The Foster-Mother's Tale by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

In this episode I will give you two extreme models of education. One is best represented in the tale of Petronilla and the other is best represented in that of Greta Thunberg.

A theme that runs throughout the 1798 Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and Wordsworth is that of nature as educator for a child. In this poem—a fragment from a theatrical play by Coleridge—we see multiple viewpoints on education. One critical question we must answer is how much, if any, of the outside world and its social ills should a child know about?

Education, knowledge and moral upbringing were of paramount importance to many of the romantics. This is a key theme not only in Lyrical Ballads but in much of the philosophers of this time as well as literary writers such as Mary Shelley. This poem is a first in exploring important ideas in action of sibling affection, taboo and the morality imposed upon young children.




By Samuel Taylor Coleridge



I never saw the man whom you describe.


’Tis strange ! he spake of you familiarly

As mine and Albert’s common Foster-mother.


Now blessings on the man, whoe’er he be,

That joined your names with mine ! O my sweet lady,

As often as I think of those dear times

When you two little ones would stand at eve

On each side of my chair, and make me learn

All you had learnt in the day ; and how to talk

In gentle phrase, then bid me sing to you—

‘Tis more like heaven to come than what has been.


O my dear Mother ! this strange man has left me

Troubled with wilder fancies, than the moon

Breeds in the love-sick maid who gazes at it,

Till lost in inward vision, with wet eye

She gazes idly !