'Dejection: An Ode' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Late, late yestreen I saw the new moon,
With the old moon in her arms;
And I fear, I fear, my master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.
Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence.IWell! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made
The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade
Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,
Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes
Upon the strings of this Aeolian lute,
Which better far were mute.
For lo! the New-moon winter-bright!
And overspread with phantom light,
(With swimming phantom light o'erspread
But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling
The coming-on of rain and squally blast.
And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,
And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,
And sent my soul abroad,
Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live!IIA grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear-O Lady! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thoughts by yonder throstle wooed,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green:
And still I gaze-and with how blank an eye!
And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give away their motion to the stars;
Those stars, that glide behind them or between,
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen:
Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;
I see them all so excellently fair,
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!IIIMy genial spirits fail;
And what can these avail
To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?
It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze forever
On that green light that lingers in the west:
I may not hope from outward forms to win
The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.IVO Lady! we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone does Nature live:
Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud!
And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
Than that inanimate cold world allowed
To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth
A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud
Enveloping the Earth-And from the soul itself must there be sent
A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
Of all sweet sounds the life and element!VO pure of heart! thou need'st not ask of me
What this strong music in the soul may be!
What, and wherein it doth exist,
This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,
This beautiful and beauty-making power.
Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne'er was given,
Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,
Life, and Life's effluence, cloud at once and shower,
Joy, Lady! is the spirit and the power,
Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower,
A new Earth and new Heaven,
Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud-Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud-We in ourselves rejoice!
And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
All colours a suffusion from that light.VIThere was a time when, though my path was rough,
This joy within me dallied with distress,
And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness:
For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,
And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.
But now afflictions bow me down to earth:
Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth;
But oh! each visitation
Suspends what Nature gave me at my birth,
My shaping spirit of Imagination.
For not to think of what I needs must feel,
But to be still and patient, all I can;
And haply by abstruse research to steal
From my own nature all the natural man-This was my sole resource, my only plan:
Till that which suits a part infects the whole,
And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.VIIHence, viper thoughts, that coil around my mind,
Reality's dark dream!
I turn from you, and listen to the wind,
Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream
Of agony by torture lengthened out
That lute sent forth! Thou Wind, that rav'st without,
Bare crag, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree,
Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb,
Or lonely house, long held the witches' home,
Methinks were fitter instruments for thee,
Mad Lutanist! who in this month of showers,
Of dark-brown gardens, and of peeping flowers,
Mak'st Devils' yule, with worse than wintry song,
The blossoms, buds, and timorous leaves among.
Thou actor, perfect in all tragic sounds!
Thou mighty poet, e'en to frenzy bold!
What tell'st thou now about?
'Tis of the rushing of an host in rout,
With groans, of trampled men, with smarting wounds-At once they groan with pain, and shudder with the cold!
But hush! there is a pause of deepest silence!
And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd,
With groans, and tremulous shudderings-all is over-It tells another tale, with sounds less deep and loud!
A tale of less affright,
And tempered with delight,
As Otway's self had framed the tender lay-'Tis of a little child
Upon a lonesome wild,
Not far from home, but she hath lost her way:
And now moans low in bitter grief and fear,
And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear.VIII'Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep:
Full seldom may my friend such vigils keep!
Visit her, gentle Sleep! with wings of healing,
And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,
May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,
Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth!
With light heart may she rise,
Gay fancy, cheerful eyes,
Joy lift her spirit, joy attune her voice;
To her may all things live, from pole to pole,
Their life the eddying of her living soul!
O simple spirit, guided from above,
Dear Lady! friend devoutest of my choice,
Thus mayst thou ever, evermore rejoice.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Dejection is a poem written by the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It was composed in April 1802, and it is considered one of the most significant works of the Romantic period. The poem is an ode that reflects on the feelings of loneliness and despair that the poet experienced during a period of personal turmoil. In this literary criticism, we will explore the themes and elements that make Dejection: An Ode a masterpiece of English literature.


Before delving into the poem, it is essential to understand the context in which it was written. Coleridge was a leading figure of the Romantic movement in England, which was characterized by a focus on individualism, emotion, and nature. Dejection was written during a time of personal turmoil for the poet. He had recently separated from his wife, and his friend and fellow poet William Wordsworth had moved away. Coleridge was also struggling with addiction to opium, which affected his mental and physical health.

Structure and Form

Dejection: An Ode is structured as a series of 14 irregular stanzas. Each stanza consists of varying numbers of lines, ranging from 10 to 31. The irregular structure of the poem reflects the poet's emotional state, which is characterized by a sense of disorientation and confusion. The form of the poem is also significant, as it is an ode, a classical poetic form that is typically used to express admiration or praise. In Dejection, however, Coleridge uses the form of the ode to express feelings of despair and sadness.


One of the central themes of Dejection is the power of the imagination. The poem begins with the speaker lamenting the loss of his creative powers, which he believes have been affected by his emotional state. He then reflects on the role of the imagination in shaping our perceptions of the world, and how it can be both a source of joy and a cause of pain. The speaker describes his imagination as a "dominant power" that can "create, create anew." However, he also acknowledges that it can lead to feelings of "hopeless grief" and "painful thoughts."

Another theme of the poem is the relationship between nature and the human psyche. The speaker describes the natural world as a source of solace and comfort, contrasting it with the "blank desertion" of his emotional state. He also reflects on the idea of "enjoyment in the pathless woods," suggesting that the natural world can provide a sense of freedom and escape from the constraints of modern society. The relationship between nature and the human psyche is a common theme in Romantic literature, and Coleridge's treatment of it in Dejection is both powerful and poignant.


Coleridge's use of imagery in Dejection is one of the poem's most striking features. Throughout the poem, he employs vivid and evocative descriptions of the natural world to convey the speaker's emotional state. For example, he describes the "demon-lover" that haunts the speaker's dreams as a "sultry breeze" that "creeps o'er the stagnant pool." The image of the stagnant pool is a powerful metaphor for the speaker's emotional state, suggesting a sense of stagnation and lack of movement.

Another powerful image in the poem is the "bright star" that the speaker sees in the sky. This image is significant because it represents the speaker's belief in the power of the imagination to transcend the limitations of the physical world. The star is also a symbol of hope and inspiration, suggesting that the speaker is not entirely lost to despair.


Dejection: An Ode is a masterpiece of English literature that reflects the themes and concerns of the Romantic movement. Through its exploration of the power of the imagination, the relationship between nature and the human psyche, and the use of vivid and evocative imagery, the poem remains a powerful and poignant expression of human emotion. Coleridge's use of the form of the ode to express feelings of despair and sadness is innovative and groundbreaking, and his treatment of the relationship between nature and the human psyche remains a significant contribution to English literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Dejection: An Ode - An Analysis

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one of the most prominent poets of the Romantic era, wrote the poem "Dejection: An Ode" in 1802. The poem is a reflection of Coleridge's personal struggles with depression and his inability to find inspiration for his poetry. It is a deeply personal and emotional piece that explores the themes of loss, despair, and the power of imagination.

The poem is structured in four stanzas, each consisting of ten lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCDCDEE, and the meter is iambic pentameter. The poem begins with a description of the speaker's state of mind. He is feeling dejected and lost, unable to find the inspiration he needs to write poetry. He compares his current state to the joy and inspiration he felt in the past, and he longs to feel that way again.

The first stanza sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker describes his current state as "a grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear," indicating that he is experiencing a deep sense of loss and emptiness. He compares his current state to the joy and inspiration he felt in the past, saying that he used to feel "a joy the world can neither give nor take away." This contrast between the speaker's past and present states of mind sets up the central conflict of the poem.

In the second stanza, the speaker describes the natural world around him. He sees the moon and the stars in the sky, but they do not bring him the same joy and inspiration they once did. He describes the world as "a dreary void, the populous and the powerful" and says that he feels "alone, on a wide, wide sea." This sense of isolation and loneliness is a recurring theme throughout the poem.

The third stanza is where the poem takes a turn. The speaker begins to describe the power of imagination and how it can bring joy and inspiration even in the darkest of times. He says that "O Lady! we receive but what we give, / And in our life alone does Nature live." This idea that we create our own reality through our imagination is a central theme of Romantic poetry. The speaker goes on to describe how his imagination has the power to transport him to other worlds and bring him joy and inspiration.

The final stanza is a plea to the speaker's friend, Charles Lamb, to help him find his way back to the world of inspiration and creativity. He says that he needs Lamb's "gentle heart" to help him "find my way back to the comfortless shore, / Where the lorn bard, like the lone sea-bird, / Scatters the seeds of joy." This final stanza is a powerful statement about the importance of friendship and human connection in times of despair.

Overall, "Dejection: An Ode" is a deeply personal and emotional poem that explores the themes of loss, despair, and the power of imagination. The contrast between the speaker's past and present states of mind sets up the central conflict of the poem, and the final stanza is a powerful statement about the importance of friendship and human connection in times of despair. Coleridge's use of imagery and language is masterful, and the poem is a testament to his skill as a poet.

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