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A Poem to Contemplate

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Recently, I have been thinking about a poem by Coleridge titled A Sunset.

Upon the mountain’s edge with light touch resting,

There a brief while the globe of splendour sits

And seems a creature of the earth, but soon,

More changeful than the Moon,

To wane fantastic his great orb submits,

Or cone or mow of fire: till sinking slowly

Even to a star at length he lessons wholly.

Abrupt, as Spirits vanish, he is sunk!

A soul-like breeze possesses all the wood.

The boughs, the sprays have stood

As motionless as stands the ancient trunk!

But every leaf through all the forest flutters,

And deep the cavern of the fountain mutters.


I am taken by the gentle beauty this poem impresses upon the memory, for as soon as you read A Sunset you begin to think back to the last sunset, or most memorable sunset, you observed. Such phrases as “Upon the mountain’s edge with light touch resting,” or “A soul-like breeze possesses all the wood” intimate the gentleness of which I am referring.

Does this poem paint the image of a sunset for you? When was the last time you watched the sun set?

But I wonder if there is more to this poem than a beautiful sunset. My students questioned the capitalization of “Spirits” in line 8, and then I wondered again if Coleridge played off of the word “sun.”

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