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    Fears in Solitude

    by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
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    Written in April 1798, during the alarm of an invasion

    A green and silent spot, amid the hills,
    A small and silent dell! O'er stiller place
    No singing skylark ever poised himself.
    The hills are heathy, save that swelling slope,
    Which hath a gay and gorgeous covering on,
    All golden with the never-bloomless furze,
    Which now blooms most profusely: but the dell,
    Bathed by the mist, is fresh and delicate
    As vernal cornfield, or the unripe flax,
    When, through its half-transparent stalks, at eve,
    The level sunshine glimmers with green light.
    Oh! 'tis a quiet spirit-healing nook!
    Which all, methinks, would love; but chiefly he,
    The humble man, who, in his youthful years,
    Knew just so much of folly as had made

    His early manhood more securely wise!
    Here he might lie on fern or withered heath,
    While from the singing lark (that sings unseen
    The minstrelsy that solitude loves best),
    And from the sun, and from the breezy air,
    Sweet influences trembled o'er his frame;
    And he, with many feelings, many thoughts,
    Made up a meditative joy, and found
    Religious meanings in the forms of Nature!
    And so, his senses gradually wrapped
    In a half sleep, he dreams of better worlds,
    And dreaming hears thee still, O singing lark,
    That singest like an angel in the clouds!

    My God! it is a melancholy thing
    For such a man, who would full fain preserve
    His soul in calmness, yet perforce must feel
    For all his human brethren -O my God!
    It weighs upon the heart, that he must think
    What uproar and what strife may now be stirring
    This way or that way o'er these silent hills -
    Invasion, and the thunder and the shout,
    And all the crash of onset; fear and rage,
    And undetermined conflict -even now,
    Even now, perchance, and in his native isle:
    Carnage and groans beneath this blessed sun!
    We have offended, Oh! my countrymen!
    We have offended very grievously,
    And been most tyrannous. From east to west
    A groan of accusation pierces Heaven!
    The wretched plead against us; multitudes
    Countless and vehement, the sons of God,
    Our brethren! Like a cloud that travels on,
    Steamed up from Cairo's swamps of pestilence,
    Even so, my countrymen! have we gone forth
    And borne to distant tribes slavery and pangs,
    And, deadlier far, our vices, whose deep taint
    With slow perdition murders the whole man,
    His body and his soul! Meanwhile, at home,
    All individual dignity and power
    Engulfed in Courts, Committees, Institutions,
    Associations and Societies,
    A vain, speech-mouthing, speech-reporting Guild,
    One Benefit-Club for mutual flattery,
    We have drunk up, demure as at a grace,
    Pollutions from the brimming cup of wealth;
    Contemptuous of all honourable rule,
    Yet bartering freedom and the poor man's life
    For gold, as at a market! The sweet words
    Of Christian promise, words that even yet
    Might stem destruction, were they wisely preached,
    Are muttered o'er by men, whose tones proclaim
    How flat and wearisome they feel their trade:
    Rank scoffers some, but most too indolent
    To deem them falsehoods or to know their truth.
    Oh! blasphemous! the Book of Life is made
    A superstitious instrument, on which
    We gabble o'er the oaths we mean to break;
    For all must swear -all and in every place,
    College and wharf, council and justice-court;
    All, all must swear, the briber and the bribed,
    Merchant and lawyer, senator and priest,
    The rich, the poor, the old man and the young;
    All, all make up one scheme of perjury,
    That faith doth reel; the very name of God
    Sounds like a juggler's charm; and, bold with joy,
    Forth from his dark and lonely hiding-place
    (Portentous sight!) the owlet Atheism,
    Sailing on obscene wings athwart the noon,
    Drops his blue-fringed lids, and holds them close,
    And hooting at the glorious sun in Heaven,
    Cries out, "Where is it?"

    Thankless too for peace,
    (Peace long preserved by fleets and perilous seas)
    Secure from actual warfare, we have loved
    To swell the war-whoop, passionate for war!
    Alas! for ages ignorant of all
    Its ghastlier workings, (famine or blue plague,
    Battle, or siege, or flight through wintry snows,)
    We, this whole people, have been clamorous
    For war and bloodshed; animating sports,
    The which we pay for as a thing to talk of,
    Spectators and not combatants! No guess
    Anticipative of a wrong unfelt,
    No speculation on contingency,
    However dim and vague, too vague and dim
    To yield a justifying cause; and forth,
    (Stuffed out with big preamble, holy names,
    And adjurations of the God in Heaven,)
    We send our mandates for the certain death
    Of thousands and ten thousands! Boys and girls,
    And women, that would groan to see a child
    Pull off an insect's leg, all read of war,
    The best amusement for our morning meal!
    The poor wretch, who has learnt his only prayers
    From curses, who knows scarcely words enough
    To ask a blessing from his Heavenly Father,
    Becomes a fluent phraseman, absolute
    And technical in victories and defeats,
    And all our dainty terms for fratricide;
    Terms which we trundle smoothly o'er our tongues
    Like mere abstractions, empty sounds to which
    We join no feeling and attach no form!
    As if the soldier died without a wound;
    As if the fibres of this godlike frame
    Were gored without a pang; as if the wretch,
    Who fell in battle, doing bloody deeds,
    Passed off to Heaven, translated and not killed;
    As though he had no wife to pine for him,
    No God to judge him! Therefore, evil days
    Are coming on us, O my countrymen!
    And what if all-avenging Providence,
    Strong and retributive, should make us know
    The meaning of our words, force us to feel
    The desolation and the agony
    Of our fierce doings?

    Spare us yet awhile,
    Father and God! O, spare us yet awhile!
    Oh! let not English women drag their flight
    Fainting beneath the burthen of their babes,
    Of the sweet infants, that but yesterday
    Laughed at the breast! Sons, brothers, husbands, all
    Who ever gazed with fondness on the forms
    Which grew up with you round the same fireside,
    And all who ever heard the Sabbath-bells
    Without the Infidel's scorn, make yourselves pure!
    Stand forth! be men! repel an impious foe,
    Impious and false, a light yet cruel race,
    Who laugh away all virtue, mingling mirth
    With deeds of murder; and still promising
    Freedom, themselves too sensual to be free,
    Poison life's amities, and cheat the heart
    Of faith and quiet hope, and all that soothes,
    And all that lifts the spirit! Stand we forth;
    Render them back upon the insulted ocean,
    And let them toss as idly on its waves
    As the vile seaweed, which some mountain-blast
    Swept from our shores! And oh! may we return
    Not with a drunken triumph, but with fear,
    Repenting of the wrongs with which we stung
    So fierce a foe to frenzy!

    I have told,
    O Britons! O my brethren! I have told
    Most bitter truth, but without bitterness.
    Nor deem my zeal or fractious or mistimed;
    For never can true courage dwell with them
    Who, playing tricks with conscience, dare not look
    At their own vices. We have been too long
    Dupes of a deep delusion! Some, belike,
    Groaning with restless enmity, expect
    All change from change of constituted power;
    As if a Government had been a robe
    On which our vice and wretchedness were tagged
    Like fancy-points and fringes, with the robe
    Pulled off at pleasure. Fondly these attach
    A radical causation to a few
    Poor drudges of chastising Providence,
    Who borrow all their hues and qualities
    From our own folly and rank wickedness,
    Which gave them birth and nursed them. Others, meanwhile,
    Dote with a mad idolatry; and all
    Who will not fall before their images,
    And yield them worship, they are enemies
    Even of their country!

    Such have I been deemed. -
    But, O dear Britain! O my Mother Isle!
    Needs must thou prove a name most dear and holy
    To me, a son, a brother, and a friend,
    A husband, and a father! who revere
    All bonds of natural love, and find them all
    Within the limits ot thy rocky shores.
    O native Britain! O my Mother Isle!
    How shouldst thou prove aught else but dear and holy
    To me, who from thy lakes and mountain-hills,
    Thy clouds, thy quiet dales, thy rocks and seas,
    Have drunk in all my intellectual life,
    All sweet sensations, all ennobling thoughts,
    All adoration of the God in nature,
    All lovely and all honourable things,
    Whatever makes this mortal spirit feel
    The joy and greatness of its future being?
    There lives nor form nor feeling in my soul
    Unborrowed from my country! O divine
    And beauteous Island! thou hast been my sole
    And most magnificent temple, in the which
    I walk with awe, and sing my stately songs,
    Loving the God that made me! -

    May my fears,
    My filial fears, be vain! and may the vaunts
    And menace of the vengeful enemy
    Pass like the gust, that roared and died away
    In the distant tree: which heard, and only heard
    In this low dell, bowed not the delicate grass.

    But now the gentle dew-fall sends abroad
    The fruit-like perfume of the golden furze:
    The light has left the summit of the hill,
    Though still a sunny gleam lies beautiful,
    Aslant the ivied beacon. Now farewell,
    Farewell, awhile, O soft and silent spot!
    On the green sheep-track, up the heathy hill,
    Homeward I wind my way; and lo! recalled
    From bodings that have well-nigh wearied me,
    I find myself upon the brow, and pause
    Startled! And after lonely sojourning
    In such a quiet and surrounded nook,
    This burst of prospect, here the shadowy main,
    Dim-tinted, there the mighty majesty
    Of that huge amphitheatre of rich
    And elmy fields, seems like society -
    Conversing with the mind, and giving it
    A livelier impulse and a dance of thought!
    And now, beloved Stowey! I behold
    Thy church-tower, and, methinks, the four huge elms
    Clustering, which mark the mansion of my friend;
    And close behind them, hidden from my view,
    Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe
    And my babe's mother dwell in peace! With light
    And quickened footsteps thitherward I tend,
    Remembering thee, O green and silent dell!
    And grateful, that by nature's quietness
    And solitary musings, all my heart
    Is softened, and made worthy to indulge
    Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human kind.
    If you're writing a Fears in Solitude essay and need some advice, post your Samuel Taylor Coleridge essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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