Close Critical Analysis of Coleridge's 'Frost at Midnight'

1716 WordsMar 18, 20057 Pages
'Frost at Midnight' is generally regarded as the greatest of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 'Conversation Poems' and is said to have influenced Wordsworth's pivotal work, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey'. It is therefore apposite to analyse 'Frost at Midnight' with a view to revealing how the key concerns of Romanticism were communicated through the poem. The Romantic period in English literature ran from around 1785, following the death of the eminent neo-classical writer Samuel Johnson, to the ascension of Queen Victoria to the throne in 1837. However, in the years spanning this period writers were not identified as exponents of a recognised literary movement. It was only later that literary historians created and applied the…show more content…
562-63, line 1). Later in the poem, he personifies a film of soot flapping on the grate of the fire: Methinks, its motion in the hush of nature Gives it dim sympathies with me who lives, Making it a companionable form (lines 17-19). Such instances are effective in illustrating the Romantic precept that the seemingly familiar or innocuous aspects of nature can still fill the viewer with awe – an example of the ‘glorification of the normal' as described by Abrams. Coleridge is informed by a distinctly Romantic sensibility, one which takes issue with Samuel Johnson's assertion that "all wonder is the effect of novelty upon ignorance" (Abrams, 2000, p. 11). Instead, Coleridge's speaker meditates with wonder upon such an ordinary thing as soot. As he does so he transforms the film into a friend and liberates the focus of the poem from the immediate confines of the cottage to the more promising realm of memory and imagination. The speaker of 'Frost at Midnight' displays a characteristic reverence for nature – possibly the essential concern of Romanticism. In pious tones, he describes the "far other scenes" where his son will pass his boyhood "By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags/ Of ancient mountain" (lines 55-56). But it is not simply by the use of such grandiose language describing the topography of nature that nature is represented in the poem. By recalling his own
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