Youth and Age

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772–1834
Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
         With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
                When I was young!

When I was young?—Ah, woful When!
Ah! for the change 'twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O'er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:—
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in't together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
                Ere I was old!
Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth's no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
'Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
I'll think it but a fond conceit—
It cannot be that Thou art gone!

Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe, that thou are gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life's a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
                When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest,
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstay'd his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

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Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1772–1834

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Sorrow & Grieving, Trees & Flowers, Relationships, Growing Old, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Friends & Enemies

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza

 Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Biography

Samuel Taylor Coleridge is the premier poet-critic of modern English tradition, distinguished for the scope and influence of his thinking about literature as much as for his innovative verse. Active in the wake of the French Revolution as a dissenting pamphleteer and lay preacher, he inspired a brilliant generation of writers and attracted the patronage of progressive men of the rising middle class. As William Wordsworth’s . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sorrow & Grieving, Trees & Flowers, Relationships, Growing Old, Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Disappointment & Failure, Living, Friends & Enemies

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Imagery, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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