This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Richard Russell 9/12/06
“Frost at Midnight”
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge explicated by Jandy Stone
In “Frost at Midnight,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s dissatisfaction with his boyhood spent at school in London emerges when a strangely still night invites him to recall both his school life and his happier life as a country lad, and to channeled that dissatisfaction into a resolution that his infant son will not share in Coleridge’s unhappy confinement in the city, but will grow up in the natural surroundings of the countryside. Many of the ideals and techniques of the Romantic Movement inform both the mood and the content of the poem.
The meter, largely iambic pentameter, imitates natural conversation, and imparts to the reader the calm, dreamy mood of the speaker himself as he reflects on his surroundings, his childhood, and his son. The few times the spell is broken, it is because the speaker’s thoughts are interrupted, or he is overcome with particular emotion about his youth or love for his son. The frost of the title opens the poem, quietly forming icicles upon the speaker’s cottage, “its secret ministry” (1) . There is a mysterious quality to the frost—it forms secretly, almost without any sign of its doing so, and its ministry spreads this mystical sense to the night in general, and to the speaker himself. The winter night is calm and quiet, with no wind. Into this calm, the owlet’s cry is loud and surprising, emphasized by sharp breaks in diction: “The owlet’s cry / Came loud—and
but these movements of village life are “Inaudible as dreams!” (13) . The repetition of the “sea. perhaps some difficult work he is trying to accomplish.” and may signal the arrival of a . But these goings on are little more than mild distractions to his mind right now. or difficult to comprehend. hill. but his meditation on it is “vexed” (9) by the stillness. But one thing does move. “Abstruser musings” in line 6 refers to thoughts that are concealed. and wood” (10) and village.hark. The speaker is alone except for his sleeping son: “The inmates of my cottage. which suits / Abstruser musings” (4-6) . which fluttered on the grate. again! loud as before” (3) . no longer a source of sound or sight. hill. and his mind wanders without a focus. His mind flits to “Sea. with the “numberless goings on of life” (12) that fill them. the calm of this night is almost too much for the speaker: “’Tis calm indeed! so calm. all at rest. becomes the catalyst to take his memory back to his childhood. / Have left me to that solitude. This film. the sole unquiet thing” (15) . and certainly do not stimulate his senses. these leftover pieces of soot are called “strangers. that it disturbs / and vexes meditation with its strange / And extreme silentness” (8-10) . and wood” idea on lines 10 and 11 underscore their “goings on” being numberless. / Still flutters there. Even the fire in his grate has burned out. According to Coleridge’s note. it could be that he is trying to concentrate on something else. the sense of hearing becomes quite distinct. or piece of soot. In the coming flashback to his early youth. and it catches his attention: “Only that film. Despite the connotation of “solitude” in Romantic poetry being a positive attribute.
The speaker has already termed the silentness of the night “strange” (line 9). and now this piece of film is a “stranger. it certainly does excite his wonder—as ordinary objects are wont to do in Romantic poetry. Its capricious turns and . One definition of the word “strange” includes the idea of something so unfamiliar or exceptional that it excites wonder. it seems to him that he and the film are the only things alive. giving him a kinship with it: “Methinks. its motion in this hush of nature / Gives it dim sympathies with me who live. in this strange night. in this strange quiet. since it is the only thing that is moving in the extraordinary stillness. In fact. / Making it a companionable form” (17-19) .” And even though a piece of soot probably is not an unfamiliar sight to the speaker.friend.