Appreciation and Analysis of Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

December 14, 2012

Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

Solitary Reaper is a beautiful example of the brilliance of one of the world’s most beloved poets, William Wordsworth. William Wordsworth depicted nature themes and country folk with deep sensitivity and passion.

Have you ever had the experience of taking a walk along the countryside and hearing the songs of the village folk there singing as they worked in the fields? William Wordsworth has beautifully captured such an experience using exquisite language in his lovely poem, the Solitary Reaper.

In the Solitary Reaper, a young lady is singing to her heart’s content in the Scottish Highlands as the poet walks past. The song is carried through the hills and valleys and seems to echo all around. The lady is working all alone harvesting grain. The poet does not want anyone to disturb the enchanting melodious music emanating from her as she is busy at work in the fields. Examine the last two lines of the first verse.

“Oh! Listen for the vale profound-is overflowing with the sound.”

The poet adeptly uses exquisite vocabulary as well as lyrical rhyming sequence to show how the music that the solitary lady sings echoes throughout the valley.

The second verse commences with the following lines.

“No nightingale did ever chant-more welcome notes to weary bands.”

William Wordsworth was completely mesmerized by the melodious song sung by the lady on that particular day as he passed the valley. It was an experience that he wanted to record and share with everyone. This was the first time that he had heard such soulful singing which stirred him to write a poem about the whole experience. The nightingale’s sweet melodious songs could not compare with the lady’s brilliant singing and could provide a welcome relief to any tired wanderer passing by. He later on goes on to say that it was the most beautiful song ever heard on the planet.

In the third verse, the poet touches upon the theme of the universality of music. The poet does not understand the Gaelic language in which the lady is singing. He only knows that it is a sad song due to its melancholic tone. He wonders whether it is due to the sorrow suffered during some bygone battle or some suffering during day to day life. The poet is touched by the music, in spite of it being in an unknown or foreign tongue. Have you listened to folk songs in different regional languages? Is there any song in an “unknown” language whose tunes captivated you?

In the last verse, the poet continues on the theme of the universality of music and concludes by saying that the haunting and mesmerizing song sung by the solitary reaper rang in his ears for days to come.

photo credit: Himalayan Trails via photopin cc

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