Coleridge: "Youth and Age" and "Work without Hope"
"Youth and Age" and "Work without Hope"
In these two poems Coleridge has left a record of the sadness of a life lived
or returning only in glimpses that showed what he had lost. In these latter years he was busy enough in an incoherent, visionary fashion, and did even write and publish (though in characteristically fragmentary form) a work that made a great impression on young men in the second quarter of the century, his "Aids to Reflection"; but his activity was philosophical and theological, not poetic, and even in that field the product fell far short of his plans and promises. The inner and real life of the man is revealed, now as always, in his poetry; and amidst what profound dejection it glimmers on, these two brief poems show.
"Youth and Age" was written in 1823-"an air that whizzed ... right across the diameter of my brain ... over the summit of Quantock at earliest dawn just between the nightingale that I stopt to hear in the copse at the foot of Quantock, and the first sky-lark that was a song-fountain, dashing up and sparkling to the ear's eye, ... out of sight, over the cornfields on the descent of the mountain on the other side-out of sight, tho' twice I beheld its mute shoot downward in the sunshine like a falling star of silver"-so he described the conception of the poem in the original MS., printed by Mr. Campbell in the Notes to the Globe edition. It was a flash of poignant memory of the old days at Stowey. The first thirty-eight lines were printed in 1828, and the whole poem (including the last six lines, which were not in the original draft) in 1834.
"Work Without Hope" was written, Coleridge says, "on the 21st February, 1827," and was first printed in 1828.
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