well-instructed infant," who can soothe himself with a simple lullaby. This suggests that the speaker believes that the key to self-restraint is to simplify one's thoughts and emotions, and to focus on the simple pleasures of life.

The next few stanzas of the poem describe the power of language to shape our thoughts and emotions. The speaker says:

"O! let my brow, my throbbing temples cool! The language of our fathers. Who shall dare Speak it dispraisingly? Ungrateful fool! He learns its music first, then mounts the air."

Here, the speaker is referring to the English language, which he describes as the "language of our fathers." He believes that this language has a special power to soothe and calm the soul, and that it is a source of great beauty and inspiration. He also suggests that those who speak ill of the English language are "ungrateful fools," who fail to appreciate its true value.

The final stanza of the poem is a powerful call to action. The speaker says:

"O! let me, let me, ere the hour be gone, Cling round thy knees, and in my suppliant tone Blend me with thee, meekness and forbearance! That, Father! will be better than a throne."

Here, the speaker is addressing God, and asking for his help in achieving self-restraint and forbearance. He acknowledges that this is a difficult task, and that he cannot do it alone. He asks God to help him become more like Him, and to embody the virtues of meekness and forbearance. He believes that this is the key to true happiness and fulfillment, and that it is more valuable than any earthly treasure.

In conclusion, Poetry Forbearance is a masterpiece of English literature, and a testament to the power of language to shape our thoughts and emotions. Through his use of vivid imagery, lyrical beauty, and philosophical depth, Coleridge explores the theme of self-restraint and the importance of simplicity in our lives. He reminds us that we cannot simply run away from our problems, but must instead learn to control our thoughts and emotions. He also suggests that the key to self-restraint is to focus on the simple pleasures of life, and to appreciate the beauty and value of the English language. Finally, he calls on us to seek God's help in achieving these virtues, and to strive for meekness and forbearance in all our dealings with others. This poem is a timeless masterpiece, and its message is as relevant today as it was when it was first written.

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