Study Guide

The Nightingale Stanza 2

By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Stanza 2

Lines 49-54

And I know a grove
Of large extent, hard by a castle huge,
Which the great lord inhabits not; and so
This grove is wild with tangling underwood,
And the trim walks are broken up, and grass,
Thin grass and king-cups grow within the paths.

  • Yes, though there is a line break, we are technically still on line 49. Coleridge just cuts it in half to signal the start of a new stanza.
  • Now, the speaker tells us about a grove near a castle. It's uninhabited and overgrown with trees, grass, and flowers.
  • It also hasn't been trimmed or pruned it awhile. It's pretty wild.
  • We can bet that the speaker prefers the grove to be wild rather than tamed by humans. After all, he wants to experience nature in its natural state.

Lines 55-60

But never elsewhere in one place I knew
So many nightingales; and far and near,
In wood and thicket, over the wide grove,
They answer and provoke each other's song,
With skirmish and capricious passagings,
And murmurs musical and swift jug jug,

  • This grove has more nightingales than any other place the speaker has visited.
  • They hang out in the thick forest or fly over the grove, singing to each other.
  • Despite being seen as a sorrowful bird, they have many moods.
  • The speaker says they "skirmish" or briefly (and probably playfully) fight, and behave capriciously (unpredictably).
  • He really wants us to consider the birds' real life, which is often overlooked because of their song.
  • By describing their songs as "murmurs," he reminds us that they exist not to entertain humans, but as a means of communication.
  • What sounds like "jug jug" to our ears is actually a complex language.
  • Trivia alert: "Jug jug" will later appear in one of the most famous poems of all time, T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.
  • We guess that this is a pretty influential poem, despite it having a few stern words for poets.

Lines 61-64

And one low piping sound more sweet than all—
Stirring the air with such an harmony
That should you close your eyes, you might almost
Forget it was not day! On moonlight bushes,

  • Amongst all the bird songs in the grove, one sound is sweeter than the rest.
  • Guess whose it is?
  • The speaker describes it with flourish: the creature's song makes the grove fill with harmony.
  • If you close your eyes, he says, you'd think it was still daytime.
  • Here, he's associating daylight with pleasant feelings.
  • Or at least, he's saying that most people would make that association.

Lines 65-69

Whose dewy leaflets are but half-disclosed.
You may perchance behold them on the twigs,
Their bright, bright eyes, their eyes both bright and full,
Glistening, while many a glow-worm in the shade
Lights up her love-torch.

  • The creature making the beautiful noise sits on twigs.
  • We can assume, then, that it's a bird, and it's probably not a stretch to assume it's the subject of this poem (the nightingale).
  • Coleridge describes their eyes as "bright" not once, not twice, but three times in one line.
  • Did our poet just run out of vocabulary?
  • Or is he trying to say, by emphasizing how strangely bright their eyes are, that the nightingales are almost unnatural, or other-worldly?
  • The speaker did reference the immortality of nature earlier, so maybe that isn't a stretch.
  • While the nightingales sing, glow worms do their thing nearby.
  • And their thing is glowing. Coleridge calls this glow their "love torch."
  • Say what?
  • He's right: glow worms use their colorful glow to attract mates.
  • But most people would just walk by and think, "How pretty."
  • By referencing the real nature of glow worms, he again reminds us that nature doesn't just exist as a reflection of our feelings.
  • There's a whole lot of other stuff going on.