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Saturday 19 September 2020

Saturday Rave: Long Time A Child, by Hartley Coleridge.

 Literature is littered with excellent writers who were brought up in houses that contained few books. But still they wrote.

Hartley Coleridge was the eldest son of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was given access to some very fine libraries from the earliest age, he was taken to the very best cultural events, and kept company with the great poets of his time. He went to Oxford University.

But his alcoholism soon lost him the university job he was given after graduating, and after that he frittered away his life and his talents. Mind you, they were his life and his talents, so he was perfectly at liberty to do so. He never had any family to support.

How did he feel, himself, about all the opportunities he didn't take? 

Well, he wrote a sonnet to explain just that.


Long time a child, and still a child, when years

Had painted manhood on my cheek, was I, - 

For yet I lived like one not born to die;

A thriftless prodigal of smiles and tears,

No hope I needed, and I knew no fears.

But sleep, though sweet, is only sleep, and waking

I waked to sleep no more, at once o'ertaking

The vanguard of my age, with all arrears

Of duty on my back. Nor child, nor man,

Nor youth, nor sage, I find my head is grey

For I have lost the race I never ran:

A rathe December blights my lagging May;

And I am still a child, though I be old,

Time is my debtor for my years untold.


For I have lost the race I never ran...

...poor Hartley Coleridge died at the age of fifty two, supported at the last by an inheritance from his dead parents.

Word To Use Today: rathe. This means ripening early, or blooming early. The word in Old English was hrathe.

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