Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Summary

Dejection: An Ode was written by ST Coleridge on the 4th of April, 1802 when Dorothy and William were on a visit to Keswick. It is a personal poem in which the poet expresses the distress of his soul. The poet bewails that he has lost the creative energy which Nature had given him at the time of birth. There was a time when Coleridge had great creative power and wrote his three most powerful poems -The Ancient Mariner, Kubla Khan, and Christabel.

S. T. Coleridge (1772-1834)

But that time is past now; domestic misfortunes, his habit of taking opium and his weakness of will destroyed his poetic powers and the poet realizes that now he cannot compose great poetry as he used to do in the past. This Ode is an expression of these feelings which found an outlet in many of his letters also.

The poem begins with a quotation from the grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spenser in which it is stated that the presence of the old moon in the lap of the new moon foretells the coming on of rain and storm. At this moment Coleridge sees the old moon in the lap of the new moon and says that if the poet who wrote the ballad of Sir Patrick Spenser was correct in his forecast of weather this night, which is so peaceful and quiet at this time will not end without being roused by winds, and the coming on of rain and storm. As the poet is thinking like this the wind develops into a storm and the rain starts falling fast in a slanting direction, producing a loud noise. These sounds of rain and storm, which had often raised his spirits and inspired him in the past, might also produce the same sensations in him today, and might awaken this dull pain (which he feels at this moment and which makes him inactive) and make it move and live.

The grief that the poet feels is without any piercing sensations; it is empty and dull and awakens no passion in him. It does not find any natural outlet or relief in words, sighs, or tears. Addressing the Lady the poet says that he is seeing and hearing the beautiful sights and sounds of Nature - the Western sky and its peculiar color of yellow, green, the song' of the bird throstle, the clouds moving here and there, the stars shining behind them, the crescent moon and so on. Although he looks at the beauty of these objects he does not feel it because he is in the grip of a pain that had made him cold, cheerless and unresponsive to the beauty of Nature. The poet says that the real source of pleasure is the heart of man, and not the outward forms of Nature and therefore if the heart of man has become dead, i.e. if he does not feel the passion and life in it, nothing in the world can give him comfort, ease, and happiness.

The poet says that we get from Nature is only what we have given to it. If we find Nature in a joyful mood, it is because we are ourselves happy. If we find Nature in a sorrowful mood, it is because we are ourselves sad and melancholy. The objects of Nature are in themselves lifeless and cold. If we want to see anything or hear anything of a high and noble quality in the inanimate cold Nature, then our souls will have to send forth a light and powerful voice which can give sweetness to the sight and sounds of Nature. The poet says the Lady that she need not ask him the nature of this sweet voice in the soul and this light and glory. The source of this light and glory is joy in the heart of man, which is given only to the pure-hearted people and in their purest moments of life. All the sweet sounds that charm the ear and all the lovely sights that attract the eye come out of this joy in the heart of man.

There was a time when, though there were difficulties in his life the poet was able not to feel those difficulties in this joy in his heart. But now suffering and sorrows of life have crushed him and brought him down from the upper regions to the earth. The most sorrowful "thing for the poet is that each fit of depression makes dull and inactive the shaping spirit of Imagination in him which Nature gave him at his birth. The philosophical and metaphysical thinking is developing more and more in him and crushing down the gift of poetic Imagination. Dejection is settled in his mind and is becoming almost a habit in him.

The poet asks his poisonous thoughts to go away from his mind and leave him alone. He turns away from them and listens to the wind which has been raging outside for a long time unnoticed by him. The wind is producing a sound in this rainy season, which is worse than those sound which are heard during the bleak months of winter. What type of sound the wind is producing at present? It is producing the sound of a similar nature to those produced by the retreat of a defeated army with groans of trampled men with painful wounds But now the wind stops and there is a pause of the deepest silence. The wind again starts blowing and producing different types of sounds. Its sounds now resemble the pathetic poem written by Thomas Otway in which he describes a lost girl roaming and screaming in a lonely forest, not far from her home. It is midnight, but the poet has almost no thought of sleep. He prays that his friend (the Lady) may experience such sleeplessness only rarely. May gentle and soothing sleep come to her and console her! She may get up in the morning with a light and carefree heart, and pleasant thoughts and happy eyes. May joy lift her spirits and sweeten her voice! She is the most faithful friend of his choice and the poet prays that she may always live a peaceful and happy life.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Dejection: An Ode by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Summary." BachelorandMaster, 7 Nov. 2017,