Lime Tree

Coleridge #

Lime Tree Bower #

Title: This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison

I Subject Matter and Context #

On July 2, 1797, Coleridge, with Dorothy Wordsworth sitting beside him, drove from Racedown in Dorset to Nether Stowey in Somerset, and for about two weeks the small cottage behind Tom Poole’s hospitable mansion sheltered William and Dorothy and perhaps Basil Montague’s little boy, whom they were educating, besides Coleridge and Mrs. Coleridge and Hartley the baby and Nanny their maid. To fill up the measure, Charles Lamb joined them on the 7th and stayed a week. Coleridge, writing to Southey, says:

`The second day after Wordsworth came to me, dear Sara accidentally emptied a skillet of boiling milk on my foot, which confined me during the whole time of C. Lamb’s stay, and still prevents me from all walks longer than a furlong. While Wordsworth, his sister, and Charles Lamb were out one evening, sitting in the arbour of T. Poole’s garden, which communicates with mine, I composed these lines, with which I am pleased.'

He encloses the poem `This Lime-Tree Bower my Prison,’ in which he refers tenderly to his guests as `my Sister and my Friends.'

In imagination he follows them as they `wander in gladness along the hill-top edge,’ and thinks with special satisfaction of the pleasure granted to his gentle-hearted Charles, who had been long `in the great City pent,’ an expression which he uses again in `Frost at Midnight’ and which Wordsworth later adopted, both of them echoing a line of Milton.


lI Themes #

The idea of storing up happy memories for some wintry season of the heart, an idea expanded by Wordsworth in `Tintern Abbey,’ and again in `I wandered lonely as a Cloud,’ occurs in the lines quoted above; and Wordsworth’s famous brave remark,

`Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her,'

is also anticipated in this poem when Coleridge declares,

`Henceforth I shall know

*That Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure,’ *

the wise and pure, we may be certain, being in their eyes those who love Nature. In this third Conversation Poem Coleridge has risen above the level attained in the former two; Gaudy verse is gone entirely, and unaffected simplicity, the perfection of tranquil ease, reigns without a rival. No better example, even in Wordsworth’s own verse, could be found to illustrate the theory set forth three years later in the Preface to `Lyrical Ballads.’ The beauty and truth of the poem and the picture it gives of Coleridge’s yearning heart of love do not depend upon the fact that it was an illustrious trio whom he followed in imagination as they roved `upon smooth Quantock’s airy ridge’; it is a clear boon to us that they happened to be no less than Charles Lamb and Dorothy and William Wordsworth. The significant thing is Coleridge’s unselfish delight in the joys of others. Happiness of this kind is an inexhaustible treasure to which all have access.

III Sound Effects #


Read the poem aloud. Comment on the Sound Effects,  verbal music. It’s rhyme. Rhythm  and melody. Assonance, alliteration. onomatopoeia. etc. (Blending repetition patterns. slow/fast movement, harsh, discordant, sibilance, sotto, allegro,  Rhapsodic, lyrical, elegiac,  upbeat,  blue, staccato,  dirge, ode,   Melody. tone. mood. atmosphere. voice.

Coleridge uses blank verse (unrhymed poetry with five stresses in each line) with great skill and authority.  He varies the density and the rhythms and uses as many sound effects to gain the variety of music and communicate through sound bites. 


Normal rhythm would be iambic (walking) but the Romantics preferred an inner rhythm of expansion and contraction called systole (heartbeat)  and diastole (pulse).  Sub consciously these beats have an emotive intimate effect on us as the conversational poems are simple, personal, anecdotal, colloquial, chatty and inclusive.


When you read it as natural speech you set up a tension between what you are actually hearing and what your inner ear expects you to hear, and this gives an added dimension to the rhythm. This is counterpoint.


Coleridge begins with a querulous, irritated tone as he is resentful about staying behind as his friends take a nature walk. But as he begins to imaginatively and vicariously journey with them the tone modulates to one of acceptance and finally celebration.


**Repetition:  **He uses repetition of words and phrases, such as “roaring dell” in lines :9 and 10, or, as in line 19:

“Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge”


**Assonance:  “**slim trunk, flings … like a bridge”

**Alliteration: **He exploits the sounds of consonants to create special alliterative effects as in line 38:

“Silent with swimming sense; yea gazing round”

** **

**Onomatopoeia: “**when the last rook…..flew creeking o’er thy head’,…
                             “roaring dell”.

** **

Change of pace: Sometimes he changes pace to catch the mood he is trying to recreate. Look at the terse effect of the monosyllables and hard ,consonants in lines 12 and 13:

“Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock

Flings arching like a bridge; that branchless ash”

Contrast this with the contemplative languor of:

* I have lost*

Beauties and feelings, such as would have been

Most sweet to my remembrance even when age

Had dimmed mine eyes to blindness!

The longer vowels and softer consonants slow down the movement to create a mood of pensiveness, and the three-.-syllabled  “remembrance” almost stops the movement altogether. Lines 52 and 53 and 54 have a similar effect.


Structure: linear, circular, episodic, flash backs,  climatic.     Images: (visual,  auditory, o1factory,  tactile, ,gustatory) figures  of speech:  similes, metaphors, personification, analogy, synecdoche, Apostrophe,  contrast, antithesis, unity,  irony, Allusions,  etc

We are taken on a linear imaginary journey vicariously visualizing what the actual walkers are experiencing and unified with them by a common sighting of the rook- an ambiguous symbol of opprobrium and omen of death.

Other unifying symbols are: the lime tree,  the sunlight and the reconciliation of opposites:  paradoxes

·        Contemplation/restriction

·        Joy/disappointment

·        Universal/particular

·        Absence/presence

·        Imagined/real

·        Darkness/ light

·        Separation/ communion

·        Loss/gain

·        Sadness/joy

·        Imprisonment (pent)/freedom of nature

·        Expansion/contraction

You will notice that there is no complex metaphor to introduce richer associations of ideas. The poet is concerned to make a vivid picture by direct description and to draw a simple moral from the sensations he has recorded emanating from the direct exposure to nature.


Apostrophe: Coleridge displays his awe of nature through the poetic device of the apostrophe and personification when he directly addresses elements of nature or gives them human characteristics:


*                                           “ 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 !                 (LTBMP)  ll. 32-33


“Or if the secret ministry of the frost

Shall hang them up in silent icicles,

*Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.”   *( FAM) ll. 72-74

* *

The harmony of nature is evoked by the onomatopoeic sound of a lone rook (a black ugly raucous bird symbolic of death) “creeking o’er thy head” to paradoxically evoke a sense of harmony,  as


 “No sound is  dissonant which tells of life”.


*Approach: Subjective/Objective,  Attitude or Tone,  Audience,   Style: diction, word play, puns,  connotative/denotative,   emotive (coloured biased,) /demotive, (technical, dispassionate)  clichés, proverbial, idiomatic, expressive, flat,  Jargon,  euphemisms, pejorative, oxymoron.   Gender biases.  Register:  formal, stiff, dignified  or Colloquial;  relaxed, conversational, inclusive, friendly  or Slang;  colourful, intimate,  Rhetorical devices;  Questions,  exclamations,  cumulation,  crescendo,  inversion,  bathos,  repetition,  3 cornered phrases. *


Colloquial, conversational and individually personal the language gains strength from its simplicity.  At times there is a perfect blending of thought and feeling through language, imagery and structure. 

Nature’s variety is emphasised through the synonyms: 

Speckled  (l. 10)  steepled  (l.22) and dappled (l. 51).