Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Divided into three verse paragraphs, the poem This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by S.T. Coleridge is a seventy-six lines poem, wherein the speaker is none other than the poet himself. Addressed to Charles Lamb (one of Coleridge’s friends), the poem first shows the poet’s happiness and excitement at the arrival of his friends, but as it progresses, we find his happiness turning into resentment and helplessness for not accompanying his friend, due to an accident that he met within the evening of the same day when his friends were planning to go for a walk outside for a few hours.

This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison Analysis

Stanza One

Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,

This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost

Beauties and feelings, such as would have been

Most sweet to my remembrance even when age

Had dimm’d mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,

Friends, whom I never more may meet again,

On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,

Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,

To that still roaring dell, of which I told;

The roaring dell, o’erwooded, narrow, deep,

And only speckled by the mid-day sun;

Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock

Flings arching like a bridge;—that branchless ash,

Unsunn’d and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves

Ne’er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,

Fann’d by the water-fall! and there my friends

Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,

That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)

Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge

Of the blue clay-stone.

Though reading through the poem, we may feel that this is a “conversation poem,” in actuality, it is a lyrically dramatic poem the poet composed when some of his long-expected friends visited his cottage. On the arrival of his friends, the poet was very excited, but accidentally he met with an accident, because of which he became unable to walk during all their stay. One evening, when he was left behind by his friends who went walking for a few hours, he wrote the following lines in the garden-bower. Through these lines, the speaker or the poet not only tried to vent out his frustration of not accompanying his friends, but he also praised the beauties of Nature by keeping his feet into the shoes of his friend, Charles Lamb. At the start of the poem, the tone is bitter and frustrated, and the poet has very well depicted it when he says: “Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,/This lime-tree bower my prison!”

In this stanza, we also find the poet comparing the lime tree to the walls or bars of a prison, which is functioning as a hurdle, and stopping him to accompany his friends. Comparing the beautiful garden of lime-trees to prison, the poet feels completely crippled for being unable to view all the beautiful things that he too could have enjoyed if he had not met with an accident that evening.

But who can stop the nature lover? The poet still made himself able to view the natural beauty by putting the shoes of his friends, that is; by imagining himself in the company of his friends, and enjoying the natural beauty surrounding around him. Within the imagination, the poet described it in a very realistic way. But as we move close to the end of the first stanza we find the tone of the poem getting more vivid towards nature. So, the element of frustration and disappointment seems to be coming down at the end of the first stanza.


Stanza Two

Now, my friends emerge

Beneath the wide wide Heaven—and view again

The many-steepled tract magnificent

Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,

With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up

The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles

Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on

In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,

My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined

And hunger’d after Nature, many a year,

In the great City pent, winning thy way

With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain

And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink

Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!

Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,

Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!

Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!

And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend

Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,

Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round

On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem

Less gross than bodily; and of such hues

As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes

Spirits perceive his presence.

In the second stanza, we find the poet using a number of images of nature and similes. The poem here turns into an imaginative journey as the poet begins to use sensuous description and tactile imagery. The poet becomes so much excited in this stanza that he shouts “Yes!”, and begins to imagine as if he himself is with them.

While imagining the natural beauties, the poet thinks that his friend, Charles would be happier to see these beautiful natural sights because the latter had been busy in the hustle-bustle of city life that these beautiful natural sights would really appeal to his eyes, and please his heart.

The poet here, therefore, gives instructions to nature to bring out and show her best sights so that his friend, Charles could also enjoy viewing the true spirit of God. For example; he requests the Sun to “slowly sink,” the flowers to “shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,” and the clouds to “richlier burn”. Though all these natural things act on their own, the poet here wants them to perform better than before because his friend, Charles had come to visit him.

Here, the poet, in fact, becomes enamored with the beauty around him, which is intensely an emotional reaction to nature, brought to light using the exclamation marks all through the poem. The poet now no longer views the bower as a prison.

Similar to the first stanza, as we move closer to the end of the second stanza, we find the poet introducing the notion of God’s presence in the entire natural world, and exploring the notion of the wonder of God’s creation. The main idea poet wants to convey through the above verses is that there is the presence of God in nature.


Stanza Three

A delight

Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad

As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,

This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark’d

Much that has sooth’d me. Pale beneath the blaze

Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch’d

Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov’d to see

The shadow of the leaf and stem above

Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree

Was richly ting’d, and a deep radiance lay

Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps

Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass

Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue

Through the late twilight: and though now the bat

Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,

Yet still the solitary humble-bee

Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know

That Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;

No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,

No waste so vacant, but may well employ

Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart

Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes

‘Tis well to be bereft of promis’d good,

That we may lift the soul, and contemplate

With lively joy the joys we cannot share.

My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook

Beat its straight path along the dusky air

Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing

(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)

Had cross’d the mighty Orb’s dilated glory,

While thou stood’st gazing; or, when all was still,

Flew creeking o’er thy head, and had a charm

For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom

No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

In this third and last extract of the poem, the poet’s imaginations come back to the lime-tree bower and we find him emotionally reacting to the natural world surrounding him. In this section, we also find his transformed perception of his surroundings and his deep appreciation for it. Here the poet is shown personifying nature as his friend. Now he doesn’t view himself as a prisoner in the lime-tree bower that he regarded it as a prison earlier. Though in actuality, there has been no change in his surroundings and his situation, rather it is just a change in his perspective that causes this transformation

Here we find the poet seeing and appreciating the actual nature of his surroundings, instead of the ideal and imagined nature. He now brings to us the real and vivid foliage,” the wheeling “bat,” the “walnut-tree,” and “the solitary humble-bee”.

However, we cannot give whole credit to the poet’s imagination; the use of imagery by him also makes it clear that he has been deeply affected by nature.

For example, the lines like “keep the heart / Awake to Love and Beauty!” and “No sound is dissonant which tells of Life”, all suggest that the poet has great regards for nature and its qualities. And it’s only due to his nature that he is prompted towards his imaginary journey. The poem comes to an end with the impression of an experience of freedom and spirituality that according to the poet can be achieved through nature. You cannot achieve it by being confined in the four walls of the city, just as the poet’s friend, Charles experiences.

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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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