The Eolian Harp

The Eolian Harp

Original Text

The Poems of S. T. Coleridge (London: William Pickering, 1844): 149-51.

Composed at Clevedon, Somersetshire.
2Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
4With white-flowered jasmin, and the broad-leaved myrtle,
5(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
6And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light,
7Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
8Serenely brilliant (such should wisdom be)
9Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
10Snatched from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
11The stilly murmur of the distant sea
12Tells us of silence.
15How by the desultory breeze caressed,
16Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover,
17It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
18Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now, its strings
20Over delicious surges sink and rise,
21Such a soft floating witchery of sound
22As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
23Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
24Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
25Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
26Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untamed wing!
27O the one life within us and abroad,
28Which meets all motion and becomes its soul,
29A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
30Rhythm in all thought, and joyance every where---
31Methinks, it should have been impossible
32Not to love all things in a world so filled;
33Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
34Is Music slumbering on her instrument.
35   And thus, my love! as on the midway slope
36Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
37Whilst through my half-closed eye-lids I behold
38The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
39And tranquil muse upon tranquillity;
40Full many a thought uncalled and undetained,
41And many idle flitting phantasies,
42Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
43As wild and various as the random gales
44That swell and flutter on this subject lute!
45   And what if all of animated nature
46Be but organic harps diversely framed,
47That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
49At once the Soul of each, and God of All?
50   But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
51Darts, O beloved woman! nor such thoughts
52Dim and unhallowed dost thou not reject,
53And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
54Meek daughter in the family of Christ!
55Well hast thou said and holily dispraised
56These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
57Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
58On vain Philosophy's aye-babbling spring.
59For never guiltless may I speak of him,
60The Incomprehensible! save when with awe
61I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
62Who with his saving mercies healed me,
63A sinful and most miserable man,
64Wildered and dark, and gave me to possess
65Peace, and this cot, and thee, heart-honoured Maid!


1] Sara Fricker, whom Coleridge married less than two months after writing this poem. On one level, this poem is one of courtship. Back to Line
3] cot: small cottage Back to Line
13] simplest lute: Eolian harp. An Eolian harp, or wind harp, is a rectangular box with strings stretched across it such that when wind passes through the box, the strings vibrate, producing musical sounds. Back to Line
14] casement: window frame Back to Line
19] sequacious notes: musical notes that follow each other with little variation Back to Line
48] plastic: malleable, able to be moulded Back to Line
Publication Start Year
Publication Notes

The earliest version of this poem was published in 1796 and titled "Effusion XXXV". The version above was published in 1817.

RPO poem Editors
Marc R. Plamondon
RPO Edition