Last Updated September 5, 2023.
"The Eolian Harp" is a lyric poem by Samuel Coleridge that addresses his fiance Sara Fricker.
My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined
Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is
Yet the poem is not an ode to her but an ode to the happiness and contentment that love can bring.
To sit beside our cot, our cot o'ergrown
With white-flowered jasmin, and the broad-leaved 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
Coleridge goes into great detail about his surroundings, describing the cottage he and Sarah are sitting in, the sounds of the sea outside, and even the lute "plac'd length-ways in the clasping casement"—the Eolian harp of the title.
How exquisite the scents
Snatched from yon bean-field! and the world so hushed!
The stilly murmur of the distant sea
Tells us of silence.
In the second verse, he compares the beautiful sounds of the lute to the kind of sweet sound that should accompany the beginnings of a love affair.
And that simplest lute,
Placed length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caressed,
Like some coy maid half yielding to her lover
The allegory inspires Coleridge to talk about what he calls the "one life, within us and abroad" where all things are connected.
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 every where---
This sweeping manner continues into the third and fourth verses as he begins to muse about nature and how he feels as he walks through it.
And thus, my love! as on the midway slope
Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon,
Whilst through my half-closed eye-lids I behold
The sunbeams dance, like diamonds, on the main,
And tranquil muse upon tranquillity;
However, the poet's flight of fancy is cut short by his wife's disapproving look. He realizes he has gone too far and "should walk humbly with my God". For the remainder of the last verse, he thanks his fiancé for keeping his feet on the ground and reminding him of his duties to God.
But thy more serious eye a mild reproofDarts, O beloved woman! nor such thoughtsDim and unhallowed 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 dispraisedThese shapings of the unregenerate mind;Bubbles that glitter as they rise and breakOn vain Philosophy's aye-babbling spring.For never guiltless may I speak of him,The Incomprehensible!