Samuel Taylor Coleridge
ALL thoughts, all passions, all delights,
Whatever stirs this mortal frame,
All are but ministers of Love,
And feed his sacred flame.
Oft in my waking dreams do I
Live o'er again that happy hour,
When midway on the mount I lay,
Beside the ruin'd tower.
The moonshine, stealing o'er the scene,
Had blended with the lights of eve;
And she was there, my hope, my joy,
My own dear Genevieve!
She lean'd against the armed man,
The statue of the armed Knight;
She stood and listen'd to my lay,
Amid the lingering light.
Few sorrows hath she of her own,
My hope! my joy! my Genevieve!
She loves me best whene'er I sing
The songs that make her grieve.
I play'd a soft and doleful air;
I sang an old and moving story -
An old rude song, that suited well
That ruin wild and hoary.
She listen'd with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes and modest grace;
For well she knew I could not choose
But gaze upon her face.
I told her of the Knight that wore
Upon his shield a burning brand;
And that for ten long years he woo'd
The Lady of the Land.
I told her how he pined: and ah!
The deep, the low, the pleading tone
With which I sang another's love,
Interpreted my own.
She listen'd with a flitting blush,
With downcast eyes, and modest grace;
And she forgave me, that I gazed
Too fondly on her face!
But when I told the cruel scorn
That crazed that bold and lovely Knight,
And that he cross'd the mountain-woods,
Nor rested day nor night;
That sometimes from the savage den,
And sometimes from the darksome shade,
And sometimes starting up at once
In green and sunny glade -
There came and look'd him in the face
An angel beautiful and bright;
And that he knew it was a Fiend,
This miserable Knight!
And that, unknowing what he did,
He leap'd amid a murderous band,
And saved from outrage worse than death
The Lady of the Land; -
And how she wept and clasp'd his knees;
And how she tended him in vain -
And ever strove to expiate
The scorn that crazed his brain; -
And that she nursed him in a cave;
And how his madness went away,
When on the yellow forest leaves
A dying man he lay; -
His dying words--but when I reach'd
That tenderest strain of all the ditty,
My faltering voice and pausing harp
Disturb'd her soul with pity!
All impulses of soul and sense
Had thrill'd my guileless Genevieve;
The music and the doleful tale,
The rich and balmy eve;
And hopes, and fears that kindle hope,
An undistinguishable throng,
And gentle wishes long subdued,
Subdued and cherish'd long!
She wept with pity and delight,
She blush'd with love and virgin shame;
And like the murmur of a dream,
I heard her breathe my name.
Her bosom heavedv - she stepp'd aside,
As conscious of my look she stept -
Then suddenly, with timorous eye
She fled to me and wept.
She half enclosed me with her arms,
She press'd me with a meek embrace;
And bending back her head, look'd up,
And gazed upon my face.
'Twas partly love, and partly fear,
And partly 'twas a bashful art,
That I might rather feel, than see.
The swelling of her heart.
I calm'd her fears, and she was calm,
And told her love with virgin pride;
And so I won my Genevieve,
My bright and beauteous Bride.
This is an amazing poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Hi, I'm Sam! You may remember me from such hits as Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner). The poem for me is the epitome of Romantic poetry, looking at the worth of the individual rather than society. It is about as Romantic (that's Romantic with a capital R) as you can get. The rhyme scheme has always puzzled me: I think its the same rhyme scheme used in'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' which is another quintessentially Romantic poem. It consists of ABCB - there's some structural order but not much. The quatrains, along with the ABCB, give a ballad-like feel to the poem which is full of Medieval allusions and Arthurian legends. Having looked at the great node on La Belle Dame, it tells me:
The first three lines of each stanza are iambic tetrameter with the fourth line being shorter and changing in number of syllables.
Apparently the iambic tetrameter form is a hallmark of the Romantic literary ballad, and looking at some of Coleridge (and Keats') other work, this seems to be true. The last line always has fewer (usually 7) syllables and really stands out. Since each stanza stops at the end with this feature, the whole poem isn't stuttery but has a rhythm to it. It moves with pace and steadiness, but oscillates heavily. In fact this poem is almost identical in structure ans style to 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and they both have similarly floral styles. In a sense, the poem is Coleridge's attempt to recreate that period of Arthurian legend where chivalry and honour were virtues deeply respected. Let's not forget he wrote in a time where outward shows of emotion were frowned upon, and seriousness was the order of the day. Romantic poetry was in a way a longing for the ancient times where nature flowered and man was sort of pure. With the advent of Darwinism and other scientific advances faith was faltering among the educated classes and poetry was one of two things: an expression of this doubt, or a reassurance to the poet. Coleridge's poem is the latter, while 'In Memoriam' (a poem that also deals with love, but a different kind of love) by Tennyson is an expression of doubt (although he can't really make his mind up). In short, this poem deals with the kind of love that is no longer around: a deeply emotional love that has no shame in its sentimentality. The poem is one of the most beautiful you will ever read, and its beauty lies in its purely lyrical form. No deep symbolic structures there for you to find, just a slowly oscillating musical sound.