Explanation of Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight

Frost at Midnight is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Stanza-Wise Explanation

Stanza 1

The frost is performing its function invisibly. No wind is blowing to help the frost. The loud cry of the owlet is being heard at intervals. All the inmates of my cottage are asleep. I am quite awake except that my little child is sleeping peacefully in a cradle by my side. This solitude is favourable to philosophical thinking. There is perfect silence all around. Indeed, this silence is so complete as to disturb one’s thinking. ‘Sea, hill, wood, this village with its all inhabitants and its numerous activities and occupations—these are all silent like dreams. The thin blue flame of the fire, which has burnt itself low, is quite motionless. The only active thing here is that film which has been quivering on the grate and which is still quivering there.

The movement of that film, in the midst of the complete silence all around, connects with me because I, too, am awake. There is a vague bond between me and the film because both of us are active or awake. ‘Thus the film is a sort of companion for me. In this mood of idle thinking, I interpret the irregular movements or fluttering of the film according to my own moods or whims. Thus my mind seeks everywhere a reflection of itself and. plays with ideas as one plays with a toy.

Stanza 2

When I was a student I, often used to look at the bars of the grate because I believed that if I could see the fluttering film there, it would indicate the arrival of some friend or relative the next morning. Every time at the thought or sight of that film I used to see in my imagination my sweet native-place with its old church-tower whose bells rang from morning to evening on the hot fair-day. These church bells provided to the poor villagers the only music that they could ever hear. As for me, the sweet music of the church bells aroused a passionate joy in me and seemed to be a prophecy of future events. Thus, as a boy at schoo1, used to look fixedly at the film and imagine sweet things till I fell asleep, and in my sleep, I saw equally sweet dreams.

The next morning, on waking up, my mind would still be occupied with thoughts of home and some relative who might come to see me. Being afraid of the stern teacher, I used to keep looking at the book as I sat in the classroom, pretending to read; but my ‘mind used to be elsewhere. The words in the book used to be only dimly visible to me through my tears. Every time somebody half-opened the door of the classroom, I looked hastily, and wit1 a hopeful heart, for some visitor – a townsman, an aunt or a beloved sister, a playmate of my younger days, when both she and I were clothed in similar garments.

Stanza 3

My dear child, sleeping in the cradle by my side! the sound of your gentle breathing is clearly audible to me in this deep silence, and it fills up the short intervals between the various thoughts that are coming into my mind. You are a lovely little child and as I look at you, my heart is filled with deep love and joy. Your education and your bringing will be of a different kind from mine. I was brought up in the great city of London in the midst of congested houses and buildings where I could see nothing beautiful except the sky and stars.

But you, my little son, will wander freely like the wind along lakes and sandy sea-shores, under the immemorial rocks and mountains, and below the clouds which in their immensity represent or symbolize the vast lakes, oceans and mountains. In this way you will see the beautiful objects of Nature and hear the meaningful sounds of the everlasting language of God who from the beginning of the universe has always revealed himself in all objects of Nature. Nature is the supreme teacher of mankind and will give the right shape to your character and personality, and you will be so influenced by Nature as to seek her company still more.

Stanza 4

In the company of Nature, you will come to love all seasons. You will love the summer when the earth is all covered with green verdure. And you will love the winter when the red-breast sits and sings among the snow-flakes on the leafless branches of an apple-tree all overgrown with moss, while vapours are seen rising from the roof of’ a nearby cottage when the snow on it is melting in the heat of the sun; You all also love the time when rain-drops fall from the eaves and their sound is heard only in the silent intervals and pauses of the storm, and when, as a result off rost invisibly forming itself, the water-drops become frozen and are seen shining silently in the light of the silent moon.

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