Frost at Midnight

Frost at Midnight

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind. The owlet’s cry
Came loud—and hark, again! loud as before.
The inmates of my cottage, all at rest,
Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.
‘Tis calm indeed! so calm, that it disturbs
And vexes meditation with its strange
And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
Inaudible as dreams! the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate,

Still flutters there, the sole unquiet thing.
Methinks, its motion in this hush of nature
Gives it dim sympathies with me who live,
Making it a companionable form,
Whose puny flaps and freaks the idling Spirit
By its own moods interprets, every where
Echo or mirror seeking of itself,
And makes a toy of Thought.

But O! how oft,
How oft, at school, with most believing mind,
Presageful, have I gazed upon the bars,
To watch that fluttering stranger ! and as oft
With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt
Of my sweet birth-place, and the old church-tower,
Whose bells, the poor man’s only music, rang
From morn to evening, all the hot Fair-day,
So sweetly, that they stirred and haunted me
With a wild pleasure, falling on mine ear
Most like articulate sounds of things to come!
So gazed I, till the soothing things, I dreamt,
Lulled me to sleep, and sleep prolonged my dreams!
And so I brooded all the following morn,
Awed by the stern preceptor’s face, mine eye
Fixed with mock study on my swimming book:
Save if the door half opened, and I snatched
A hasty glance, and still my heart leaped up,
For still I hoped to see the stranger’s face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
My play-mate when we both were clothed alike!

Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,
Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,
Fill up the intersperséd vacancies
And momentary pauses of the thought!
My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,
And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent ‘mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the night-thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Summary Frost at Midnight

  • Popularity of “Frost at Midnight”: This poem is written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a great English poet. ‘Frost at Midnight’ is a conversation poem about the poet’s childhood experience. It was first published in 1798. The poem speaks about the speaker’s hopes and plans for his little son, Hartley Coleridge. It also reflects the beauty of nature and its importance in man’s life.
  • “Frost at Midnight”, As Representative of Hope: The poem revolves around the speaker’s belief that nature positively impacts happiness. The poem begins when the speaker is sitting alone next to an open window on a cold night. He feels the serenity of that peaceful night that allows him to listen to the crackle of fire and hooting of owls. While looking at the innocent face of his son, who is sleeping peacefully nearby. The speaker recalls how as a child he used to admire the frost falling gently from the sky and daydream about abandoning the busy life and go back to his childhood.
    Through the poem, we understand that the poet had missed all the delights and had a challenging childhood. He is hopeful that his son will have every opportunity to adore the beauty of nature, for he will not be bound as his father once was. He feels happy that all seasons will be sweet for his son and that he would learn to appreciate the bounties and beauties of nature around. He also encourages us to experience divine knowledge.
  • Major Themes in “Frost at Midnight”: Divine nature, childhood, and hope are the major themes underlined in this poem. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to reflect that nature and faith play a crucial part in man’s lives. The poet recalls the things which hindered the way to happiness. He reflects how he could not enjoy the beauty of nature. However, when he looks at his son sleeping peacefully, he is excited for him that he will have every chance to enjoy life to its fullest. He believes if his son submits his will to nature, it will automatically connect him to God. He addresses his sleeping son to reveal the secret that if he will keep nature his companion, he will never experience any pain.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Frost at Midnight”

Literary devices are tools that allow writers to enhance simple texts with different meanings. Through these devices, readers understand the hidden meanings of the text. Samuel Taylor Coleridge has also used some literary devices in this poem to bring depth to his poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Epistrophe: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the second part of the consecutive verses. This device is also known as epiphora and antistrophe. For example, the following phrase, “Sea, hill, and wood” is repeated in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the point.

“And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood.”

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “Gives it dim sympathies with me who live” and the sound of /a/ in “By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, such as the sound of /r/ in “The Frost performs its secret ministry.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /th/ in “And think that thou shalt learn far other lore.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues in the next line. There are several enjambments in the poem. For example,

Have left me to that solitude, which suits
Abstruser musings: save that at my side
My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.”

  1. Imagery: The use of imagery enables the readers to understand writers’ feelings and emotions using five senses. For example, “Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds”, “Quietly shining to the quiet Moon” and “My cradled infant slumbers peacefully.”
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. Here the frost is personified in the starting lines of the poem.

“The Frost performs its secret ministry,
Unhelped by any wind.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. “Frost” symbolizes the subtle and powerful force of nature, while dreams represent the importance of imagination.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Frost at Midnight”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme scheme or metrical pattern.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. The poem comprises four stanzas having a different number of verses in it.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful to elaborate on the beauty and calmness of nature which makes us forget the world around us.

“And extreme silentness. Sea, hill, and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life.”