All people have the same journey to take – their life. Just like other journeys, there is always going to be difficulties and disappointments as well as accomplishments and joys, however this depends on the attitude we develop towards it, because after all, we control our life. ‘Youth and Age’ represents a life journey, particularly the life journey of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poet of this poem. By the use of his imaginative powers and various poetic devices as well as the tone and structure of this poem, Coleridge captures the joys of youth and the helplessness of old age, in his attempt to compare and contrast the two very different stages of life and deliver the underlying message that life is just a thought. In this way, the poet has privileged the theme of a life journey.
‘Youth and Age’ was published in 1834, the Romantic Era which is a term applied to the literature of the late 18th century to the early 19th century. This romanticism movement focused on intense personal expression through the emphasis on deep, intense and uplifting emotions and promotion of the power of individual imagination and subjective experience. Nature was a predominant Romantic theme, because many romantic poets, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, seen comfort and peace in nature and recognised poetry’s capacity to describe the beauty of the natural world. Coleridge’s respect for and delight in natural beauty is expressed through nearly all of his poems, including Youth and Age. Coleridge praised the imaginative soul of youth and finds images in nature to creatively describe it. This is demonstrated in Youth and Age when he uses lines like “Verse, a breeze ‘mid blossoms straying” “Where Hope clung feeding, like a bee.” “O’er aery cliffs and glittering sands,” “Friendship is a sheltering tree” “Love is flower-like” “But Spring-tide blossoms on thy lips” “And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!” of which help in expressing his emotions towards youth and ageing.
This poem is organised into 5 stanzas and consists of 49 lines in total.
The first stanza is a cinquain which is a stanza that consists of 5 lines. Coleridge starts off the stanza and the whole poem in general with some powerful imagery of nature in attempt to communicate all the joys and liberties that he enjoyed in his youthful days. He states that he enjoyed the company of nature, looked at life with hope and could write poetry. Everything appeared to be good and Coleridge was filled with aspiring dreams, hopes for his future, physical strength and liveliness. Through this, Coleridge has briefly captured the joys of youth to be explained in an elaborative manner in the longer, following stanzas.
The second stanza consists of 12 lines. In this stanza, we can see Coleridge is reminiscing quite bitterly on his youthful days. He goes into more detail about how time has bought change to his life but particularly changes in his body and physical strength. He remembers the time when he was strong and active and could climb a high peak as easily as he could run on a sandy beach. He uses his imaginative skills to say that like those small, swift boats, known as skiffs, that go about on the lakes without the need of any help is similar to how nothing use to affect or worry him in his youth hood. This is simply because he was full of health and liveliness and it never crossed his mind that he would eventually grow old and from there his physical and mental health would be a downhill task. Therefore, Coleridge has successfully the independence of youth compared to the helplessness of old age.
Stanza three consists of 11 lines. Again, Coleridge uses nature to communicate to the read the blessings he is thankful for which are love and friendship which protect us from all kinds of weather. He begins to come to the reality that he has grown old but refuses to believe and accept that youth has left him, consoling himself with his philosophy that we only grow old when our thoughts grow old.
In stanza 4 which consists of 10 lines, the poet further elaborates on his philosophy and delivers the readers the message of hope. He says that even though his hair is all grey, he walks with a stoop and has physically grown old, he is still mentally young. He tries to tell the readers that life is only what we perceive it to be because after all we control our lives and thoughts. Therefore we can see in this stanza Coleridge is comforting himself and the reader with his philosophy that as long as we stay young in our thoughts, no one should call you old, even if you physically are.
Stanza five, the final stanza, consists of 11 lines. In this stanza, Coleridge draws a contrast between youth and old age with the help of comparing it to nature.
Altogether, Coleridge is aiming to communicate to his readers that life is journey from womb to tomb. From the day we are bought into this world, changes start to happen, however the most noticeable change is from youth to old age. The poet wants us to know that youth is the most interesting, exciting and important phase of human life. It is in this phase that a person becomes physically healthy and mentally sound. He or she becomes courageous and risk-taking, thinking that they can do anything that requires physical demand. Most people in this stage don’t care or worry too much about the future but instead focus on making the present perfect, because for the young it is difficult to imagine old age and a sense of loss. Ageing is an unwanted and unavoidable task however it is a necessary process in everyone’s life journey. In this phase of life a person becomes physically weak