Youth and Age

Original Text: 
The poetical works of S.T. Coleridge, ed. Henry Nelson Coleridge (London : W. Pickering, 1834). PR 4470 E34 VICT Rare Books.
2Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee--
3Both were mine! Life went a-maying
4      With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
5           When I was young!
6When I was young?--Ah, woful When!
7Ah! for the change 'twixt Now and Then!
8This breathing house not built with hands,
9This body that does me grievous wrong,
10O'er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
11How lightly then it flashed along:--
13On winding lakes and rivers wide,
14That ask no aid of sail or oar,
15That fear no spite of wind or tide!
16Nought cared this body for wind or weather
17When Youth and I lived in't together.
18Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
20O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
21Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
22           Ere I was old!
23Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
24Which tells me, Youth's no longer here!
25O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
26'Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
27I'll think it but a fond conceit--
28It cannot be that Thou art gone!
29Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd:--
30And thou wert aye a masker bold!
31What strange disguise hast now put on,
32To make believe, that thou are gone?
33I see these locks in silvery slips,
34This drooping gait, this altered size:
35But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
36And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
37Life is but thought: so think I will
38That Youth and I are house-mates still.
39Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
40But the tears of mournful eve!
41Where no hope is, life's a warning
42That only serves to make us grieve,
43           When we are old:
44That only serves to make us grieve
45With oft and tedious taking-leave,
46Like some poor nigh-related guest,
47That may not rudely be dismist;
48Yet hath outstay'd his welcome while,
49And tells the jest without the smile.


1] Drafted in September 1823 but variously revised at least until April 1832. First published in this form in 1834. Back to Line
12] trim skiffs unknown of yore: steam boats; see Fragments 9, below. Back to Line
19] Friendship in a sheltering tree. The poem had been germinating as far back as a memorandum of 1810: "Why is true Love like a Tree--a Poem." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Kathleen Coburn; R. S. Woof
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.471.