A Coleridge Companion: An Introduction to the Major Poems by John Spencer Hill

By John Spencer Hill

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2-4) The scene is not merely languorously pastoral. It is clearly paradisiacal. The tranquil lovers by their cottage overgrown with luxuriant vegetation recalls the prelapsarian bower of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost, IV 690-703 - an echo reinforced both by the references to jasmine and myrtle (plants mentioned by Milton) and by Coleridge's effort to allegorise these flowers as Edenic emblems of Innocence and Love (line 5). In lines 6-12, where the scene expands out from the cottage into the surrounding landscape, there is a subtle balancing of inertia and activity: the emblematic stasis of the evening star is coupled with almost imperceptible transformations in the 'slow saddening' clouds, and the scents of a bean-field are 'snatched' from a world at rest.

No longer a simple descriptive idyll, this newly expanded version is dearly an artful construction. Taking the original lines as a point of departure, it develops the image of the harp's music in fanciful analogies and posits a second centre of focus in the poet's memory of past times when he has been receptive, like a kind of human harp, to unbidden thoughts that traversed his 'indolent and passive brain' . Such memories suggest the metaphysical speculation, expressed as a question, that all living things may be merely 'organic Harps' activated by 'one intellectual breeze' that is the soul of each and God of all.

In 1810 the poem was reprinted in Mylius's Poetical Classbook; and from 1817, when it was published in Sibylline Leaves, it has appeared in all editions of Coleridge's poetry. 'This Lime-Tree Bower' is perhaps the most genial and engaging poem Coleridge ever wrote. It is, as Michael Schmidt says, 'one of our great poems, a personal poem of shared joy, momentary optimism, sincere generosity of impulse'. 31 While these features of openness and selfless friendship need to be stressed, one must see as well that beneath the poem's relaxed exterior there lies a tightlyknit structure which is the vehicle of a deeply felt imaginative VISIon.

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