“Frost at midnight” is a beautiful poem written by the famous Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He wrote this poem to celebrate the birth of his son, Hartley in 1798. There are two predominant notes in the poem- one of nostalgia and the other, parental solicitude. He evokes two worlds of midnight experience and of his childhood memories which further leads him towards dreams for his son. The poet is in a contemplative mood. He states that the frost is performing it secret duty unassisted by the wind.
The night is very silent and he can hear the owlet’s cry. All inmates of his cottage are asleep and even his child sleeps peacefully in the cradle. But the poet is awake and the solitude gives way to ‘abstruser musings’. He becomes philosophical. Then he feels that the calmness of the night during the frost is so calm that it disturbs and vexes meditation. There is a sea outside and hill and forests and also the populous village with all its numberless goings -on of life. But everything is silent and is as inaudible as dreams themselves.
But there is one unquiet thing with which he can associate himself and that is the soot which flutters on the grate. The poet feels that he has a companion with him. The movement of the soot portends to him the arrival of an absent friend, someone close to his heart. The film brings into his mind, the memories of the past- particularly his school days when he would gaze upon the bars to watch that ‘fluttering stranger’. In all his excitement, he would dream of his sweet birth place and the old church tower whose bell rang from morning till evening.
As a student, he would fall asleep watching the moving soot and in his sleep, he dreamt of the same things and the same thoughts lingered in his mind even the next morning at school. Even in his wakeful state, despite the preceptor’s strict vigil, his mind would wander away while his eyes were fixed on the swimming book in mock study. He would yearn for a hasty glance whenever the door half opened. He would be in expectation of seeing a stranger’s face, perhaps a townsman, or an aunt, or a beloved sister or at least his playmate of boyhood days.
Suddenly, from his memories, his mind returns to his sleeping child whose breathings had filled up the interspersed gaps of his thought. Being the father, it fills his heart with tender gladness just to look at his child. He feels happy that his child is being brought up in a different atmosphere than his own. He had lived in secluded pent houses in London. They were very congested and all he could see of the beauty of nature was the sky and the stars. So, he wishes to bring up his child amidst nature.
He desires that he should wander like a breeze by lakes and shores, beneath the rocks and peaks and under the clouds. He dreams that his son should see the divine sights and hear the lovely sounds of nature because he feels that God instructs through nature. Nature is pictured as the ‘teacher of man’- he calls it the ‘Universal teacher’. Being in the constant company of nature, his son will learn to love all seasons. Whether it is the summer season, or the winter season or the rainy season, his son would enjoy the beauty of nature and learn the lessons of life from nature.
Typical of the romantic poets, Coleridge describes nature in a picturesque manner. From the centre of his room, his mind wanders out by stages. First to the immediate physical surroundings, then to the village of his boyhood memories and then to the world he has pictured for his child. Not only does he reminisce of his past, but also dreams of a perfect life for his son. Thus, it is a song with a synchronization of two notes- sweet memories of the past and parental love and concern.