THE EOLIAN HARP

This is one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s early conversation poems, first written in 1795. The address is to his young married wife, Sarah. The Eolian Harp (or Aeolian, from Aeolus the Greek god of wind) was devised as an outdoor wind instrument played into sound by currents of air. The sounds enable the poet to devise a beautiful polytheistic conception of the manifold creation inspired into diverse life by the action on it of the spirit. In doing so he is rebuked by his wife for challenging her Christian understanding but the self -understanding of the poet resolves the issue so the poem ends with the tranquil beauty it has managed to maintain throughout.

My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o'ergrown
With white-flower'd Jasmin, and the broad-leav'd Myrtle
(Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!)
And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light
Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve
Serenely brilliant (such should Wisdom be)
Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents
Snatch'd from yon bean-field! and the world so hush'd!
The stilly murmur of the distant Sea 
Tells us of silence.

                               And that simplest Lute
Placed length- ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desutory breeze caress'd,
Like some coy maiden yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound 
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Faery-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam'd wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad,
Which meets all Motion and becomes its soul,
A light in sound, a sound-like power in light,
Rhythm in all thought and joyance everywhere-
Methinks it should have been impossible
Not to love all things in a world so fill'd;
Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air
Is Music slumbering on her instrument.

And thus , my Love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-clos'd eye-lids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquillity; 
Full many a thought uncall'd and undetain'd,
And many idle flitting phantasies,
Traverse my indolent and passive brain,
As wild and various as the random gales
That swell and flutter on this subject Lute!

And what if all of animated nature 
Be but organic Harps diversely fram'd
That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps
Plastic and vast one intellectual breeze,
At once the soul of each, and God of all?

But thy more serious eye a mild reproof
Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts
Dim and unhallow'd dost thou not reject,
And biddest me walk humbly with my God.
Meek daughter in the family of Christ!
Well hast thou said and holily disprais'd
These shapings of the unregenerate mind;
Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break
On vain Philosophy's aye-babbling spring.
For never guiltless may I speak of him,
The Incomprehensible! save when with awe
I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels;
Who with his saving mercies healed me,
A sinful and most miserable man,
Wilder'd and dark, and gave me to possess
Peace, and this cot, and thee, heart-honour'd Maid!
[1795;publ.1796]