'The Nightingale' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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1798A Conversation Poem, April, 1798No cloud, no relique of the sunken day
Distinguishes the West, no long thin slip
Of sullen light, no obscure trembling hues.
Come, we will rest on this old mossy bridge!
You see the glimmer of the stream beneath,
But hear no murmuring: it flows silently.
O'er its soft bed of verdure. All is still.
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
And hark! the Nightingale begins its song,
'Most musical, most melancholy' bird!
A melancholy bird? Oh! idle thought!
In Nature there is nothing melancholy.
But some night-wandering man whose heart was pierced
With the remembrance of a grievous wrong,
Or slow distemper, or neglected love,
(And so, poor wretch! filled all things with himself,
And made all gentle sounds tell back the tale
Of his own sorrow) he, and such as he,
First named these notes a melancholy strain.
And many a poet echoes the conceit;
Poet who hath been building up the rhyme
When he had better far have stretched his limbs
Beside a brook in mossy forest-dell,
By sun or moon-light, to the influxes
Of shapes and sounds and shifting elements
Surrendering his whole spirit, of his song
And of his fame forgetful! so his fame
Should share in Nature's immortality,
A venerable thing! and so his song
Should make all Nature lovelier, and itself
Be loved like Nature! But 'twill not be so;
And youths and maidens most poetical,
Who lose the deepening twilights of the spring
In ball-rooms and hot theatres, they still
Full of meek sympathy must heave their sighs
O'er Philomela's pity-pleading strains.My Friend, and thou, our Sister! we have learnt
A different lore: we may not thus profane
Nature's sweet voices, always full oflove
And joyance! 'Tis the merry Nightingale
That crowds and hurries, and precipitates
With fast thick warble his delicious notes,
As he were fearful that an April night
Would be too short for him to utter forth
His love-chant, and disburthen his full soul
Of all its music!And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.
But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,
And one low piping sound more sweet than all
Stirring the air with such a harmony,
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,
Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed,
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full,
Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade
Lights up her love-torch.A most gentle Maid,
Who dwelleth in her hospitable home
Hard by the castle, and at latest eve
(Even like a Lady vowed and dedicate
To something more than Nature in the grove)
Glides through the pathways; she knows all their notes,
That gentle Maid! and oft, a moment's space,
What time the moon was lost behind a cloud,
Hath heard a pause of silence; till the moon
Emerging, a hath awakened earth and sky
With one sensation, and those wakeful birds
Have all burst forth in choral minstrelsy,
As if some sudden gale had swept at once
A hundred airy harps! And she hath watched
Many a nightingale perch giddily
On blossomy twig still swinging from the breeze,
And to that motion tune his wanton song
Like tipsy Joy that reels with tossing head.Farewell! O Warbler! till tomorrow eve,
And you, my friends! farewell, a short farewell!
We have been loitering long and pleasantly,
And now for our dear homes.That strain again!
Full fain it would delay me! My dear babe,
Who, capable of no articulate sound,
Mars all things with his imitative lisp,
How he would place his hand beside his ear,
His little hand, the small forefinger up,
And bid us listen! And I deem it wise
To make him Nature's play-mate. He knows well
The evening-star; and once, when he awoke
In most distressful mood (some inward pain
Had made up that strange thing, an infant's dream)
I hurried with him to our orchard-plot,
And he beheld the moon, and, hushed at once,
Suspends his sobs, and laughs most silently,
While his fair eyes, that swam with undropped tears,
Did glitter in the yellow moon-beam! Well!
It is a father's tale: But if that Heaven
Should give me life, his childhood shall grow up
Familiar with these songs, that with the night
He may associate joy. Once more, farewell,
Sweet Nightingale! once more, my friends! farewell.
Editor 1 Interpretation
Coleridge's "The Nightingale": An Ode to the Power of Nature
As one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, Samuel Taylor Coleridge is known for his rich and complex language, his vivid imagery, and his deep appreciation for the natural world. In "The Nightingale," Coleridge explores the beauty and power of nature through the lens of a bird that sings in the darkness, bringing joy and comfort to all who hear it.
At its core, "The Nightingale" is an ode to the power of nature to uplift the human spirit and to remind us of the wonder and magic of the world around us. Through his use of language and imagery, Coleridge transports us to a world of darkness and despair, only to reveal the transformative power of the nightingale's song.
The Power of Language
One of the most striking features of Coleridge's poetry is his use of language to create a sense of deep emotional resonance. In "The Nightingale," this is evident from the very first line: "No cloud, no relique of the sunken day / Distinguishes the West." Here, Coleridge uses language to paint a vivid picture of a world without light or color, a world that is shrouded in darkness and despair.
As the poem progresses, Coleridge's language becomes increasingly rich and complex, as he draws on a range of literary devices to create a sense of depth and intensity. For example, he uses alliteration to create a sense of music and rhythm in the line "The voice of the nightingale, when the rest / Of the world is still."
Throughout the poem, Coleridge uses language to convey a sense of wonder and awe at the power of nature. He describes the nightingale's song as "a joy beyond all gladness," and he speaks of the bird's "wild ecstasy" and "sweet overflow" of melody. Through his use of language, Coleridge creates a sense of magic and mystery, inviting us to experience the wonder of the natural world for ourselves.
The Beauty of Nature
In addition to his use of language, Coleridge also draws on the beauty of nature to create a sense of wonder and awe in "The Nightingale." Throughout the poem, he describes the natural world in vivid detail, highlighting the beauty and majesty of the landscape.
For example, he describes the nightingale's song as "a beauteous evening, calm and free," and he speaks of the "deep green vale" and "crimson buds" that surround the bird. Through his descriptions of nature, Coleridge invites us to see the world in a new light, to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the natural world, and to marvel at the power of the nightingale's song.
The Transformative Power of Music
At its heart, "The Nightingale" is a celebration of the transformative power of music. Through his descriptions of the nightingale's song, Coleridge portrays music as a force that can uplift the human spirit and bring joy and comfort in times of darkness and despair.
For example, he speaks of the nightingale's song as a "melancholy strain" that has the power to "charm" and "soothe" the listener. He describes the bird's song as a "sweet overflow" of melody that fills the air with joy and wonder.
Through his portrayal of music, Coleridge suggests that there is something deeply powerful and transformative about the experience of listening to music. He invites us to see the nightingale's song as a symbol of hope and comfort, and as a reminder of the beauty and power of the natural world.
In "The Nightingale," Samuel Taylor Coleridge celebrates the beauty and power of nature, and the transformative power of music. Through his use of language, he creates a sense of wonder and awe, inviting us to experience the beauty and magic of the natural world for ourselves. Ultimately, "The Nightingale" is a reminder of the power of nature to uplift the human spirit, and a celebration of the beauty and wonder of the world around us.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Nightingale: A Masterpiece of Romantic Poetry
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the most prominent figures of the Romantic era, wrote "The Nightingale" in 1798. This poem is a beautiful representation of the Romantic movement, which emphasized the importance of nature, imagination, and emotion. "The Nightingale" is a perfect example of how Coleridge used these elements to create a masterpiece of poetry.
The poem begins with the speaker hearing the song of a nightingale. The speaker is immediately captivated by the bird's beautiful melody, and he describes it as "a most musical, most melancholy" sound. This opening line sets the tone for the rest of the poem, as the speaker's emotions are deeply intertwined with the natural world around him.
As the poem progresses, the speaker becomes more and more entranced by the nightingale's song. He describes the bird's voice as "full of all sweet sounds and harmonies," and he is so moved by the music that he feels as though he is "dissolved" into the natural world. This is a perfect example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of emotion and imagination. The speaker is not simply listening to a bird's song; he is experiencing a profound emotional connection with the natural world.
The poem takes a darker turn when the speaker realizes that the nightingale's song is not just beautiful, but also sad. He describes the bird's voice as "a melancholy strain," and he wonders why such a beautiful creature would sing such a sad song. This is another example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of emotion. The speaker is not just observing the nightingale; he is empathizing with it and feeling its emotions.
The speaker's empathy for the nightingale leads him to a deeper understanding of the natural world. He realizes that the nightingale's song is a reflection of the beauty and sadness that exist in all of nature. He describes the bird's song as "a voice of joy and woe," and he recognizes that this duality is present in all of creation. This is a perfect example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of nature. The speaker is not just admiring the nightingale's song; he is using it as a way to understand the natural world as a whole.
The poem ends with the speaker lamenting the fact that he cannot capture the nightingale's song and keep it with him forever. He recognizes that the beauty of the natural world is fleeting, and that he cannot hold onto it forever. This is another example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of emotion. The speaker is not just admiring the nightingale's song; he is mourning the fact that he cannot keep it with him forever.
In conclusion, "The Nightingale" is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry. Coleridge uses the elements of nature, imagination, and emotion to create a profound connection between the speaker and the natural world. The poem is a perfect example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of nature, as the speaker uses the nightingale's song to understand the beauty and sadness that exist in all of creation. The poem is also a perfect example of the Romantic emphasis on the importance of emotion, as the speaker is not just observing the nightingale's song; he is feeling it deeply and using it to connect with the natural world on a profound level. Overall, "The Nightingale" is a beautiful and moving poem that perfectly captures the essence of the Romantic movement.
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