Summary of Coleridge’s Frost at Midnight

Frost at Midnight is a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The poem is a picture of an evening spent by the poet by his fireside on a frosty night.

Summary

The first stanza builds up the atmosphere of the night when complete silence prevails, broken only by the occasional cries of the owlet. The frost is settling invisibly and there is no breeze. The poet sits alone by the side of his little son sleeping peacefully in a cradle. As he was sitting beside the fire, at the low-burnt fire, he sees a fluttering film on the ‘grill’. He feels that there is a bond of sympathy between him and that film. He interprets the movements and fluttering of the film according to his own changing thoughts and fancies. The poet is here indirectly expressing the belief that outward objects merely reflect or mirror our own thoughts and moods.

The sight of the fluttering film reminds the poet of his school days and he becomes reminiscent. He recalls that whenever at school he saw that film on the grate, he superstitiously believed that a friend or a relative would come to see him from his native place. The thought of his native village with the bells ringing all the hot fair-day was sweet to him. He also remembers that, when he sat in the classroom pretending to study his book, he was all the time expecting some dear relative or friend to arrive. There is an element of autobiographical sense which gives us a glimpse into the school-life of Coleridge at Christ’s Hospital where he had been a student.

In the next passage, the poet addresses his son, Hartley Coleridge. He makes a plan for his baby’s future. While he was himself brought up in the suffocating atmosphere of London, he would put this baby into close contact with Nature. The baby will wander like a breeze in natural surroundings and will see the lovely objects, as well as hear the sweet sounds, of Nature. The boy will grow up under the benevolent and educative influence of Nature. He will learn a lot in the company of Nature. He believes that God reveals himself through Nature and thus God will mould the character of the baby through the medium of Nature. These lines contain the belief that is called pantheism, namely the belief that the Divine Spirit pervades all objects of Nature and that God reveals himself through Nature. These lines were written under the influence of Wordsworth.

The poem ends with striking pictures of summer and winter. The child will grow to love all seasons — whether summer covers the whole earth with green grass and green plants, or the redbreast sits on an apple-tree singing its wintry song in the midst of snow-flakes, or the drops of water falling from the roofs of cottages freeze into icicles shining quietly in the light of the quiet moon.

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