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Short poem

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Youth and Age

              1Verse, a breeze mid blossoms straying,
              2Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee--
              3Both were mine! Life went a-maying
              4      With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,
              5           When I was young!

              6When I was young?--Ah, woful When!
              7Ah! for the change 'twixt Now and Then!
              8This breathing house not built with hands,
              9This body that does me grievous wrong,
            10O'er aery cliffs and glittering sands,
            11How lightly then it flashed along:--
            12Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
            13On winding lakes and rivers wide,
            14That ask no aid of sail or oar,
            15That fear no spite of wind or tide!
            16Nought cared this body for wind or weather
            17When Youth and I lived in't together.

            18Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
            19Friendship is a sheltering tree;
            20O! the joys, that came down shower-like,
            21Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
            22           Ere I was old!
            23Ere I was old? Ah woful Ere,
            24Which tells me, Youth's no longer here!
            25O Youth! for years so many and sweet,
            26'Tis known, that Thou and I were one,
            27I'll think it but a fond conceit--
            28It cannot be that Thou art gone!

            29Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd:--
            30And thou wert aye a masker bold!
            31What strange disguise hast now put on,
            32To make believe, that thou are gone?
            33I see these locks in silvery slips,
            34This drooping gait, this altered size:
            35But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
            36And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
            37Life is but thought: so think I will
            38That Youth and I are house-mates still.

            39Dew-drops are the gems of morning,
            40But the tears of mournful eve!
            41Where no hope is, life's a warning
            42That only serves to make us grieve,
            43           When we are old:
            44That only serves to make us grieve
            45With oft and tedious taking-leave,
            46Like some poor nigh-related guest,
            47That may not rudely be dismist;
            48Yet hath outstay'd his welcome while,
            49And tells the jest without the smile.


1] Drafted in September 1823 but variously revised at least until April 1832. First published in this form in 1834.

12] trim skiffs unknown of yore: steam boats; see Fragments 9, below.

19] Friendship in a sheltering tree. The poem had been germinating as far back as a memorandum of 1810: "Why is true Love like a Tree--a Poem."

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, ed. Henry Nelson Coleridge (London : W. Pickering, 1834). PR 4470 E34 VICT Rare Books.
First publication date: 1834
RPO poem editor: Kathleen Coburn, R. S. Woof
RP edition: 3RP 2.471.
Recent editing: 4:2002/3/20

Composition date: 1823 - 1832
Form note: irregularly rhyming

Other poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge