Prose Notes on "Frost at Midnight" By S.T. Coleridge

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The quiet of night sets the scene for poet to muse and unleash his creative spirit. All is conducive, ready, but he finds the silence disturbing, and cannot activate his 'idling spirit'. He focuses on the tiny fluttering of the film (the only movement in the room), and then his memory and imagination takes him back in time. He moves through the memories of his school days, when boredom set him on daydreams of his "sweet birth-place". He recalls the tiny details of his childhood, and the prevalent sense of eager anticipation he'd then felt for the future. The baby's breathing then draws him back into the present, they fill up the 'interspersed vacancies' around and within him, and he is suffused with his love of the babe. He moves into the future with an evocation of his hopes for the child to be nurtured by nature, to be immersed in nature's beauty and terror that he learns to love each aspect of God's creation, which will inturn feed his imagination and lead him to higher understanding.

Stanza-by-stanza Analysis

In stanza one, Coleridge portrays the heavy shroud of silence that's befallen everything in deep of night, whilst focusing on the abundance of activity in Nature despite the apparent calm that he could only perceive. The overwhelming stillness is established through lines like "unhelped by any wind", "solitude", "all at rest". The hoot of a small owl seemed a "cry", shattering the silence with a ferociousness that shocks the persona, eliciting from him a stuttered exclamation "-and hark, again!". This contrast dramatises the extremity of the silence. The fact that Nature's peace is disrupted by another aspect of it demonstrates its cyclic, regenerative processes of self-destruction and rebirth.

The use of the words "secret ministry" to depict the work of...