The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

About the Author

William Wordsworth(1770-1850) is one of the greatest romantic poets from the early Victorian era. He was born at Cockermouth in 1770. He was an eminent English poet who played a central role in the English Romantic Movement.

Wordsworth's main legacy was the introduction of a new attitude toward nature as he introduced nature imagery into his work. He also presented a fresh view of the relationship between man and the natural world.

Wordsworth's literary career was quite thriving and sensational. He published his poetry collection, An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches in 1793. He met the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1795. 

It was in collaboration with him that the most significant work in the English Romantic Movement, Lyrical Ballads was produced in 1798. At the peak of his career, he published Poems, in Two Volumes, in 1807. 

He published Guide to the Lakes in 1810 followed by The Excursion and Loadamia in 1815. The Prelude, generally considered to be Wordsworth's master, is an autobiographical poem that was published in 1850 after his death. 

Summary | Main Idea of the Poem

This poem is written by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth is a famous poet of nature and solitude. In this poem, he tells us about his chance of meeting with a Highland girl. Once, William Wordsworth visited Scotland.

In a field, he saw a girl, who was cutting the crops and singing by herself. She was alone in the field. Her song was attractive and melodious. The poet had never listened to that kind of song throughout his life. 

The song and tone of the girl were superior to that of the song of cuckoo and nightingale. Although the poet could not understand her song, as she was singing in her language yet he guessed that she was singing about the day-to-day matters.

After listening to her song, William Wordsworth returned to his home but he could listen to the same music of that girl in his imagination. That song had become the source of permanent joy for him. This poem is a beautiful lyric by Wordsworth. It reflects the poet's passionate love for natural beauty. 

As Wordsworth is a famous poet of nature so he describes the effect of nature on the human mind. According to him nature never betrays the heart of a lover who loves all the natural beautiful scenes. Nature is always a source of pleasure and joy for human beings. 

The Solitary Reaper is a romantic poem. It deals with the romantic theory of poetry. Firstly, the poem deals with the life of common people. In this poem, a highland girl is a common girl. She is innocent and lovely in her charms. 

Secondly, the poem is full of romantic images as the field, reaping and singing, alone she cuts, highland lass, Arabian sands, springtime, etc. Thirdly, the poem is written in simple and direct language. It is written in the simple, rustic, and common people's language. 

Fourthly, the girl is a representative of pure natural beauty. She appears in the poem as an object of nature. Fifthly, the chief merits of the poem are its literary and spiritual quality. Wordsworth carried the music of the girl's song in his heart After it was heard no more.

When long afterward, the poet visited a beautiful scene in Nature and liked it emotionally, he remembered the girl's song. He associated the song with beautiful natural scenes that he visited afterward. 

With its simplicity, suggestiveness, pathos, and verbal music, The Solitary Reaper remains a very delightful lyric. It is not only one of the best of Wordsworth's poems, but also one of the most wonderful lyrics in the whole literature.

Explanation with the Reference to Context


Stanza 1


Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass;
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass.

Reference and Context

These lines have been taken from the poem The Solitary Reaper written by William Wordsworth.

In this poem, the poet narrates an incident. He sees a highland girl in a field. She is reaping the crop and singing a song. The poet is very much impressed by the music of her song. 

He compares her song with the song of the two singing birds, the nightingale, and the cuckoo. The poet remembers the melody and tone of her song every time.

Explanation

In these lines, Wordsworth asks his readers to look at the Highland girl. She is reaping the crop and singing a melodious song. She is all alone in the field. The poet is so much impressed both by her lovely presence and music.

Her voice is so sweet and melodious that the poet is fascinated and stood there calmly listening to the song. The poet advises his readers either to stop by the side of the field to listen to her sweet song or to pass by her silently without disturbing her.

Stanza 2

Alone she cuts and binds the grain, 
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen, for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with sound.

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

In these lines, the poet describes that the maiden is all alone in the field. She is reaping and binding the crop in a bundle all alone. She is singing a sad and melodious song. The whole valley is rejoicing with the music and song of the maiden. Her lovely presence and enchanting voice have transported the poet into ecstasy.

Stanza 3

No nightingale did ever chant
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travelers in some shady haunt
Among Arabian sands

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

In these lines, the poet describes the enchanting voice of a maiden's song. He says that the song of the solitary reaper is more attractive and melodious than the song of the nightingale that sings in the evening time. 

The maiden's sweet voice pacifies the feelings of the tired travelers staying in an oasis in Arabian deserts. The Arabian desert gives a romantic touch to these verses. This is also a romantic image. In this way, the poet admires the sweet song of the mountain girl.

Stanza 4

A voice so thrilling nev'r was heard
In springtime from the cuckoo bird,
Breaking the silences of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

In these lines, the elaborates the pleasant nature of the song of the highland girl. The poet finds her voice so exciting and livelier than the voice of cuckoo, whose sweet voice breaks the silence of the seas on the island of the Hebrides near the coast of England.

The poet says that the song of the girl has a more magical and inspiring effect on our ears. In short, he finds her voice matchless and unique in its music, melody, and symphony.

Stanza 5

will no one tell; me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago.

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

These lines highlight the poet's inability to understand the subject matter or the theme of the maiden's song. He asks if anyone will tell him the meaning of her song. She is singing in some local dialect.

The poet simply guesses its theme that her song may be about some old sad events or about some battles fought very long ago. The tune of her song is sad and sorrowful.

Stanza 6

Or is it more humble lay,
Familiar matter of today?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain.
That has been and maybe again?

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

The poet is deeply impressed by the lovely presence and voice of the highland girl.
The girl is singing in her local dialect. The poet cannot understand the real nature of her song. The poet tells us about his guess, concerning the contents of the highland girl's song. 

The song may be about some common day-to-day matter of life, or it may be about some important death or battle in the area important for the girl perhaps. It may be about some natural trouble, loss, or pain that occurs again and again in society.

Stanza 7

Whatever the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o're the sickle bending

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

The poet could not understand the subject matter of the song being sung by the lonely girl, who was reaping the crop in the field. But the song went on continuously as if it would never end. The girl sang fluently, as she was bending over the sickle and continuously doing her work.

it was an unending song. The poem is one of the most artistic and most romantic of Wordsworth's poems. Wordsworth very artistically shows the artistic portrayal of the girl that becomes an audio-visual picture in our mind.

Stanza 8

I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.

Reference and Context

Same as for the first stanza

Explanation

In these lines, the poet tells us that he stood motionless and listened to the song of the girl who was singing in a field of crop. He enjoyed the sweet voice and the surroundings for a long time. The poet was highly impressed by the sweetness and melody of her song. 

Then he left the place behind and climbed up the hill. He carried away the sweet and melodious song in his heart. He always kept this beautiful experience in his mind and the sweet music of the girl in his heart as a happy memory.

Important Questions and Answers

Question 1

The poem deals with a common experience of life. Discuss.

Describe the scene presented in this poem.

Answer

The Solitary Reaper is a personal poem in which the poet has narrated his personal experience. During his tour to Scotland, he happened to see the solitary reaper. She was reaping the crop and singing a song. She appeared a part of the beauty of nature.

Her lovely presence and enchanting voice forced the poet to write this visit in verse. The poet compared the melody of the girl's voice with that of the singing nightingale. Her song was more soothing than that of the nightingale.

Her voice was thrilling. It was more thrilling than the voice of the cuckoo bird which broke the silence of the seas in the spring season. Though the poet could not understand the song of the girl yet he guessed that song was true in its nature.

The poet was impressed by the song that he could not forget it in his future life. She was a simple rustic girl. Her presence and physical appearance were simple. She was not a modern lady. But the poet was inspired by the song she presented.

He considered her a part of nature. She was as beautiful as natural surroundings. Her song appeared to be unending to the poet. For all these reasons we can say that the poem deals with the common experience of life.

Most of the words used are from everyday life experiences, field, lass, cuts, thrilling, matter, sorrow, maiden, music, etc having musical as well as thrilling matter, sorrow, maiden as pictorial qualities.

Question 2

What is the significance of the song in the Solitary Reaper?

Discuss the central idea of the poem, The Solitary Reaper.

The poem leaves a lasting impression on the poet's mind. Discuss

Why does Wordsworth call the Solitary Reaper's song A melancholy strain?

How has the poet used the idea of association and memories?

Answer


The solitary reaper in the poem was reaping or cutting the crop and then singing beautifully while continuing her work. She was all alone in the mountain valley and only the poet could see her and listen to her. Wordsworth was a romantic poet.

He was highly imaginative and could feel the beauties of nature in unusual ways. He could appreciate the fine shades of a singing voice in romantic mountainous surroundings. The voice of the highland girl left a soothing impact on the poet's mind. The most forceful lines of this poem are:

The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more
Wordsworth felt that the Scottish girl was singing a melancholy song. Again he called her verses or song plaintive. He did not understand her language. He did not know what the song was about. He liked it because of its sad and serious and sweet tone or music.

The poet was so much impressed by the music of the girl's song. Although his meeting with the girl was temporary yet he remembered her song and music in his later life. Her song and voice became the permanent source of pleasure for the poet.

It was an unforgettable incident of his life. He remembered her personality and song in his rushed life. This memory gave him a soothing impact. The girl's song created a connection between its note and the poet's inner sadness.

Question 3

The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth is a romantic poem. Discuss.

What are the elements of romanticism in The Solitary Reaper? Elaborate.

Answer

The Solitary Reaper is a romantic poem. It has all the elements of romantic poetry. Firstly, the poem deals with the life of common people. In this poem, a highland girl is a common girl. She is innocent and lovely. 

Secondly, the poem is full of romantic images as the field, reaping and singing, alone she cuts, highland lass, Arabian sands, springtime, etc. Thirdly, the poem is written in simple and direct language.

Fourthly, the girl is a representative of pure natural beauty. She appears in the poem as an object of nature. As Wordsworth is a famous poet of nature so he describes the effect of nature on the human mind.

According to him nature never betrays the heart of a lover who loves all-natural beautiful scenes. Nature is always a source of pleasure and joy for human beings. The poem is one of the most beautiful and romantic poems of Wordsworth as almost all main characteristics of romanticism are found in it. 

Like all the romantic poets Wordsworth also has a keen interest in the long ago, remote, and far off places. Here he ponders on the theme of the song but is at a loss to understand it. He likes to think that the song may be about some battles long ago.

Far old, unhappy, far-off things
And battles long ago
The atmosphere of the surroundings where the girl is singing is full of strange loneliness. The valley in which the young girl is reaping and singing a sad song is a far-off place. It is beyond the common experience of life. The young girl has a sweet voice but she is singing a melancholy song.

A voice so thrilling nev'r was heard
In springtime from the cuckoo bird
The subjective feelings, love of nature, and sad mood of the poet indicate that it is a romantic poem. Lyricism, pictorial quality, romantic atmosphere, and sad sentiments are the main feature of this poem.


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