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Module 1: Coleridge Frost at Midnight

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Symbols and consciousness

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XSIQ
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English - Symbols and consciousness

Symbols and consciousness

'...Sea, hill and wood,
This populous village! Sea, and hill, and wood,
With all the numberless goings-on of life,
INAUDIBLE AS DREAMS!' (ll.10-13)

Once again, we have the paradox of the 'numberless goings-on' being
'inaudible'. But, again, the paradox is not just that - because at this
time of night the 'numberless goings-on' are literally 'dreams', except in
the one 'live' consciousness we are witnessing in action - that of
Coleridge himself. Coleridge's mind at this point moves back into the
cottage and focuses very closely on one object - a small piece of ashy film
fluttering in the grate of his fire:

' the thin blue flame
Lies on my low-burnt fire, and quivers not;
Only that film, which fluttered on the grate.
STILL FLUTTERS THERE, THE SOLE UNQUIET THING.' (ll.13-16)

This fluttering film is the central symbol of the whole poem, for by now
we see the poet's mind as 'THE SOLE UNQUIET THING'. The film becomes the
symbol of Coleridge's consciousness.

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