Long time a child, and still a child, when years

By Hartley Coleridge 1796–1849 Hartley Coleridge
Long time a child, and still a child, when years
Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I,—
For yet I lived like one not born to die;
A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,
No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.
But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking,
I waked to sleep no more, at once o’ertaking
The vanguard of my age, with all arrears
Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,
Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey,
For I have lost the race I never ran:
A rathe December blights my lagging May;
And still I am a child, tho’ I be old,
Time is my debtor for my years untold.

Source: Poets of the English Language (Viking Press, 1950)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Hartley Coleridge 1796–1849

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Subjects Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living, Youth

Poetic Terms Sonnet

Biography

Hartley Coleridge was the oldest son of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Although he was the subject of two of his father’s poems—“Frost at Midnight” and “The Nightingale”—Coleridge was nonetheless estranged from his parents in his youth and raised by the poet Robert Southey. Coleridge attended Oxford and received a fellowship to Oriel College. A bright student who was expected to excel, he struggled with alcoholism and . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living, Youth

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Romantic

Poetic Terms Sonnet

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.