The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“The Eolian Harp” is a lyric poem written in blank verse paragraphs of varying lengths. The title refers to a stringed instrument which produces music when placed in an open window so that the breeze may pass over it. The eolian harp was commonly used by poets in the Romantic period as a metaphor for the creative process.

The poem begins with the persona, who is clearly Samuel Taylor Coleridge himself, addressing his wife, Sara. They are sitting affectionately together outside their cottage in Clevedon, in the English county of Somersetshire. It is a quiet and peaceful evening scene. They look up at the evening star and the passing clouds; they can smell the pleasing scent from the nearby bean field, and they listen to the distant murmur of the sea.

In the second verse paragraph, the poet turns his attention to the eolian harp placed in the window of the cottage. Touched by the intermittent breeze, it is sending its music into the air. Coleridge compares the harp first to a girl “half yielding” as she is caressed by her lover; then, as the music grows stronger, he compares the harp to entrancing sounds coming from fairyland. The combination of silence and soft sound leads the poet into an intellectual reverie. He celebrates “The one Life within us and abroad,” a single spirit infusing everything in creation with joy. He feels that in such a world, in which the very air seems to be filled with music, it is impossible not to be...

(The entire section is 492 words.)