This Lime-tree Bower my Prison

[Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London]

Original Text: 
S. T. Coleridge, Annual Anthology (London: Biggs; Bristol: T. N. Longman and O. Rees, 1800). B-10 967 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
3Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
4Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
5Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
6Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
7On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
8Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
9To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
10The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
11And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
12Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
13Flings arching like a bridge;--that branchless ash,
14Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
15Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
16Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
18That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
19Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
20Of the blue clay-stone.
21                Now, my friends emerge
22Beneath the wide wide Heaven--and view again
23The many-steepled tract magnificent
24Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
25With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
26The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
27Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
28In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
29My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
30And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
31In the great City pent, winning thy way
32With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
34Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
35Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
36Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
37Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
38And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
39Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
40Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
41On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
42Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
43As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
44Spirits perceive his presence.
45                A delight
46Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
47As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
48This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
49Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
50Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
51Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
52The shadow of the leaf and stem above
53Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
54Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
55Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
56Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
57Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
58Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
59Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
60Yet still the solitary humble-bee
61Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
62That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
63No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
64No waste so vacant, but may well employ
65Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
66Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
67'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
68That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
69With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
70My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
71Beat its straight path along the dusky air
72Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
73(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
74Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
75While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
76Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
77For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
78No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.


1] First published in the Annual Anthology, 1800. In the June of 1797 some long-expected friends paid a visit to the author's cottage; and on the morning of their arrival, he met with an accident, which disabled him from walking during the whole time of their stay. One evening, when they had left him for a few hours, he composed the following lines in the garden-bower. First drafted July 1797; early in this month, Charles Lamb, to whom the poem is addressed, came from London to visit Coleridge at Nether Stowey in Somerset. The other friends were William and Dorothy Wordsworth who had recently come from Racedown Lodge in Dorset to Alfoxden, a large house only a few miles from Coleridge's cottage. Back to Line
17] long lank weeds. Coleridge notes: "The Asplenium Scolopendrium, called in some countries the Adder's Tongue, in others the Hart's Tongue, but Withering gives the Adder's Tongue as the trivial name of the Ophioglossum only." Back to Line
33] strange calamity. Mary Lamb, who suffered from periodic insanity, had fatally stabbed her mother, in September 1796; thereafter Charles was her guardian. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Kathleen Coburn; R. S. Woof
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.442.