Coleridge blames his desolate numbness for sapping his creative powers and leaving him without his habitual method of understanding human nature. Despite his insistence on the separation between the mind and the world, Coleridge nevertheless continues to find metaphors for his own feelings in nature: His dejection is reflected in the gloom of the night as it awaits the storm.

“Dejection” was written in 1802 but was originally drafted in the form of a letter to Sara Hutchinson, the woman Coleridge loved. The much longer original version of the poem contained many of the same elements as “The Nightingale” and “Frost at Midnight,” including the same meditation on his children and their natural education. This version also referred explicitly to “Sara” (replaced in the later version by “Lady”) and “William” (a clear reference to Wordsworth). Coleridge’s strict revision process shortened and tightened the poem, depersonalizing it, but the earlier draft hints at just how important the poem’s themes were to Coleridge personally and indicates that the feelings expressed were the poet’s true beliefs about his own place in the world.

A side note: The story of Sir Patrick Spence, to which the poet alludes in the first stanza, is an ancient Scottish ballad about a sailor who drowns with a boatload of Scottish noblemen, sailing on orders from the king but against his own better judgment. It contains lines that refer to the moon as a predictor of storms, which Coleridge quotes as an epigraph for his ode: “Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon / With the old Moon in her arms; / And I fear, I fear, my Master dear! / We shall have a deadly storm.”

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