THE SAGE OF HIGHGATE December 1823--July 1834
IN December 1823 Gillman removed from Moreton House to No. 3 The Grove, still in Highgate, and here Coleridge was housed, at his own desire, in a study-bedroom attic, with a view over Caen Wood, which he called his 'garden', and a parlour below for the reception of his friends.1 He was now, although only fifty, already an old man, and acknowledged it in the best poem of his later years.2
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, woful 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 aery cliffs and glittering sands,
How lightly then it flashed along:--
Like those trim skiffs, unknown of yore,
Or 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't 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!
Ere I was old? Ah woful 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 cannot be that Thou art gone!