The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Dejection: An Ode” is an ode in eight stanzas that vary greatly in the number of lines, the length of line, and in thought and imagery. The title announces the subject of the poem, which becomes apparent in the first stanza. The poet is surveying the tranquil night sky in which the new moon can be seen. He recalls an old ballad, which predicted that when the new moon can be seen with the old moon “in its arms,” a storm may be brewing. He hopes this is true, because he is sunk in depression and remembers past occasions when the driving energy of a storm has enlivened his creative spirit.

In stanza 2, the poet elaborates on his dejected state of mind, which is deep and pervasive. Nothing seems able to lift it. Addressing a “Lady” (who is Coleridge’s friend Sara Hutchinson), he says that in this mood he has been gazing at the western sky all evening. Although he can see how beautiful the scene is, he cannot feel this beauty in his inner being.

This observation leads him, in the short stanza 3, to reflect philosophically on his situation. The source of his poetic power is failing him, and the knowledge of this weighs him down. He realizes that he could gaze out forever on the external scene but that it would be no use to him. The “passion and the life” that he seeks is not to be found outside the human mind, but within it.

In stanzas 4 and 5, the poet again addresses Sara directly, elaborating on his philosophy of...

(The entire section is 575 words.)