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Short poem

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Constancy to an Ideal Object

              1Since all that beat about in Nature's range,
              2Or veer or vanish; why should'st thou remain
              3The only constant in a world of change,
              4O yearning Thought! that liv'st but in the brain?
              5Call to the Hours, that in the distance play,
              6The faery people of the future day--
              7Fond Thought! not one of all that shining swarm
              8Will breathe on thee with life-enkindling breath,
              9Till when, like strangers shelt'ring from a storm,
            10Hope and Despair meet in the porch of Death!
            11Yet still thou haunt'st me; and though well I see,
            12She is not thou, and only thou are she,
            13Still, still as though some dear embodied Good,
            14Some living Love before my eyes there stood
            15With answering look a ready ear to lend,
            16I mourn to thee and say--'Ah! loveliest friend!
            17That this the meed of all my toils might be,
            18To have a home, an English home, and thee!'
            19Vain repetition! Home and Thou are one.
            20The peacefull'st cot, the moon shall shine upon,
            21Lulled by the thrush and wakened by the lark,
            22Without thee were but a becalm{'e}d bark,
            23Whose Helmsman on an ocean waste and wide
            24Sits mute and pale his mouldering helm beside.

            25And art thou nothing? Such thou art, as when
            26The woodman winding westward up the glen
            27At wintry dawn, where o'er the sheep-track's maze
            28The viewless snow-mist weaves a glist'ning haze,
            29Sees full before him, gliding without tread,
            30An image with a glory round its head;
            31The enamoured rustic worships its fair hues,
            32Nor knows he makes the shadow, he pursues!


1] Of uncertain date, first published in the 1828 edition of Coleridge's poems.

16] Loveliest friend: probably Sara Hutchinson.

30] a glory round its head: an optical phenomenon which fascinated Coleridge and is described in his poem The Three Graves and referred to in the notebooks and in the Aids to Reflection. On a copy of the latter he wrote the following note: "This refers to a curious phenomenon which occurs occasionally when the air is filled with fine particles of frozen Snow mist, and a person is walking with ye Sun behind his back. His shadow is projected, and he sees a figure moving before him with a glory round his head. I have myself seen it twice and it is described in the 1st or 2nd Vol. of Ye Manchester Phil[osophical] Transact[io]ns." Quoted by J. L. Lowes, The Road to Xanadu, 471.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: The Poetical Works of S. T. Coleridge: including the dramas of Wallenstein, Remorse, and Zapolya (London: W. Pickering, 1828). PR 4470 E28 VICT Rare Books.
First publication date: 1828
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.473.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/20

Form note: irregular (couplets and quatrains)

Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge