Tag: Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The secret ministry of frost

Sunday, 21 October, 2018

The year of the endless summer continues. Autumn was simply steamrollered out of the way by a summer that had hijacked spring and then refused to negotiate with the seasons. Still, change is in the air. The mornings are chillier and the secret ministry of frost is sending out feelers at night. That phrase, “the secret ministry of frost,” was coined by the English poet, literary critic, philosopher and theologian Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was born on this day in 1772. Coleridge also minted “suspension of disbelief” and lots of other great phrases (“a sadder and a wiser man”, “water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”), many of which can be found in his major works, especially The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

In his poem Frost at Midnight, the narrator is speaking to his infant son, asleep by his side. It begins, “The Frost performs its secret ministry / Unhelped by any wind,” and the last ten lines have been cited as a perfect example of the kind of verse that’s uniquely Coleridge: as natural as prose, but superbly poetic.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.


November poem

Sunday, 1 November, 2015 0 Comments

The shortest and most mystifying November poem has to be Fragment 8: Thicker than rain-drops on November thorn by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In its totality, it reads:

“Thicker than rain-drops on November thorn.”

If a rule of good poetry is that the work should leave lots to the reader’s imagination, Coleridge’s crisp eclogue is a minor triumph.

The week of forgetting

Sunday, 1 June, 2014 0 Comments

According to news reports, more than 12,000 people lodged requests to be “forgotten” by Google on Friday, the first day that the search engine offered the service in Europe. The desire to forgot what we’ve said and done predates the internet by many a generation and this longing was addressed by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge, who happened to be a great-great-niece of the great Samuel Taylor Coleridge, composer of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan.

To Forget

Ah, I have striven, I have striven
That it might vanish as the smoke;
Angels remember it in heaven.
In vain I have striven, I have striven
To forget the word that I spoke.

See, I am fighting, I am fighting
That I may bring it to nought.
It is written in fiery writing,
In vain I am fighting, I am fighting
To forget the thought that I thought.

Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861ā€“1907)