The Knight’s Tomb

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Nationality: English

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet.

He was one of the most influential writers of the Romanticism movement.

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The poem, ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, by S.T Coleridge, itself already tells us that it is an allegory, which means that it consists of a secret message written in between the lines. This interpretation of ‘The Knight’s Tomb’ follows the title. Time is being the time in our lives rather it is right now or in the future. Real is represented by the blind boy in the poem who continues to run forward not knowing what his future holds and not focus on a past he cannot see. He continues to run not knowing whether the girl is in front of him or behind him. The imaginary relates to the girl who keeps running forward while looking back, showing that she cannot fully focus on her future when she is only looking back at her past.

The Knight's Tomb by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


The Knight’s Tomb Analysis

Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn?

Where may the grave of that good man be?—

By the side of a spring, on the breast of Helvellyn,

Under the twigs of a young birch tree!

The oak that in summer was sweet to hear,

And rustled its leaves in the fall of the year,

And whistled and roared in the winter alone,

Is gone,—and the birch in its stead is grown.—

The Knight’s bones are dust,

And his good sword rust;—

His soul is with the saints, I trust.

The poem, ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, is an allegory. It speaks about how people have forgotten about the king. How his tomb once filled with flowers has now turned into dirt and dust just like his bones over the years. The deeper message of the poem is that humans are forgetful of the people that have left the world of the living and on to the world of the dead. But we always have one person who cares to wonder. Coleridge used personification to describe the leaves that blew in the wind, giving us a sense of loneliness.

‘The Knight’s Tomb’ is written in remembrance of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn whose name is introduced in the very first line of this allegory. Through this eleven lines poem in terms of an allegory, the poet remembers and asks us: Where is the grave of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn?

Let me tell you here that Sir Arthur O’Kellyn is a made-up name. ‘The Knight’s Tomb’ suggests a length of time for longer than anyone’s life. Coleridge experiments with different length lines, 5 to 12 syllables, and with different beats in each line – three, four, or five.

In the second line, he again asks: Where may the grave of that good man be? — and from the third line, he starts telling us that he could be by the side of a spring, which lies on the breast of Helvellyn, a mountain in the Lake District of England, while the meaning of breast is mountainside. Where in the third line he expects him to be on the breast of Helvellyn, in the fourth line, he expects him to be under the twigs of a young birch tree.

Comparing him to “The oak”, the poet says that there was a time when he was loved by all, and he was sweet to hear, he was benevolent, and showered his love to others when the fall comes as an oak tree does during the fall season. The poet further says that there was a time when he whistled and roared alone in the winter, but today he is gone, meaning nowhere to see, and no one to remember him.

Now the birch (a slender hardy tree, which has thin peeling bark and bears catkins) has grown in its stead. In the last three lines, regretting over his present condition, the poet says that the knight’s tomb, which once used to be filled with flowers, has now turned into dirt and dust just like his bones over the years. But he still has a firm belief that his soul must be living with the saints.

Thus throughout ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, the poet shows that how forgetful the people become towards those who have left the world of the living and on to the world of the dead.


Poetic Devices

The poem uses several poetic devices. Perhaps the most prominent and obvious one is the use of rhyme. The poem employs an ABABCCDDEEE pattern. The pattern gives the poem an almost jocular feel. You could say the poem takes advantage of euphony by using soft vowel sounds in abundance this adds to the upbeat nature of the poem despite if being effectively about death and loss. Being an allegory you could make a case that the poem is entirely figurative.



The poem, ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, has been writing as an allegory,  in memory of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn whom the poet creates himself. Through this allegory, the poet asks about the whereabouts of this made-up great soul and points out the forgetful nature of the people who forget everything that has played a lead role in their lives. With ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, the poet also points out the selfishness of those who forget the benevolence and good deeds of the one who did contribute to this society. The poet says that there was a time when this great soul used to chirp like the chirping birds, smile like spring, and enjoyed as the other animate things do during the changing weather.

Today is the time when the tomb of this great soul is full of dust, without any body’s care and concern. Now there is no one to look after him. His tomb is as dusty as his body that has been turned into dust. Comparing the qualities of Sir Arthur O’Kellyn, the poet compares him to “The oak”. The poet, in the further lines, says that gone are the days when he whistled and roared alone during winter, but today he is nowhere to see, and no one to remember him. At present, he is lying like a dusty sword and unused things buried deep in the earth. Thus, the poet, through ‘The Knight’s Tomb’, questions the forgetfulness of the people, and ask them how could they be so.


About Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic, and philosopher. He had 14 siblings because his father had married twice. He was distinguished for the scope and influence of his thinking about literature as much as for this innovative verse. His only dramatic work, Osorio, written in 1797, was performed in 1813 under the title Remorse. “Christabel” and “Kubla Khan” were published in 1816.

After the death of his father, Coleridge attended Christ’s Hospital, the London grammar school where he passed his adolescence training in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and in English composition. He became friends with William Wordsworth, he moved to Germany for a year to be close to Wordsworth after he spent a year in Germany Coleridge returned to England and settled in the Lake District.

The next twelve years Coleridge had a miserable life. The climate made his many ailments worse. For pain relief, he took laudanum, a type of opium drug, and soon became an addict between 1808 and 1819. Besides, he gave several series of lectures, mainly on William Shakespeare (1564 to 1616) and other literary topics. Coleridge died on July 25, 1834, at Highgate. He left bulky manuscript notes that scholars of the mid-twentieth century found and began editing the material it was eventually published.

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Dharmender Kumar Poetry Expert
Dharmender is a writer by passion, and a lawyer by profession. He has has a degree in English literature from Delhi University, and Mass Communication from Bhartiya Vidhya Bhavan, Delhi, as well as holding a law degree. Dharmender is awesomely passionate about Indian and English literature.

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