1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Mary Robinson, "Ode, inscribed to the Infant Son of S. T. Coleridge, Esq. born Sept. 14, at Keswick, in Cumberland" Morning Post and Gazetteer (17 October 1800).



SPIRIT OF LIGHT! Whose eye unfolds
The vast expanse of NATURE'S plan!
And from thy Eastern throne beholds,
The paths of the lorn trav'ller Man!
To thee I sing! Spirit of Light! to thee
Attune the varying strain of wood-wild harmony.

I sing to thee! on Skiddaw's heights upborne—
Painting with Heav'n's own tint the brows of morn!
I sing to thee! while down the breezy sweep!
While far and wide the roseate ray
Flushes the dewy breast of day:—
Hope fost'ring Day! which Nature bade impart
A Parent's transport, to a Parent's heart!
DAY! that first saw the smiling BABY prest
Close to its beauteous Mother's throbbing breast:
While his clear, laughing eyes foretold
The mind susceptible — the spirit bold;—
The soul enlighten'd — virtues, prone to grace
With PITY'S holy tear MAN'S woe-bewilder'd race!

Ye Mountains! from whose crests sublime,
Imagination might to frenzy turn;
Or to the starry realms impatient climb,
Scorning this low world's solitary bourne.
Ye CAT'RACTS! on whose headlong tide
The midnight whirlwinds howling ride;—
Ye silent LAKES! that trembling hail
The cold breath of morning gale;
And on your lucid mirrors wide display,
In colours bright, in dewy lustre gay,
Fantastic woodlands, while the dappled dawn
Scatters its pearl-drops on the sunny lawn;
And thou, meek ORB, that lift'st thy silver bow
O'er frozen vallies, and o'er hills of slow;—
Ye all shall lend your wonder, — all combine
To greet the Babe, with energies divine!
While his rapt soul, SPIRIT OF LIGHT! to THEE
Shall raise the magic song of wood-wild harmony!

Yet, who can tell, in this dread scene,
What sorrows thou art born to know?
Whether thy days content, serene—
Shall in one even tenour flow;
Or, plung'd in passion's whelming wave—
Despair shall mark an early grave;—
Or false ambition's scorpion brood
Lure thee to tread the fields of blood?
Who knows but fortune's frown may chase
From thy warm heart affection's grace—
And sordid Nature bid thee flee—
From the soft voice of wood-wild harmony!

Ye Rocks! coeval with the birth of TIME,—
Bold summits, link'd in chains of rosy light!
Ere long your whisp'ring breezes shall invite
Your NATIVE SON the loftiest paths to climb,—
Where, in majestic pride of solitude,
Silent and grand, the Hermit THOUGHT shall trace
Far o'er the wide infinity of space,
The mid-day horrors of the black'ning wood;
The misty glen, the torrent's foamy way,
The parting blush of summer's ling'ring day;
The wintry storm, with rushing clouds combin'd,
To seize the broad wings of th' unfetter'd wind;
Then, INFANT BOY! thy unchain'd tongue
Shall sing the song thy father sung,
And he shall listen, rapture fraught, to THEE,
And bless the dulcet tone of wood-wild harmony!

Then, hand in hand, together ye shall tread,
In converse sweet, the mountain's head,
Or on the river's will'wy bank,
Gather the wild-flow'rs budding near,
And often, with a pitying tear,
Bathe their soft leaves, so sweet, so dank,
Leaves, doom'd to fade,
In solitude's oblivious shade!
Emblems of GENIUS, taught to fear,
—O! fate severe!—
E'en in the shades of life, the thorn
Of cold neglect — or smiling scorn;
Save when a kindred soul in thee—
Pours the soft plaint of wood-wild harmony!

Then through thy breast thy parent shall diffuse
The mightier magic of his loftier muse!
Then shall each sense, legitimate, expand,
The proud lyre throb beneath thy glowing hand!
While WISDOM, chast'ning pleasure's smile,
Shall listen, and applaud the while;
And REASON (pointing to the sky,
Bright as the morning star, her "broad, bright eye!")
Shall ope the page of NATURE'S book sublime—
The lore of ev'ry age, the boast of ev'ry clime!

SWEET BOY! accept a STRANGER'S song,
Who joys to sing of thee,
Alone, her forest haunts among,
The haunts of wood-wild harmony!
A stranger's song, by falsehood undefil'd,
Hymns thee, O! INSPIRATION'S darling child!
In thee it hails the GENIUS of thy SIRE,
Her sad heart sighing o'er her feeble lyre,
And, whether on the breezy height,
Where Skiddaw greets the dawn of light,
Ere the rude sons of labour homage pay
To summer's flaming eye, or winter's banner grey;
Whether, by bland religion early taught,
To track the devious pilgrimage of thought;
Or, borne on FANCY'S variegated wing,
A willing vot'ry to that shrine,
Where ART and SCIENCE all their flow'rs shall bring,
Thy temples to entwine:
Whether LODORE for thee its white wave flings,
Whether smooth BASENTHWAITE, at eve's still hour,
Reflects the young moon's crescent meekly pale,
Or MEDITATION seeks her silent bow'r
Amid the rocks of lonely BORRO-DALE:
Still may THY FAME survive, SWEET BOY, till time
Shall bend to KESWICK'S vale thy SKIDDAW'S brow sublime.
October 12, 1800.