Youth and Age

Youth and Age

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee—
Both were mine! Life went a-maying
With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
When I was young!

When I was young?—Ah, woful When!
Ah! for the change ‘twixt Now and Then!
This breathing house not built with hands,
This body that does me grievous wrong,
O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:—
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
On winding lakes and rivers wide,
That ask no aid of sail or oar,
That fear no spite of wind or tide!
Nought cared this body for wind or weather
When Youth and I lived in’t together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!
Ere I was old? Ah woeful Ere,
Which tells me, Youth’s no longer here!
O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
‘Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
I’ll think it but a fond conceit
It cannot be that Thou art gone!

Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll’d:—
And thou wert aye a masker bold!
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe, that thou are gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size:
But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life’s a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve
With oft and tedious taking-leave,
Like some poor nigh-related guest,
That may not rudely be dismist;
Yet hath outstay’d his welcome while,
And tells the jest without the smile.

Summary of Youth and Age

  • Popularity of “Youth and Age”: The phenomenal poem “You and Age” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a renowned English romantic poet, first appeared in 1832 though some of the lines took almost seven to five years to write. The poem laments the passing of the youth period and welcomes old age with a heavy heart. The beauty of the poem not only lies in its celebration of the youth but also in the extreme sadness of old age, with melody syncing both. The popularity of the poem lies in this comparative presentation of both ages.
  • “Youth And Age” As a Representative of Old Age and Youth: The poet presents himself as the speaker of the poem to compare old age with the youthful period that is full of hope, fun, and excitement after stating that he used to love nature, be hopeful and write poetry when he was young. However, the change comes fast after he has become old, and now he is fearful of everything that he used to love at a young age. He states that at that time, nature, friendship, and enjoyments were his motto, and he used to take youth as his companion. However, now that companion has left him, making him old to see his “silvery locks.” At a young age, he used to be entwined with the youth as both were almost mates. Now in old age, when nothing is with him, even having no hope seems to him a warning that he could leave this world at any time. The poet, in fact, laments the loss of his youth and mourns the arrival of old age.
  • Major Themes in “Youth and Age”: Youth and old age, the excitement of young age, and love for nature and poetry are major thematic strands of this poem. The poem presents youth in the very first stanza, saying that he and his youth were friends and both enjoyed it very much. They were highly adventurous, living among nature and writing poetry. However, since the arrival of old age, the scene has changed. Now he is no more that young and hence no more agile and happy. The excitement of the youthful period has entirely left him. He has drooping eyes and no hope, which seems to him a warning that he could die at any time. However, both nature and poetry were his first loves during his youth. He used to enjoy both, but old age only grieves him.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Youth and Age

Samuel Taylor Coleridge used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices used in this poem are as follows.

  1. Apostrophe: It means to call some dead person or abstract idea. In this poem, the poet uses an apostrophe to call his youthful period, depicting it as a personification, such as “O! the joy” and “O Youth!”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a and i/ in “O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands”, and the sound of /a/ and /o/ in “Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /t/ in “ tears take” or “tedious taking-leave.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /t/ in “With oft and tedious taking-leave” and the sound of /d and g/ in “Dew-drops are the gems of morning.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought: so think I will
That Youth and I are house-mates still.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “This breathing house not built with hands”, “How lightly then it flashed along” and “Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll’d.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet has used several metaphors for the youthful period and old age, such as;
  • Where youth clung feeding
  • Life went a-maying
  • This breathing house
  • How lightly then it flashed along
  • When Youth and I lived
  • Friendship is a sheltering tree
  • Life is but thought
  • Dew drops are gems of morning
  1. Simile: It means to show a direct comparison of things such as “like those trim skiffs” or “Love is flower-like” or “some poor nigh-related guest.”
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols like false praise, realization, truthfulness, and hope.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Youth And Age

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

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Samuel Taylor Coleridge has used end rhyme in this poem, such as “staying / a-maying” and “bee/poesy” or “When/then.”
  2. Repetitions: It means to repeat words, phrases, or verses for the impact, such as “When I was young” or Ere I was old.”
  3. Rhetorical Question: This is a type of question posed to stress a point and not to respond. The poem shows the use of rhetorical questions in several places, such as “Ere I was old?” and “When I was young?”
  4. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows different rhyme schemes in different stanzas, such as in the first, it shows ABABC and then in the second, it shows AABCBCDEDEFF and so on.
  5. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem, with each having a different number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote to show the impact of old age and its problems.

But the tears of mournful eve!
Where no hope is, life’s a warning
That only serves to make us grieve,
When we are old:
That only serves to make us grieve