Q. What are the thoughts that rise in the mind of Coleridge as he muses beside a fire on a frosty night in the poem ‘Frost at Midnight’? What is the future envisaged by the poet for his son? In this poem, ‘Frost at Midnight’, the poet expresses his fear in solitude for his baby, sitting beside a fire. , “Frost at Midnight” relies on a highly personal idiom whereby the reader follows the natural progression of the speaker’s mind as he sits up late one winter night thinking.
His idle observation gives the reader a quick impression of the scene, from the “silent ministry” of the frost to the cry of the owl and the sleeping child. The objects surrounding the speaker become metaphors for the work of the mind and the imagination, so that the fluttering film on the fire grate plunges him into the recollection of his childhood. His memory of feeling trapped in the schoolhouse naturally brings him back into his immediate surroundings with a surge of love and sympathy for his son.
His final meditation on his son’s future becomes mingled with his romantic interpretation of nature and its role in the child’s imagination, and his consideration of the objects of nature brings him back to the frost and the icicles, which, forming and shining in silence, mirror the silent way in which the world works upon the mind; this revisitation of winter’s frosty forms brings the poem full circle. As the frost “performs its secret ministry” in the windless night, an owlet’s cry twice pierces the silence.
The “inmates” of the speaker’s cottage are all asleep, and the speaker sits alone, solitary except for the “cradled infant” sleeping by his side. The calm is so total that the silence becomes distracting, and all the world of “sea, hill, and wood, this populous village! ” seems “inaudible as dreams. ” The thin blue flame of the fire burns without flickering; only the film on the grate flutters, which makes it seem “companionable” to the speaker, almost alive—stirred by “the idling Spirit. “But O! ” the speaker declares; as a child he often watched “that fluttering stranger” on the bars of his school window and daydreamed about his birthplace and the church tower whose bells rang so sweetly on Fair-day. These things lured him to sleep in his childhood, and he brooded on them at school, only pretending to look at his books—unless, of course, the door opened, in which case he looked up eagerly, hoping to see “Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved, My lay-mate when we both were clothed alike! ” Addressing the “Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled” by his side, whose breath fills the silences in his thought, the speaker says that it thrills his heart to look at his beautiful child. He enjoys the thought that although he himself was raised in the “great city, pent ’mid cloisters dim,” his child will wander in the rural countryside, by lakes and shores and mountains, and his spirit shall be molded by God, who will “by giving make it (the child) ask. All seasons, Coleridge proclaims, shall be sweet to his child, whether the summer makes the earth green or the robin redbreast sings between tufts of snow on the branch; whether the storm makes “the eave-drops fall” or the frosts “secret ministry” hangs icicles silently, “quietly shining to the quiet Moon. ” Coleridge was raised in London, “pent ’mid cloisters dim,” and in this poem he says that, as a child, he “saw naught lovely but the stars and sky” and seems to feel the lingering effects of that alienation.
In this poem, we see how the pain of this alienation has strengthened Coleridge’s wish that his child enjoy an idyllic upbringing “by lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds… ” Rather than seeing the link between childhood and nature as an inevitable, Coleridge seems to perceive it as a fragile, precious, and extraordinary connection, one of which he himself was deprived.
His memory of feeling trapped in the schoolhouse naturally brings him back into his immediate surroundings with a surge of love and sympathy for his son. His final meditation on his son’s future becomes mingled with his romantic interpretation of nature and its role in the child’s imagination, and his consideration of the objects of nature brings him back to the frost and the icicles, which, forming and shining in silence, mirror the silent way in which the world works upon the mind; this revisitation of winter’s frosty forms brings the poem full circle.