Study Guide

Frost at Midnight Calling Card

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Calling Card

"Natural Piety"

Coleridge and Wordsworth (and plenty of the other Romantic poets) were all about "natural piety." Wordsworth famously wrote, "The Child is father of the Man;/ And I could wish my days to be/ Bound each to each by natural piety." He meant that Nature—rather than books and sermons—could cause you to feel religious feelings and devotion directly, inspiring you with the evidence and presence of God. Coleridge felt the same way, though he didn't think he was able to experience the same intense communion with Nature that Wordsworth apparently did. Since Coleridge, blaming his partly-urban childhood, thought he was a little shut-out from this spiritual vibe, he hopes his son can still attain it:

[…] so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher! he shall mould
Thy spirit, and by giving make it ask.
(59-65)

In Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" you can find the same kind of exhortation to find meaning in Nature—but, more specifically, to love the beings that inhabit it:

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou wedding-guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

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