Frost at Midnight

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Frost at Midnight

By | September 2010
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Q. What are the thoughts that rise in the mind of Coleridge as he muses beside a fire on a frosty night in the poem ‘Frost at Midnight’? What is the future envisaged by the poet for his son?

In this poem, ‘Frost at Midnight’, the poet expresses his fear in solitude for his baby, sitting beside a fire. , “Frost at Midnight” relies on a highly personal idiom whereby the reader follows the natural progression of the speaker’s mind as he sits up late one winter night thinking. His idle observation gives the reader a quick impression of the scene, from the “silent ministry” of the frost to the cry of the owl and the sleeping child. The objects surrounding the speaker become metaphors for the work of the mind and the imagination, so that the fluttering film on the fire grate plunges him into the recollection of his childhood. His memory of feeling trapped in the schoolhouse naturally brings him back into his immediate surroundings with a surge of love and sympathy for his son. His final meditation on his son’s future becomes mingled with his romantic interpretation of nature and its role in the child’s imagination, and his consideration of the objects of nature brings him back to the frost and the icicles, which, forming and shining in silence, mirror the silent way in which the world works upon the mind; this revisitation of winter’s frosty forms brings the poem full circle. As the frost “performs its secret ministry” in the windless night, an owlet’s cry twice pierces the silence. The “inmates” of the speaker’s cottage are all asleep, and the speaker sits alone, solitary except for the “cradled infant” sleeping by his side. The calm is so total that the silence becomes distracting, and all the world of “sea, hill, and wood, this populous village!” seems “inaudible as dreams.” The thin blue flame of the fire burns without flickering; only the film on the grate flutters, which makes it seem “companionable” to the speaker, almost alive—stirred by “the idling...