This is one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s early conversation poems, first written in 1795. The address is to his young married wife, Sarah. The Eolian Harp (or Aeolian, from Aeolus the Greek god of wind) was devised as an outdoor wind instrument played into sound by currents of air. The sounds enable the poet to devise a beautiful polytheistic conception of the manifold creation inspired into diverse life by the action on it of the spirit. In doing so he is rebuked by his wife for challenging her Christian understanding but the self -understanding of the poet resolves the issue so the poem ends with the tranquil beauty it has managed to maintain throughout.
My pensive Sara! thy soft cheek reclined Thus on mine arm, most soothing sweet it is To sit beside our Cot, our Cot o'ergrown With white-flower'd Jasmin, and the broad-leav'd Myrtle (Meet emblems they of Innocence and Love!) And watch the clouds, that late were rich with light Slow saddening round, and mark the star of eve Serenely brilliant (such should Wisdom be) Shine opposite! How exquisite the scents Snatch'd from yon bean-field! and the world so hush'd! The stilly murmur of the distant Sea Tells us of silence. And that simplest Lute Placed length- ways in the clasping casement, hark! How by the desutory breeze caress'd, Like some coy maiden yielding to her lover, It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs Tempt to repeat the wrong! And now its strings Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes Over delicious surges sink and rise, Such a soft floating witchery of sound As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve Voyage on gentle gales from Faery-Land, Where Melodies round honey-dropping flowers, Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise, Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam'd wing! O! the one Life within us and abroad, Which meets all Motion and becomes its soul, A light in sound, a sound-like power in light, Rhythm in all thought and joyance everywhere- Methinks it should have been impossible Not to love all things in a world so fill'd; Where the breeze warbles, and the mute still air Is Music slumbering on her instrument. And thus , my Love! as on the midway slope Of yonder hill I stretch my limbs at noon, Whilst through my half-clos'd eye-lids I behold The sunbeams dance, like diamonds on the main, And tranquil muse upon tranquillity; Full many a thought uncall'd and undetain'd, And many idle flitting phantasies, Traverse my indolent and passive brain, As wild and various as the random gales That swell and flutter on this subject Lute! And what if all of animated nature Be but organic Harps diversely fram'd That tremble into thought, as o'er them sweeps Plastic and vast one intellectual breeze, At once the soul of each, and God of all? But thy more serious eye a mild reproof Darts, O beloved Woman! nor such thoughts Dim and unhallow'd dost thou not reject, And biddest me walk humbly with my God. Meek daughter in the family of Christ! Well hast thou said and holily disprais'd These shapings of the unregenerate mind; Bubbles that glitter as they rise and break On vain Philosophy's aye-babbling spring. For never guiltless may I speak of him, The Incomprehensible! save when with awe I praise him, and with Faith that inly feels; Who with his saving mercies healed me, A sinful and most miserable man, Wilder'd and dark, and gave me to possess Peace, and this cot, and thee, heart-honour'd Maid! [1795;publ.1796]