Ode To Tranquillity: by S. T. Coleridge - Summary & Analysis

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INTRODUCTION

      Ode To Tranquillity is a lyric poem with the special characteristics of nobility of feeling and solemnity of style. It takes its origin from the Greek literary practice. When this poem is originally published in a periodical in 1801, it has two more stanzas thus making the minimum of fifty lines. The two stanzas are later deleted because the political allusions were no longer topical or relevant. Earnest craving for quietude is manifest throughout the poem. Coleridge's life is marred by unhappiness. Hence his deep search for peace of mind.

SUMMARY

      Tranquillity gives pleasanter experience than what Fame and allied glory can be expected to give us. The poet hopes that through it 'low intrigue and factious rage', can be avoided in the mature years of his life because he has, worked for it during the early years of his youthful life. A life of ambition will lead to uncertainty and instability just like a voyage in a boat. Hence it has been the poet's earnest endeavour to live a sober life of adhering to the stead fast shore to avoid the roaring tempest. The poet addresses Tranquillity as the "dear child of thoughtful truth". One must be truthful and constantly ponder over the problems of life in order to arrive at the proper solution and hence a peaceful and calm life.

      Those who are 'late and lingering' in seeking the temple of tranquillity cannot be blest by the Divine power with the serenity of mind. Worldly-minded people mistake sloth and satiety for real tranquillity. The man of vexed mind cannot expect peaceful sleep. Idle hope is akin to a bubble that gets dissolved even as we pursue it. "Dire Remembrance" is the series of painful memories resembling a spectre that stalks us in order to overpower us.

      The poet is certain that Tranquillity will come to him and that it will lead him in the morning through accustomed fields and will provide him with a moss-covered seat. There he can spend the hot hours of the summer days. When the winds of Autumn blow, Tranquillity will comfort the poet, ennoble his thought and appease his heart.

      The poet dedicates his heart and soul to the service of Tranquillity. In his mind's eye, he can see a vision of a future time when a nobler race of human beings will inhabit this planet. As for the present, the poet finds mankind's actions disappointing. He only sees bloodshed and treachery all around. These deeds of human beings are so foolish that it is futile to shed tears over them. They are so wicked that they cannot be seen in an amusing light.

CRITICAL APPRECIATION AND
DEVELOPMENT OF THOUGHT

Development of Thought

      The poet feels that he has not blundered like other people. Very early in his life he had been dedicating all his endeavour for the realisation of tranquillity that eludes the worldly-minded people. The poet has no truck with the unsteady bark, so he has been clinging to the steadfast shore of a contented and stable life. Ambition and thankless tasks have been avoided by hint Hoping for vain and useless things of the mundane life will cause only restlessness. Painful memories of the past cannot but perturb the mind.

      Disappointment and depression do not make Coleridge pessimistic. He is confident that Serenity will be attending him in his morning walk through the fields familiar to him. The sultry summer's heat will be alleviated by a moss-covered seat provided to him by Tranquillity. The gusts of the Autumnal winds may blow but they will only raise noble thoughts in him and attune his heart to peace.

      Since the poet's heart is of the feeling type and his soul is searchingly analytical he can remain aloof from the turmoils of everyday life like a hermit. Scenes of bloodshed and treacherous cruelty all over the world are depressing undoubtedly; To him this "trade of blood and guile is too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile". People are ignorant and they do not know what they are doing. Shedding tears on this account is futile; nor is it amusing. Still the poet does not lose heart. He thinks that at some future date a nobler race of people will inhabit the Earth when the situation will improve.

Critical Appreciation

      Reflective Tone. The Ode to Tranquillity is written in a reflective tone. The writer's meditative mood gives rise to a number of thoughts. He is critical of the world of his time. Philosophically, he reflects on the worthlessness of satiety and sloth in the quest of tranquility. A worldly type of man sleeps restlessly. Painful memories from the past perturb him. The world is a scene of bloodshed and guile.

      Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile! The world do not seem to have changed much even today, nearly two centuries after Coleridge wrote these lines.

      Optimistic Note. Coleridge however is not depressed. He is hopeful of finding tranquillity and peace of mind. He is even hopeful of a nobler race of human beings inhabiting Earth at a future date. Tranquility will soothe the poet amid the storms of life. Peace of mind or Tranquillity is idealised by Coleridge in the poem.

      Eighteenth Century Style. The poem is written more in the eighteenth century style than in the Romantic tradition. Qualities are personified — Tranquillity, Fame, Sloth, Satiety, Hope, Remembrance. There is also a moralistic or didactic note in the poem. There is more of philosophical reflection in it than Romantic emotion and feeling. Of course, we cannot deny that there are appropriate metaphors and felicity of word and phrase. But, on the whole, the poem is in the tradition of the neo-classical school of the eighteenth century.

LINE BY LINE CRITICAL ANALYSIS

      L. 9-16. Who late.....stalks behind. In his Ode to Tranquillity Coleridge personifies Tranquillity; He calls it a divine power which does not favour a man who constantly makes a conscious and deliberate effort to woo it. Only through contentments in life can Tranquillity be achieved. A worldly person is soon overwhelmed by indolence and over-indulgence. He can get no peace of mind. Indolence and satiety are poor substitutes for Tranquillity. Mad pursuit of ambition again cannot lead to Tranquillity. It can only result in futile hope or memories of past failures and sorrows. The poet compares the hope of such men to a bubble that quickly dissolves. The painful memories are like a demon which pursues people to devour them.

      Coleridge writes in a didactic manner here, condemning worldly ambitions. He puts forth the value of peace of mind which cannot come to those with ambitious hearts.

      L. 25-33. The feeling heart.....for a smile: At the end of the Ode to Tranquillity, Coleridge dedicates himself entirely to tranquillity. He has a heart which feels and a soul which is searching and analytical. His heart and soul will help him worship Tranquillity. He visualises a future when a nobler face of human beings, will inhabit the earth, though what he sees of the present is disappointing. The poet, like a hermit, does not involve himself in the world's affairs, he merely surveys the scene. He can only see bloodshed and treachery, the consequence of avarice and commercial greed. The deeds he witnesses are too foolish to provoke sadness; but they are also too wicked to deserve an amused response. The lines show a mixture of criticism of the present and an optimism for the future.

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