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Youth and Age

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
1772 - 1834


Verse, a breeze  'mid blossoms straying,

Where Hope clung feeding like a bee:

Both were mine; Life went a-maying

With Nature, Hope, and Poesy,

When I was young.

When I was young?   Ah, woeful when !

Ah, for the change 'twixt now and then !

This breathing house not built with hands,

This body that does me grievous wrong,

O'er airy cliffs and glittering sands

How lightly then it flash'd along !

Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,

On winding lakes and rivers wide,

That ask no aid of sail or oar,

That fear no spite of wind or tide,

Nought cared this body for wind or weather

When Youth and I lived in it together.

Flowers are lovely, Love is flower-like;

Friendship is a sheltering tree:

O the joys that came down shower-like

Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,

Ere I was old !

Er I was old?  Ah, woeful ere !

Which tells me Youth's no longer here,

O youth !    for years so many and sweet

'Tis known that thou and I were one,

I'll think it but a fond conceit

( It can not be )  that thou art gone.

Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd,

And thou wert aye a masquer bold:

What strange disguise hast now put on

To make believe that thou are gone?

I see these locks in silvery slips,

This drooping gait, this alter'd size;

But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,

And tears take sunshine from thine eyes !

Life is but thought: so think I will

That Youth and I are house-mates still.

Dew-drops are the gems of Morning,

But the tears of mournful Eve;

Where no hope is, life's a warning

That only serves to make us grieve

When we are old:

That only serves to make us grieve

With oft and tedious taking leave:

Like some poor nigh-related guest,

That may not rudely be dismiss'd,

Yet hath outstay'd his welcome-while

And tells the jest without the smile.


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