Fears In Solitude By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Fears In Solitude 

A green and silent spot, amid the hills, 
A small and silent dell! O’er stiller place 
No singing sky-lark ever poised himself. 
The hills are heathy, save that swelling slope, 
Which hath a gay and gorgeous covering on, 
All golden with the never-bloomless furze, 
Which now blooms most profusely: but the dell, 
Bathed by the mist, is fresh and delicate 
As vernal corn-field, or the unripe flax, 
When, through its half-transparent stalks, at eve, 
The level sunshine glimmers with green light. 
Oh! ’tis a quiet spirit-healing nook! 
Which all, methinks, would love; but chiefly he, 
The humble man, who, in his youthful years, 
Knew just so much of folly, as had made 
His early manhood more securely wise! 
Here he might lie on fern or withered heath, 
While from the singing lark (that sings unseen 
The minstrelsy that solitude loves best), 
And from the sun, and from the breezy air, 
Sweet influences trembled o’er his frame; 
And he, with many feelings, many thoughts, 
Made up a meditative joy, and found 
Religious meanings in the forms of Nature! 
And so, his senses gradually wrapt 
In a half sleep, he dreams of better worlds, 
And dreaming hears thee still, O singing lark, 
That singest like an angel in the clouds! 

My God! it is a melancholy thing 
For such a man, who would full fain preserve 
His soul in calmness, yet perforce must feel 
For all his human brethren–O my God! 
It weighs upon the heart, that he must think 
What uproar and what strife may now be stirring 
This way or that way o’er these silent hills– 
Invasion, and the thunder and the shout, 
And all the crash of onset ; fear and rage, 
And undetermined conflict–even now, 
Even now, perchance, and in his native isle: 
Carnage and groans beneath this blessed sun! 
We have offended, Oh! my countrymen! 
We have offended very grievously, 
And been most tyrannous. From east to west 
A groan of accusation pierces Heaven! 
The wretched plead against us; multitudes 
Countless and vehement, the sons of God, 
Our brethren! Like a cloud that travels on, 
Steamed up from Cairo’s swamps of pestilence, 
Even so, my countrymen! have we gone forth 
And borne to distant tribes slavery and pangs, 
And, deadlier far, our vices, whose deep taint 
With slow perdition murders the whole man, 
His body and his soul! Meanwhile, at home, 
All individual dignity and power 
Engulfed in Courts, Committees, Institutions, 
Associations and Societies, 
A vain, speach-mouthing, speech-reporting Guild, 
One Benefit-Club for mutual flattery, 
We have drunk up, demure as at a grace, 
Pollutions from the brimming cup of wealth; 
Contemptuous of all honourable rule, 
Yet bartering freedom and the poor man’s life 
For gold, as at a market! The sweet words 
Of Christian promise, words that even yet 
Might stem destruction, were they wisely preached, 
Are muttered o’er by men, whose tones proclaim 
How flat and wearisome they feel their trade : 
Rank scoffers some, but most too indolent 
To deem them falsehoods or to know their truth. 
Oh! blasphemous! the Book of Life is made 
A superstitious instrument, on which 
We gabble o’er the oaths we mean to break; 
For all must swear–all and in every place, 
College and wharf, council and justice-court; 
All, all must swear, the briber and the bribed, 
Merchant and lawyer, senator and priest, 
The rich, the poor, the old man and the young; 
All, all make up one scheme of perjury, 
That faith doth reel; the very name of God 
Sounds like a juggler’s charm; and, bold with joy, 
Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place, 
(Portentious sight !) the owlet Atheism, 
Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon, 
Drops his blue-fring’d lids, and holds them close, 
And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven, 
Cries out, `Where is it?’ 

Thankless too for peace, 
(Peace long preserved by fleets and perilous seas) 
Secure from actual warfare, we have loved 
To swell the war-whoop, passionate for war! 
Alas! for ages ignorant of all 
Its ghastlier workings, (famine or blue plague, 
Battle, or siege, or flight through wintry snows,) 
We, this whole people, have been clamorous 
For war and bloodshed; animating sports, 
The which we pay for as a thing to talk of, 
Spectators and not combatants! No guess 
Anticipative of a wrong unfelt, 
No speculation on contingency, 
However dim and vague, too vague and dim 
To yield a justifying cause; and forth, 
(Stuffed out with big preamble, holy names, 
And adjurations of the God in Heaven,) 
We send our mandates for the certain death 
Of thousands and ten thousands! Boys and girls, 
And women, that would groan to see a child 
Pull off an insect’s wing, all read of war, 
The best amusement for our morning meal! 
The poor wretch, who has learnt his only prayers 
From curses, and who knows scarcely words enough 
To ask a blessing from his Heavenly Father, 
Becomes a fluent phraseman, absolute 
And technical in victories and defeats, 
And all our dainty terms for fratricide; 
Terms which we trundle smoothly o’er our tongues 
Like mere abstractions, empty sounds to which 
We join no feeling and attach no form! 
As if the soldier died without a wound; 
As if the fibres of this godlike frame 
Were gored without a pang; as if the wretch, 
Who fell in battle, doing bloody deeds, 
Passed off to Heaven, translated and not killed; 
As though he had no wife to pine for him, 
No God to judge him! Therefore, evil days 
Are coming on us, O my countrymen! 
And what if all-avenging Providence, 
Strong and retributive, should make us know 
The meaning of our words, force us to feel 
The desolation and the agony 
Of our fierce doings? 

Spare us yet awhile, 
Father and God! O! spare us yet awhile! 
Oh! let not English women drag their flight 
Fainting beneath the burthen of their babes, 
Of the sweet infants, that but yesterday 
Laughed at the breast! Sons, brothers, husbands, all 
Who ever gazed with fondness on the forms 
Which grew up with you round the same fire-side, 
And all who ever heard the sabbath-bells 
Without the infidel’s scorn, make yourselves pure! 
Stand forth! be men! repel an impious foe, 
Impious and false, a light yet cruel race, 
Who laugh away all virtue, mingling mirth 
With deeds of murder; and still promising 
Freedom, themselves too sensual to be free, 
Poison life’s amities, and cheat the heart 
Of faith and quiet hope, and all that soothes, 
And all that lifts the spirit! Stand we forth; 
Render them back upon the insulted ocean, 
And let them toss as idly on its waves 
As the vile sea-weed, which some mountain-blast 
Swept from our shores! And oh! may we return 
Not with a drunken triumph, but with fear, 
Repenting of the wrongs with which we stung 
So fierce a foe to frenzy! 

I have told, 
O Britons! O my brethren! I have told 
Most bitter truth, but without bitterness. 
Nor deem my zeal or factious or mistimed; 
For never can true courage dwell with them, 
Who, playing tricks with conscience, dare not look 
At their own vices. We have been too long 
Dupes of a deep delusion! Some, belike, 
Groaning with restless enmity, expect 
All change from change of constituted power; 
As if a Government had been a robe, 
On which our vice and wretchedness were tagged 
Like fancy-points and fringes, with the robe 
Pulled off at pleasure. Fondly these attach 
A radical causation to a few 
Poor drudges of chastising Providence, 
Who borrow all their hues and qualities 
From our own folly and rank wickedness, 
Which gave them birth and nursed them. Others, meanwhile, 
Dote with a mad idolatry; and all 
Who will not fall before their images, 
And yield them worship, they are enemies 
Even of their country! 

Such have I been deemed– 
But, O dear Britain! O my Mother Isle! 
Needs must thou prove a name most dear and holy 
To me, a son, a brother, and a friend, 
A husband, and a father! who revere 
All bonds of natural love, and find them all 
Within the limits of thy rocky shores. 
O native Britain! O my Mother Isle! 
How should’st thou prove aught else but dear and holy 
To me, who from thy lakes and mountain-hills, 
Thy clouds, thy quiet dales, thy rocks and seas, 
Have drunk in all my intellectual life, 
All sweet sensations, all ennobling thoughts, 
All adoration of God in nature, 
All lovely and all honourable things, 
Whatever makes this mortal spirit feel 
The joy and greatness of its future being? 
There lives nor form nor feeling in my soul 
Unborrowed from my country! O divine 
And beauteous island! thou hast been my sole 
And most magnificent temple, in the which 
I walk with awe, and sing my stately songs, 
Loving the God that made me!– 

May my fears, 
My filial fears, be vain! and may the vaunts 
And menace of the vengeful enemy 
Pass like the gust, that roared and died away 
In the distant tree: which heard, and only heard 
In this low dell, bowed not the delicate grass. 

But now the gentle dew-fall sends abroad 
The fruit-like perfume of the golden furze: 
The light has left the summit of the hill, 
Though still a sunny gleam lies beautiful, 
Aslant the ivied beacon. Now farewell, 
Farewell, awhile, O soft and silent spot! 
On the green sheep-track, up the heathy hill, 
Homeward I wind my way; and lo! recalled 
From bodings that have well-nigh wearied me, 
I find myself upon the brow, and pause 
Startled! And after lonely sojourning 
In such a quiet and surrounded nook, 
This burst of prospect, here the shadowy main, 
Dim tinted, there the mighty majesty 
Of that huge amphitheater of rich 
And elmy fields, seems like society– 
Conversing with the mind, and giving it 
A livelier impulse and a dance of thought! 
And now, belov’d Stowey! I behold 
Thy church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms 
Clustering, which mark the mansion of my friend; 
And close behind them, hidden from my view, 
Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe 
And my babe’s mother dwell in peace! With light 
And quickened footsteps thitherward I tend, 
Remembering thee, O green and silent dell! 
And grateful, that by nature’s quietness 
And solitary musings, all my heart 
Is softened, and made worthy to indulge 
Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human kind. 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge 


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