The Eolian Harp: Line by Line Summary & Analysis

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      L. 1-12. My melancholy Sara, how pleasant it is, with your soft cheek resting or leaning on my arm, to sit by the side of our cottage which is overgrown with jasmine and myrtle plants having white flowers befitting symbols of innocence (which is white or spotless like jasmine flower) and love (because the flower of Myrtle is sacred to Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love). It is very pleasant to look at the clouds which were very bright early in the day but which are growing darker and dimmer now owing to the descending shades of the evening. It is very soothing to mark the rise of the evening star which is shining opposite these clouds. The evening star is calmly brilliant. (This reminds me) that true wisdom also should be serenely brilliant. The scent of the distant bean-field which comes to us wafted by the wings of the wind is extremely pleasant. There is profound silence and the quiet murmur of the ripples of the distant sea reveals that the sea is calm tonight.

      L. 13-23. The simple musical instrument the lute placed lengthwise in the folding window is being played upon by the random breeze and is producing music. The lute is like a shy maiden who partly surrenders herself to her lover and who, when she is teased by her lover, rebukes him sweetly and thereby persuades her lover to tease her again. Suddenly the strings of the lute are struck more boldly by the wind, and the strains of music, which follow the striking of strings, rise and sink on sweet waves of music. These strains of music of the lute floating in the air have a fascinating charm as the music produces by elves (supernatural creature) who, in the evening ride the gentle winds from the fairy land where sweet music whispers to flowers dropping honey, and who fly as softly and swiftly as birds of heaven, on their wild wings without stopping or sitting anywhere. Well, I think that the Divine Spirit pervades both the mind of human beings and external nature. It is the soul of every object. It is at the heart of light as well as at the heart of sound. It is the soul of harmony in all thought and a source of joy everywhere. It appears to me that it will be impossible not to love all things which are so pervaded by the Divine Spirit in this world. In this world even the breeze makes a continuous and thrilling sound and the so-called silent and quiet air is nothing, but music which has fallen asleep on its instrument.

      L. 24-48. Similarly, my sweetheart, when I am reclining on mid-way on the slope of that distant hilt at noon and while through my half-closed eyes I watch the rays of the sun dancing like diamonds on the water of the ocean and while I ponder over calmness in a calm frame of mind, many thoughts and idle passing fancies, not deliberately entertained by me, flash across my slothful and inert mind. These whims and fancies are as formless and as numerous as the haphazard winds that grow louder in volume as they play on this lute. And it is just possible that all living nature is but a series of well-constructed harps with different nature and that they all become vocal when the soul of God like an intellectual breeze blows over them. This soul of God is both flexible and vast and is at the same time the soul and master of every object in nature.

      L. 49-64. But O my beloved Sara; I find that you seem to be gently rebuking me with your look for my presuming to explain the mystery of the universe and the ways of God. You also do not seem to be approving of my vague and unholy thoughts. On the other hand, you want me to be a humble worshipper of God. O gentle follower of Christ, you do well disapproving solemnly of the vague fancies of my unreformed mind which are just like bubbles that shine as they rise and dissolve in the ever murmuring spring of arrogant or fruitless philosophy. I feel that I may never discuss the way of God without committing a sin, unless when I praise him in a mood of reverential awe and with a sincere and heart-felt faith. God is to be thanked and praises for His showing great mercy to a sinful and miserable person like me. Without his mercy I felt utterly strands and is in the dark. He give me such priceless gifts as peace of mind, this cottage and Sara who is the object of my sincere adoration.


      L. 14-17. How by the desultory breeze.....repeat the wrong. The poet compares the wind blowing on the lute to the wooing of a shy maid by a lover. Just as the shy maid who is caressed by her lover, rebukes him playfully, affecting to be unwilling, and persuades the lover (with her rebuke) to make love to her again; similarly, when the wind blows on the lute it gives forth sweet music and tempts the wind to blow over it again.

      L. 20-25. Such a soft floating.....on untamed wing. Coleridge compares the sweet strains of the music of the lute floating in the air to the music made by elves (supernatural fairy-like creatures) who in the evening fly on the wings of breeze blowing from the fairy-land where sweet music whispers to the flowers dropping honey. The elves fly softly but swiftly, like birds of heaven on their wild wings and neither stop at any place nor sit on any branch of tree.

      L. 26-31. O the one Life.....World so fill'd. These lines are taken from Coleridge's poem The Eolian Harp. The poet listens to the music that the breeze produces by passing through the musical instrument called the Eolian Harp which is placed in the open window. Listening to this music, the poet begins to speculate in his usual way about the existence and function of one pervading spirit throughout the world. But for the operation of such a spirit, how can a breeze produce such music out of a harp?

      The poet believes that this spirit pervades the mind of man and the material world outside man. It is the guiding impulse behind till forms of movement. It is on account of the operation of such a spirit that light and sound are so closely associated and that human thought has in it such order and harmony. This spirit creates a sense of joy everywhere. Once a man becomes a pantheist, once he feels the pervading spirit of joy everywhere, he begins to love everything for to him every thing appears to be a part of God.

      L. 26-29. The one Life.....every where. Coleridge here anticipates Wordsworth who in Tintern Abbey gave expression to the belief that both the mind of the man amid nature are pervaded by the Divine Spirit. Compare Wordsworth's famous lines:

Whose dwelling is the light of the setting sun,
And the round ocean and the living air..
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man
A motion amid a spirit that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts.
And rolls through all things.

      Coleridge means that the Divine Spirit pervades both man and nature. It is the soul of every object in the world. It is at the heart of light as well as at the heart of sound. It makes thought harmonious with its presence and is the cause of joy everywhere in the universe.

      L. 32-33. Where the breeze warbles.....her instrument: Coleridge thinks that every object of nature is instinctive with music. Only it needs being played on. Thus the breeze is full of music and the so-called silent and quiet air is nothing but quiet and dormant or latent music which has gone to sleep on its instrument. Thus every object contains latent music which is brought out when the Divine Spirit blows over it.

      L. 44-48. And what.....and God of all: These lines are taken from Coleridge's poem The Eolian Harp. Seeing how a breeze blowing through the harp is producing wonderful music, the poet begins to speculate about the nature of the relationship between God and the universe. It seems to him that a Divine harmony or music pervades everywhere in Nature. In this Divine scheme, each life or living being is like an Eolian harp, each having its own peculiar power. Now, the thoughts which come to all living beings are like music produced by a breeze of the all-pervading spirit that creates and sustains the universe. All thoughts come from God, because God is the. source and motive force of all spiritual activity. Hence, man's thoughts have a preordained order of harmony.

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