Analysis of the poem “Dejection: An Ode”

Dejection: An Ode

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)


              1Well! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made

              2     The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,

              3     This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence

              4Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade

              5Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,

              6Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes

              7Upon the strings of this {AE}olian lute,

              8           Which better far were mute.

              9      For lo! the New-moon winter-bright!

            10      And overspread with phantom light,

            11      (With swimming phantom light o’erspread

            12      But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)

            13I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling

            14      The coming-on of rain and squally blast.

            15And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,

            16      And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!

            17Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,

            18           And sent my soul abroad,

            19Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,

            20Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live!


            21A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,

            22      A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,

            23      Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,

            24           In word, or sigh, or tear

            25O Lady! in this wan and heartless mood,

            26To other thoughts by yonder throstle woo’d,

            27      All this long eve, so balmy and serene,

            28Have I been gazing on the western sky,

            29      And its peculiar tint of yellow green:

            30And still I gaze–and with how blank an eye!

            31And those thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,

            32That give away their motion to the stars;

            33Those stars, that glide behind them or between,

            34Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen:

            35Yon crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew

            36In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue;

            37I see them all so excellently fair

            38I see, not feel, how beautiful they are!


            39      My genial spirits fail;

            40      And what can these avail

            41To lift the smothering weight from off my breast?

            42      It were a vain endeavour,

            43      Though I should gaze for ever

            44On that green light that lingers in the west:

            45I may not hope from outward forms to win

            46The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.


            47O Lady! we receive but what we give,

            48And in our life alone does Nature live:

            49Ours is her wedding garment, ours her shroud!

            50      And would we aught behold, of higher worth,

            51Than that inanimate cold world allowed

            52To the poor loveless ever-anxious crowd,

            53      Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth

            54A light, a glory, a fair luminous cloud

            55           Enveloping the Earth–

            56And from the soul itself must there be sent

            57      A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,

            58Of all sweet sounds the life and element!


            59O pure of heart! thou need’st not ask of me

            60What this strong music in the soul may be!

            61What, and wherein it doth exist,

            62This light, this glory, this fair luminous mist,

            63This beautiful and beauty-making power.

            64      Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne’er was given,

            65Save to the pure, and in their purest hour,

            66Life, and Life’s effluence, cloud at once and shower,

            67Joy, Lady! is the spirit and the power,

            68Which wedding Nature to us gives in dower

            69      A new Earth and new Heaven,

            70Undreamt of by the sensual and the proud–

            71Joy is the sweet voice, Joy the luminous cloud–

            72           We in ourselves rejoice!

            73And thence flows all that charms or ear or sight,

            74      All melodies the echoes of that voice,

            75All colours a suffusion from that light.


            76There was a time when, though my path was rough,

            77      This joy within me dallied with distress,

            78And all misfortunes were but as the stuff

            79      Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness:

            80For hope grew round me, like the twining vine,

            81And fruits, and foliage, not my own, seemed mine.

            82But now afflictions bow me down to earth:

            83Nor care I that they rob me of my mirth;

            84           But oh! each visitation

            85Suspends what nature gave me at my birth,

            86      My shaping spirit of Imagination.

            87For not to think of what I needs must feel,

            88      But to be still and patient, all I can;

            89And haply by abstruse research to steal

            90      From my own nature all the natural man–

            91      This was my sole resource, my only plan:

            92Till that which suits a part infects the whole,

            93And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.


            94Hence, viper thoughts, that coil around my mind,

            95           Reality’s dark dream!

            96I turn from you, and listen to the wind,

            97      Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream

            98Of agony by torture lengthened out

            99That lute sent forth! Thou Wind, that rav’st without,

          100      Bare crag, or mountain-tairn, or blasted tree,

          101Or pine-grove whither woodman never clomb,

          102Or lonely house, long held the witches’ home,

          103      Methinks were fitter instruments for thee,

          104Mad Lutanist! who in this month of showers,

          105Of dark-brown gardens, and of peeping flowers,

          106Mak’st Devils’ yule, with worse than wintry song,

          107The blossoms, buds, and timorous leaves among.

          108      Thou Actor, perfect in all tragic sounds!

          109Thou mighty Poet, e’en to frenzy bold!

          110           What tell’st thou now about?

          111           ‘Tis of the rushing of an host in rout,

          112      With groans, of trampled men, with smarting wounds–

          113At once they groan with pain, and shudder with the cold!

          114But hush! there is a pause of deepest silence!

          115      And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd,

          116With groans, and tremulous shudderings–all is over–

          117      It tells another tale, with sounds less deep and loud!

          118           A tale of less affright,

          119           And tempered with delight,

          120As Otway’s self had framed the tender lay,

          121           ‘Tis of a little child

          122           Upon a lonesome wild,

          123Nor far from home, but she hath lost her way:

          124And now moans low in bitter grief and fear,

          125And now screams loud, and hopes to make her mother hear.


          126’Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep:

          127Full seldom may my friend such vigils keep!

          128Visit her, gentle Sleep! with wings of healing,

          129      And may this storm be but a mountain-birth,

          130May all the stars hang bright above her dwelling,

          131      Silent as though they watched the sleeping Earth!

          132           With light heart may she rise,

          133           Gay fancy, cheerful eyes,

          134      Joy lift her spirit, joy attune her voice;

          135To her may all things live, from pole to pole,

          136Their life the eddying of her living soul!

          137      O simple spirit, guided from above,

          138Dear Lady! friend devoutest of my choice,

          139Thus mayest thou ever, evermore rejoice.

synopsis of of the poem Dejection: An Ode

Stanza 1 (Lines 1-20)

Well! If the poet, who wrote the grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence, was correct in his forecast of weather, this night, which is so calm at this time, will not pass without being distributed by winds which are more active than those which have broken up that cloud into slow moving fragments or than the dull, melancholic, breeze which is producing mournful sounds and which gently touches the strings of this lute on which the god of wind is playing and which should have been silent. For behold! the new moon is wintry bright. It is covered by a pale ghostly light which seems to be floating over it. But the moon has an edge of a silvery colour all around it. I see the old moon in the lap of the new, and it foretells the coming of rain and storm which will blow furiously. And oh! already is the wind developing into a storm and rain has started falling in a slanting direction. The rain drops are falling rapidly and are producing a loud sound. The sounds of the rain and storm have often raised my spirits in the past, though at the same time they created a terrifying impression on me and send my mind wandering out of doors. It is possible that these sounds might produce in me their customary thrill. They might awaken this pain which benumbs me and might lend some movement to it.

Stanza 11 (Lines 21-38)

Mine is a grief which does not cause any piercing sensation. It is empty, thick and dull. It is a suppressed, sleepy kind of grief that causes no excitement and that finds no natural outlet or relief in words, or sighs or tears. O Lady! I have been gazing on the western sky and its peculiar hue of yellow green throughout this evening which was so peaceful and sweet, and I have been in a cheerless and spiritless mood. The song of the throstle singing over there has been inducing in me thoughts of other things. And I am still gazing and I am doing so with a perfectly vacant eye. I am gazing at those thin clouds which appear in fragments and which here and there, look like parallel lines. Although it is the clouds that are moving, it seems that the stars behind them are in motion. The stars appear to be floating behind clouds and sometimes between clouds. When the stars are not screened by the clouds, they look bright; when the clouds cover them, their light becomes dim, but they continue to be visible even then. The thin semi circular moon over there seems to be fixed, as if it has its root in that portion of the blue sky where there are neither clouds nor stars. I see all these objects of Nature looking so beautiful and lovely. But although I see their beauty, I dont feel it (because my heart is in the grip of a grief which has rendered me completely cheerless and spiritless).

Stanza 111 (Lines 39-46)

I have lost all happiness and joy and my spirits are now drooping. All the beautiful objects of nature are unable to remove the overwhelming weight of grief from my heart. Even if I were to keep gazing for ever at the beautiful green light that seems to stay on in the Western sky, it would be a futile effort because I would not draw any comfort from it. The heart itself is the real source of excitement and animation. When the inner source of excitement and animation has dried up, I can not expect to experience these feelings by gazing at the beauty of the external objects.

Stanza 1v (Lines 47-58)

O Lady! We get from nature what we have transferred to it from our own hearts. Nature seems to be full of life, because we endow it with our own life. If we find nature in a joyful and festive mood, it is because we are ourselves in that mood. The objects of nature are cold and lifeless. If the poor, lifeless, careworn people of the world want to see anything of a high or noble quality in nature, their own soul must send forth a sweet and powerful voice which will endow the sounds of nature with sweetness.

Stanza v (Lines 59-75)

O pure hearted Lady! You need not ask me what the nature of this sweet and powerful voice in the soul is. Nor is it necessary to for you to ask me what the nature of this light, this lustre, and this radiance is and in what it has its existence. This light or this glory is not only beautiful in itself but it enables a man to create beautiful things. The sources of this light or glory, O pure hearted Lady! is joy in the heart. This joy is given by nature to no one except to the pure hearted people in their purest moments of life. It is the essence of life and issues forth from the vitality of human being. Only the purest hearted people are the recipients of this unique gift if nature, namely joy. This joy enables them to see a new earth and a new heaven which the vulgar and proud persons cannot even dream of. Joy is the source of that sweet voice; joy is the souce of that bright light. It is because of the joy in our own hearts that we feel happy. All the sweet sounds that delight the ear and all the beautiful sights which delight the eyes flow from that joy in our hearts. All music is an echo of that sweet voice (the source of which is the joy in our hearts) and all beautiful paintings are a reflection of that light (which flows from the joy in our hearts).

Stanza v1 (Lines 76-93)

There was a time when, though there were difficulties in my way, the joy in my heart enabled me to make light of my suffering. In those days, even my misfortunes served merely as material for my fancy to weave visions of delight. That was the time when hope grew around me like a climbing plant growing around a tree. The pleasure even of hopes which did not belong to me seemed in those days to be my own (just as the leaves and fruits of a plant growing around a tree seem to belong to the tree itself). But now the sorrows of life have crushed me and brought me from the upper regions down to the earth. Nor do I feel sorry that these misfortunes deprive me of my joy. But what grieves me is that each fit of depression renders my inborn gift of the creative power of imagination inoperative. All that I can do now is to remain silent and patient under the stress of my incapacity to give poetic expression to my deepest feelings. The gift of poetic imagination with which I was endowed by nature is being suppressed by my philosophical and metaphysical tendencies. The gift of poetic imagination was my only treasure in life, the only quality on which my life was based. But my metaphysical tendencies which were only a part of my mental make up have weakened and crushed my real nature which was poetically constituted. Now metaphysical thinking has taken almost complete possession of my soul and become a habit of the mind.

Stanza v11 (Lines 94-125)

O poisonous thoughts which have enveloped my mind and which are like a fearful dream of reality! I dismiss you. I turn my attention from you and listen to the wind which has been raging without my having taken any notice of it. The sound produced by the wind striking the strings of the lute is like the prolong scream of a human being who is being tortured and who cries in his agony. You wind, who are blowing furiously outside, it would be much better if you, instead of playing upon the lute, were to blow against a bare rock, a mountain lake, a lightning struck tree, a high pine grove which no woodman has ever set foot, or a lonely house which has long been believed to be haunted by evil spirits. You are a reckless musician playing upon the lute. The sounds that you are producing are worse than those which are heard during the bleak months of winter. It seems as if you are celebrating a devil’s Christmas among the blossoms, buds and tremulous leaves in this rainy season when the garden looks dark brown and the flower peep from behind the leaves. You are an actor, able to reproduce fully all sounds of pain and suffering. You are like a powerful poet. You can blow with great fury, thus emulating a frenzied poet. What sounds are you producing now? You are producing sounds similar to those produced by the panicky retreat of a defeated army, with cries of pain of trampled men with painful wounds, groaning in pain and at the same time shuddering with cold. But now there is a pause. There is a brief interval of the deepest possible silence. All that noise similar to the sounds of retreating army, with the groans, trembling and shuddering of trampled soldiers, has ended. Now the wind produces different sounds, sounds which are less deep and less loud, and which express less of fear and something of delight. These sounds are like the pathetic poem written by Thomas Otway about a lost girl roaming about on a lonely stretch of territory, not far from home. The wind produces sometimes sounds of bitter grief and fear and sometimes it screams aloud like that lost girl who hoped that her mother would hear her cries and come to her rescue.

Stanza v111 (Lines 126-139)

It is midnight, but I have almost no thought of sleeping. May my friend have such experiences of sleeplessness only rarely! May soothing sleep descend upon her and make her forget her worries! May this storm be only a kind of mountain birth! May all the stars shine brightly above her house and continue shining in silence as if they were watching the sleeping earth! May she get up from bed with a care free heart! May she feel happy and bright and may her eyes express a cheerful mood! May her spirits be raised by joy and may her voice be sweetened with happiness! May all living creatures from one end of the world to the other dedicate their existence to her! May their existence become a vital force to add to the energy of her spirit! O dear and simple hearted Lady! May you be guided by heaven! You are the most faithful friend of my choice. May you feel happy for ever and ever!

Analysis of the poem DEJECTION: AN ODE by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

One of Coleridge’s more personal and autobiographical poems, “Dejection” was originally a “verse letter” to Sara Hutchinson, a woman with whom Coleridge was desperately in love. Hutchinson is not mentioned directly, however, perhaps because at the time of the poem’s publication Coleridge was (unhappily) married to Sara Fricker. Coleridge was inspired to write it upon hearing the opening lines of Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality.” In his own poem, Coleridge echoes Wordsworth’s themes of disillusionment in love and the loss of imaginative powers.

In “Dejection: An Ode,” Coleridge also reinvents poetic traditions. His opening quotation is from the “Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,” yet his poem is given the title of an ode. The ode dates back to classical times as a serious poem concerning itself with a highly-regarded subject, accompanied by a strong attention to details of time and place; the English ballad tradition, on the other hand, was about intense action and emotion. Coleridge blends these two literary traditions into the triumph that is “Dejection: An Ode.” He keeps the general form of the ode, modified from the classical Pindaran ode of 500 BC to the 17th century form of three-part stanzas structured in turn, counter-turn, and stand. The modification does not end there, however, as Coleridge uses irregular lines to make the poem somewhat informal in sound, harking to the ballads of days gone by. That the poem is (at least in part) dedicated to a “Lady” rather than a somber meditation upon a public occasion also divorces it from the ode tradition and places it closer to the English ballad in sensibility.

The motif of the power of nature, which runs throughout much of Coleridge’s work, is a major theme in “Dejection.” In the first stanza of “Dejection,” Coleridge hopes that the Bard in the preface is correct about the moon’s foreshadowing of the weather because Coleridge hopes that a storm can revive him from his paralyzed emotional state. He reflects that in the past, he was able to use his imagination to translate the beauty of the surrounding nature into his own happiness, even when he suffered from sadness. However, Coleridge now acknowledges that the futility of his current wish to rely on nature to change his emotions. Although Coleridge greatly admires and desires to feel as one with nature (see Coleridge’s lamentation of his upbringing in the city and his longing to be in a more natural landscape in “Frost at Midnight”), he realizes that nature and humans are separate and distinct entities.

In “New Moons, Old Ballads, and Prophetic Dialogues in Coleridge’s ‘Dejection: An Ode,” R.A. Benthall states that “the dramatic arc of ‘Dejection’ in large part dramatizes an attempt to see clearly how verbal and phenomenal worlds relate, collide, or whether they interact at all” (613). The conclusion that Coleridge reaches in this poem is that it is the responsibility of humans, not of the surrounding nature, to create and sustain their own internal happiness. However, as the poet-creator of the work, Coleridge is able to move between these two states (nature and the inner life) with ease, suggesting that the two may not be in a cause and effect relationship, but they are indeed equally accessible to the imaginative soul.

The power of imagination/dreams, another recurring motif in Coleridge’s work, is also prominent in “Dejection.” The one thing that Coleridge particularly misses is his power of imagination and the ability to pretend that he is happy. Interestingly, Benthall highlights “the irony implicit in the fact that Coleridge should write a poem about the inability to create” (613). Coleridge’s mention of the healing powers of sleep in the last stanza and his claim that he will not go to sleep tonight (and most likely cannot because of his depression) both suggest that dreams offer a portal to happiness. This implication could be the reason why Coleridge wishes for his beloved Lady to have a peaceful night of sleep


What’s so depressing about nature? Unless it’s being covered in oil, burnt up in a forest fire, or overrun with rampaging bears, most of us find the natural world a soothing and relaxing place
to be. Not our speaker, though. He’s alternatively numb to natural beauty and tormented by ferocious storms. In that aspect, though, “Dejection: an Ode” carries forward the Romantic notion of Nature as a place that both influences
and reflects human emotion —both good and bad. In our speaker’s case, sadly, that’s mainly the bad.


The power of the imagination is a familiar motif in several of Coleridge’s poems. In “Kubla Khan,” Coleridge explores the fantastical creations of the imagination.
In “Dejection: An Ode,” Coleridge laments on the pain an artist suffers when his imagination and creativity are stifled by depression. In “Frost at Midnight,” Coleridge likewise laments the aimlessness of his thoughts of his thought and his lack of originality and creativity on the particular night of the poem’s setting

The imagination is connected to nature and to childhood in Coleridge’s works. Kubla Khan’s “stately pleasure dome” is a thing of imagination, but the reader knows this primarily because it is an inconceivable juxtaposition of natural elements (caves of ice over an underground sunless sea). In “Frost at Midnight” the speaker longs for the imaginative powers of his youth, when he could sit inside a classroom on a bright, hot summer’s day and imagine himself outdoors running through 
the countryside


Here’s a list of things that the speaker seems to love in “Dejection: an Ode”: howling wind, a “Lady,” and… well, that’s about it. The dude is pretty down in the mouth, after all. At the same time, we can cheat a little bit here by poking around in Coleridge’s biography. We know, for example, that he originally intended this poem for one Sara Hutchinson. She was William Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, which made
things kind of awkward. More importantly, she
was also not his wife—which made things really
awkward. The speaker’s dejection, then, seems to have its roots in poor Samuel’s tragic love life, and we get signs of his feelings for Sara throughout the poem.


Several of Coleridge’s poems explore the sources of happiness. In “Dejection: An Ode,” Coleridge acknowledges that he cannot solely rely on his external surroundings in nature to bring him happiness and that he must take responsibility for his emotional state. Nevertheless, in “Frost at Midnight,” “Sonnet: To the River Otter,” and “The Nightingale,” Coleridge describes how having an intimate relationship with nature can have a positive effect on one’s happiness.

Happiness is also to be found in returning to a state of childlike innocence. Gazing upon his baby in “Frost at Midnight,” Coleridge is overwhelmed by the child’s beauty and made dizzyingly happy. LIkewise, it is the days of his youth which make him happy in “Sonnet: To the River Otter.”


Your significant other dumps you. Your favorite sports team loses. Your hamster dies in a terrible vacuuming accident. Let’s face it: there are a million things in this life that can bum you out. But being sad is not a “one size fits all” proposition. On one side of the spectrum, you might just be irked. Let’s say someone stepped on your brand new white kicks and didn’t even say sorry. On the other hand, let’s say that you
realize that you don’t really love the person you’re with, but that you can never be with the person you truly love. In that case, you might bypass “sad” altogether and go straight to “dejected”—just like our speaker does in “Dejection: an Ode.” The emotions he’s feeling aren’t just run-of-the-mill sadness. He’s profoundly down and out, lacking energy, hope, even imagination. That’s a level of dissatisfaction that we hope we only have to read
about in Romantic poems.

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