THE SOLITARY REAPER. WILLIAM WORDSWORTH. ABOUT THE POET. Era – April 1770 -1850 Born in Cockermouth , Cumberland in the scenic region of Lake District, the landscapes of which affected his poetry
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THE SOLITARY REAPER WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
ABOUT THE POET • Era – April 1770 -1850 • Born in Cockermouth, Cumberland in the scenic region of Lake District, the landscapes of which affected his poetry • Remained close to sister Dorothy, who was a major influence in his literary works, apart from fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Milton and Shakespeare • Was poet laureate of England • Major themes in his poetry – nature, memory, the power of the mind
ROMANTIC AGE • LYRICAL BALLADS (1798) – A literary work by Wordsworth and Coleridge ushered the Romantic Era in England. • In the preface to Lyrical Ballads, he talks about a new kind of poetry based on the “real language of men” • Writers and artists of the age focused on nature versus civilisation, imagination versus reason, feeling and emotion versus logic, individual versus society, rural versus urban settings. • Melancholy and impulsiveness were favoured states of mind. • Awe, doubt, horror and fear – main feelings the poems tried to evoke. • Impact on poetic form – structured rhythmic verses gave way to blank verse – as if the poet were trying to converse with the reader.
WHAT IS POETRY? • According to Wordsworth, poetry is: "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity” • Though nature seems to be the main subject of his poems, "the mind of man" is the "main haunt and region of [his] song."
WHAT DID NATURE, MIND MEMORY MEAN TO WORDSWORTH • Wordsworth described nature in great physical detail • The mind was both the creator as well as receiver of sensory experience • Memory (especially childhood memory) is the crucial link that maintains the connection between the individual and nature (EG: DAFFODILS)
THE SOLITARY REAPER • Written in 1805 • Not based on Wordsworth’s own experiences, unlike his other poetry • Inspired by the manuscript of Thomas Wilkinson’s “Tours to the British Mountains” (1824), and Dorothy Wordsworth’s “Recollections” (1803)
WILKINSON INSPIRATION • "Passed a female who was reaping alone: she sung in Erse, as she bended over her sickle; the sweetest human voice I ever heard: her strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious, long after they were heard no more."
DOROTHY INSPIRATION • "As we descended, the scene became more fertile, our way being pleasantly varied—through coppices or open fields, and passing farm-houses, though always with an intermixture of cultivated ground. It was harvest-time, and the fields were quietly—might I be allowed to say pensively?—enlivened by small companies of reapers. It is not uncommon in the more lonely parts of the Highlands to see a single person so employed. The following poem was suggested to William by a beautiful sentence in Thomas Wilkinson's Tour in Scotland."
ANALYSIS • Plain, undemanding verse • The song springs from nature – impulsive • The girl is ‘solitary’, alone, cut off from the rest, much like the budding new age in poetry. • The poet repeats the simplest of ideas – single, solitary, by herself – reap, cut and bind – motionless and still • Uses common verbs like behold, reap, sing, stop, pass, cut, bind, chant. • The poet is chatty – ‘Will no one tell me’
ANALYSIS CONTD… • The poet does not understand the song, he comprehends only the ‘sound’, ‘voice’ and ‘music’ through his heart. • There is a universality of human emotions – our shared humanity makes us instinctively feel each other’s sorrow, pain, suffering or even joy. • Memory and imagination will help the poet remember this moment forever.