Fears In Solitude

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Written in April 1798, during the alarm of an invasion


A green and silent spot, amid the hills,

A small and silent dell! O'er stiller place

No singing sky-lark ever poised himself.

The hills are heathy, save that swelling slope,

Which hath a gay and gorgeous covering on,

All golden with the never-bloomless furze,

Which now blooms most profusely: but the dell,

Bathed by the mist, is fresh and delicate

As vernal corn-field, or the unripe flax,

When, through its half-transparent stalks, at eve,

The level sunshine glimmers with green light.

Oh! 'tis a quiet spirit-healing nook!

Which all, methinks, would love; but chiefly he,

The humble man, who, in his youthful years,

Knew just so much of folly, as had made

His early manhood more securely wise!

Here he might lie on fern or withered heath,

While from the singing lark (that sings unseen

The minstrelsy that solitude loves best),

And from the sun, and from the breezy air,

Sweet influences trembled o'er his frame;

And he, with many feelings, many thoughts,

Made up a meditative joy, and found

Religious meanings in the forms of Nature!

And so, his senses gradually wrapt

In a half sleep, he dreams of better worlds,

And dreaming hears thee still, O singing lark,

That singest like an angel in the clouds!


My God ! it is a melancholy thing

For such a man, who would full fain preserve

His soul in calmness, yet perforce must feel

For all his human brethren - O my God!

It weighs upon the heart, that he must think

What uproar and what strife may now be stirring

This way or that way o'er these silent hills -

Invasion, and the thunder and the shout,

And all the crash of onset; fear and rage,

And undetermined conflict - even now,

Even now, perchance, and in his native isle:

Carnage and groans beneath this blessed sun!

We have offended, Oh! my countrymen!

We have offended very grievously,

And been most tyrannous. From east to west

A groan of accusation pierces Heaven!

The wretched plead against us; multitudes

Countless and vehement, the sons of God,

Our brethren! Like a cloud that travels on,

Steamed up from Cairo's swamps of pestilence,

Even so, my countrymen! have we gone forth

And borne to distant tribes slavery and pangs,

And, deadlier far, our vices, whose deep taint

With slow perdition murders the whole man,

His body and his soul! Meanwhile, at home,

All individual dignity and power

Engulfed in Courts, Committees, Institutions,

Associations and Societies,

A vain, speach-mouthing, speech-reporting Guild,

One Benefit-Club for mutual flattery,

We have drunk up, demure as at a grace,

Pollutions from the brimming cup of wealth;

Contemptuous of all honourable rule,

Yet bartering freedom and the poor man's life

For gold, as at a market! The sweet words

Of Christian promise, words that even yet

Might stem destruction, were they wisely preached,

Are muttered o'er by men, whose tones proclaim

How flat and wearisome they feel their trade:

Rank scoffers some, but most too indolent

To deem them falsehoods or to know their truth.

Oh! blasphemous! the Book of Life is made

A superstitious instrument, on which

We gabble o'er the oaths we mean to break;

For all must swear--all and in every place,

College and wharf, council and justice-court;

All, all must swear, the briber and the bribed,

Merchant and lawyer, senator and priest,

The rich, the poor, the old man and the young;

All, all make up one scheme of perjury,

That faith doth reel; the very name of God

Sounds like a juggler's charm; and, bold with joy,

Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place,

(Portentious sight!) the owlet Atheism,

Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,

Drops his blue-fringéd lids, and holds them close,

And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,

Cries out, `Where is it?'



Such have I been deemed--

But, O dear Britain! O my Mother Isle!

Needs must thou prove a name most dear and holy

To me, a son, a brother, and a friend,

A husband, and a father! who revere

All bonds of natural love, and find them all

Within the limits of thy rocky shores.

O native Britain! O my Mother Isle!

How shouldst thou prove aught else but dear and holy

To me, who from thy lakes and mountain-hills,

Thy clouds, thy quiet dales, thy rocks and seas,

Have drunk in all my intellectual life,

All sweet sensations, all ennobling thoughts,

All adoration of God in nature,

All lovely and all honourable things,

Whatever makes this mortal spirit feel

The joy and greatness of its future being?

There lives nor form nor feeling in my soul

Unborrowed from my country! O divine

And beauteous island! thou hast been my sole

And most magnificent temple, in the which

I walk with awe, and sing my stately songs,

Loving the God that made me! -


May my fears,

My filial fears, be vain! and may the vaunts

And menace of the vengeful enemy

Pass like the gust, that roared and died away

In the distant tree : which heard, and only heard

In this low dell, bowed not the delicate grass.

But now the gentle dew-fall sends abroad

The fruit-like perfume of the golden furze:

The light has left the summit of the hill,

Though still a sunny gleam lies beautiful,

Aslant the ivied beacon. Now farewell,

Farewell, awhile, O soft and silent spot!

On the green sheep-track, up the heathy hill,

Homeward I wind my way; and lo! recalled

From bodings that have well-nigh wearied me,

I find myself upon the brow, and pause

Startled! And after lonely sojourning

In such a quiet and surrounded nook,

This burst of prospect, here the shadowy main,

Dim tinted, there the mighty majesty

Of that huge amphitheatre of rich

And elmy fields, seems like society -

Conversing with the mind, and giving it

A livelier impulse and a dance of thought!

And now, belovéd Stowey! I behold

Thy church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms

Clustering, which mark the mansion of my friend;

And close behind them, hidden from my view,

Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe

And my babe's mother dwell in peace! With light

And quickened footsteps thitherward I tend,

Remembering thee, O green and silent dell!

And grateful, that by nature's quietness

And solitary musings, all my heart

Is softened, and made worthy to indulge

Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human kind.