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Module 1: Coleridge Frost at Midnight

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Present and future

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XSIQ
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English - Present and future

Present and future

These films of ash on the grate were called "strangers" because they were
supposed to portend the arrival of an absent friend. The memory of the
'stranger' that he had gazed upon in the schoolroom when a child makes
Coleridge recall the wish that had accompanied that daydream - namely, that
a stranger would indeed arrive - a townsman or relative from his birthplace
who would arrive to take him back, to rescue him from the 'GREAT CITY,
PENT'.

At the end of this movement of the mind into the past, Coleridge now
takes his musing into the future - the past movement of the poem is
balanced by this forward movement into the potential future of his own son,
Hartley, sleeping by his side in the present moment of the poem. Like the
earlier Lime-tree bower... the occasion of this poem is also a human tie -
in this poem, it is the tie of blood to Hartley himself that sets off his
own childhood memories. Notice again how his movement is triggered by
word-association (from sister to young playmate to baby):

'For still I hoped to see the _stranger's_ face,
Townsman, or aunt, or sister more beloved,
MY PLAY-MATE WHEN WE BOTH WERE CLOTHED ALIKE!

DEAR BABE, THAT SLEEPEST CRADLED BY MY SIDE...'. (ll.41-44).

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