Poetry: Coleridge – Epitaph

Stop, Christian passer-by!—Stop, child of God,
And read with gentle breast. Beneath this sod
A poet lies, or that which once seemed he.
O, lift one thought in prayer for S. T. C.;
That he who many a year with toil of breath
Found death in life, may here find life in death!
Mercy for praise—to be forgiven for fame
He asked, and hoped, through Christ. Do thou the same!

One of the final poems that Coleridge wrote in the last year of his life, “Epitaph” is a fitting poem for us to close this month and to reflect on for the coming season. October 31st is, after all, All Hallows’ Eve, and the next day All Saints’ Day. Soon, we will be welcoming the season of Advent! And although Coleridge wouldn’t write this for another week or so, we will discuss it now.

What does Coleridge say here? First, a request to us Christians. Stop! he asks. Child of God, read with tenderness. Look now to what is left of this once “great” man. Say a prayer for him. And now, for a confession: he found death in life. Yes, Coleridge led a troubled life. Though he lived longer than many other well-loved poets, his lifelong struggles and ill-prescribed cures eventually got the best of him. One wonders if he knew, even in writing this, how many months he had left? He struggled with death all through life. Ah, but what is he? Also a child of God. So he proclaims: He knows in death he will have found life! Here he seems to turn to a short prayer, asking God for mercy where he once sought praise, for forgiveness where he praised fame. But he continues with this promise for us in which his faith was sure: Coleridge asked for grace and hoped through Christ. His assurance was unwavering. So he leaves us forever with this command: Do thou the same!

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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