A Closer Look At "The Eolian Harp" By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
An analysis and understanding of the poem, "Eolian Harp" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Both Wordworth and Coleridge exemplified the meaning and movement known today and highly regarded as Romanticism. Springing up in the 18th century, Romanticist strove to find the connection between nature, human beings, and God. They argued and professed that God was in everything and everything he made was at its best and as a whole, we as humans could reach our full potential by observing nature in its organic state and find God within it and ourselves. Coleridge and Wordworth’s poems are infused with the ideas that:
- They wanted to use plain language, or, as Wordsworth put it, "language really used by men."
- They wanted to focus on simple people and rural situations. Their goal was to talk about the common man.
- Poetry, he said, is "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Wordsworth described a powerful feeling that overcame people when they were in the presence of the raw beauty of nature. This is called an apotheosis. This powerful feeling was the inspiration for poetry.
- The poet was also a deep thinker, and thoughtful recollections of powerful feelings were the source of poetry.
- They wanted the focus in their writing to be on the power of nature around them.
What the pair wanted to accomplish, was to demonstrate to the common people that real understanding of nature and human thoughts came from the observance of nature with deep thought and mediation following, to reach the pinnacle of mortal understanding of themselves and God. The Eolian Harp written by Coleridge exemplifies the above bullet pointed ideas. Incorporated are his philosophical sayings about the coexistence of humans, nature, and God.
The opening lines begin with the statement, “Cot o’er grown with white flower’d Jasmin and the broad leav’d Myrtle.” This is an immediate reference to nature being Coleridge’s muse. He goes on in line 5, describing the white Jasmin flowers and the leaved Myrtle, as being Innocence and Love. Why did he capitalize Innocence and Love? They served as adjectives to the two plants. Coleridge was giving objects the characteristics of human beings, thus establishing his idea that humans and nature have the ability to become one with each other.
Lines 5-7 outline the ability to find wisdom within nature. Line 14 makes reference to the lute, a stringed musical instrument. Line 15 uses the word “hark," meaning to listen attentively. Coleridge admonishes his readers to listen to the wisdom of nature. However, it is important to mention that in line 14, the word “simplest” is used before the word “lute”. This implies that the song played is a simple one, giving the impression that it is a song easy enough for everyone to learn and follow. Line 20 makes mention that the strings are “boldier swept, the long sequacious notes…” sequacious meaning, in logical order. So there is order to this song.
Line 28 states, “O! the one Life within us and abroad,” a direct connection between ourselves and God, a higher source of knowledge and thinking. Life is capitalized because is served as a pronoun. It is a gift from God of high value. Therefore, the “l” is capitalized. Line 29 goes on to say, “Which meets all motion and becomes its soul.” This is a meeting between higher and humanly thoughts, creating life within a body, stirring it into action. Soul is defined as, the principal of life or the spiritual part of humans. Coleridge is writing that the meeting between God and humans makes a person spiritually aware and motivated by the things God has created. In line 32, Coleridge says, “Methinks, it should have been impossible not to love all things in a world so fill’d.” Translation, connection between humans (nature) and God, is inevitably in everything. Therefore, how can you abandon one without abandoning the rest all together?
From lines 47-65, we acknowledge Coleridge praise of God for giving mortal men, him in them; for giving men nature and organic inspiration and beauty. He asks to be able to walk humbly with God in Christ's footsteps. Line 57 contains the statement, “unregenerate mind”. Unregenerate means, not renewed in heart and mind or reborn in spirit; unrepentant. He implores God to shape his mind and heart into the thinking of his (God’s).
In the last four lines, Coleridge tells God, I am an imperfect man, but yet you have shown mercy to me by giving me, “Peace, and this Cot, and thee, heart-honour’d Maid.” The Maid is Coleridge’s wife Sara, who he came in later years to detest. It is interesting he mentions her in his thank-you letter to God. His mention of her shows that he understands one must be able to find the good in all of their problems, dislikes, and un-wants. By mentioning his wife in his thank-you letter, Coleridge wanted to show God, that though he and Sara did not get along, he was grateful for her because of the lessons, he could learn because of her.