Typical of the Conversation Poems is the movement through the poem by one
idea setting off another that is suggested by it. The idea of the hushed
murmur of the sea leads Coleridge to contemplate the figure of an Eolian
harp (Lute in l.13) that has been placed in the casement window.
An Eolian harp is a musical instrument with strings stretched across a
sound box. It produces music as the wind blows through the strings. Hence,
it is named after the Greek god of the wind, Aeolus. The Romantic poets saw
this instrument as a symbol of poetic inspiration and it is not hard to see
why: the instrument is capable of producing music (art), but only does so
when it "yields" itself to be played on by the power of the natural world
(the wind). Coleridge, in fact, here sees the lute in terms of a highly
sexual image. Listen for this association in the following lines (ll.
Click on GO and read the extract as you watch and listen:
Plac'd length-ways in the clasping casement, hark!
How by the desultory breeze caress'd
Like some coy maid half-yielding to her lover,
It pours such sweet upbraiding, as must needs
TEMPT TO REPEAT THE WRONG! (11.13-17)
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