“The Solitary Reaper” 1807 _beginning of the Romantic Period_ by pengtt

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									                                     Romantic Period 1798-1832

English Romantic Poets: Poetry the dominant literary form during this period
William Wordsworth/Coleridge – launched the Romantic Era (in older years sank into conservatism and
Romantic Era: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of emotions. It takes its origins from emotions
recollected in tranquility. Emphasis on emotions was central to this era.

   I.     Characteristics of Wordsworth‟s Romantic Poetry
          1. Simple ideals
          2. Reverence for nature (frequently described as a nature poet) Romantic poets view of
             natural – not to be tamed and analyzed scientifically (wild, free force that could inspire
             poets to spiritual understanding. “Nature” poems natural scenes serve as a stimulus to the
             most characteristic human activity – thinking. (Meditative poems – scene usually serves
             to raise an emotional problem or personal crisis).
          3. Intensity of feeling (younger years)
          4. Romantic poems, permeate the landscape with human life, passion, expressiveness.

   II.    Wordsworth
          1. Grew up in rustic society 4/7/1770
          2. Played outdoors in what he remembered as pure communion with nature.
          3. Troubled by Rationalism, Industrialism, and the French Revolution. (This clashed with a
             softer more emotional side).
          4. This caused a revolution in English literature – formulated his own understanding of the
             world and human mind.
          5. Stressed importance of childhood in adult psyche (from childhood some memory of the
             former purity and glory in which they live remains in adulthood – this is best perceived in
             the solemn and joyous relationship between child and nature.)

   III.   Wordsworth‟s Style
          1. Plain spoken
          2. Easy to understand
          3. Images/metaphors mixed with natural scenery
          4. Religious symbolism
          5. Relics of Wordsworth‟s rustic childhood
          6. Heart-felt emotions
          7. Iambic pentameter (sonnets), iambic tetrameter, and iambic trimester with varying rhyme

   IV.    Poetic Forms used by Wordsworth
          1. Lyric Poetry – expresses a great range of speaker‟s personal thoughts or feelings (elegy-
             ode-sonnet are all lyric forms). Originally sung by the accompaniment of a lyre.
                   A. Lyrical Ballads – story told in verse usually meant to be sung. First published
                      in 1708 (1800-1802 different editions written). Unlike anything before it.
                      Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of emotion. Changed the course of
                      English poetry.
                        1. wrote in simple language of the common people rather than lofty and
                            elaborate diction.
                        2. telling concrete stories of their lives
                  3. emphasis on feeling, simplicity, and the pleasure of beauty over rhetoric
                  4. poetry should access emotions constrained in memory
                  5. feeling and instinct above formality and mannerism
                  6. incorporated human passions with the beautiful and permanent forms of
             B. Sonnets (Petrachan) Francesco Petrarch (Italian) – 300 poems to a woman
                named Laura.
                  1. 4 line lyric poem usually written in rhymed iambic pentameter (lines of 10
                     syllables with a stress on every other syllable). Shakespeare also used this
                  2. Petrarchan: originated in Italy in the 13th century.
                         - 2 parts: (octave) – 1st eight lines
                                     (sestet) – last six lines
                         - rhymed abba
                                     abba (octave)
                                     cde (sestet)
                         - 2 parts play off each other
                                   a. octave sometimes raises a question and sestet answers
                                   b. octave comments/sestet opposes or extends comment.
                  3. Usually express a single theme or idea

Other feet                            Other meters
1 = mono                              U/ - iambic
2 = di                                /U - trochaic
3 = tri                               UU/ - anapestic
4 = tetra                             /UU - dactylic
5 = pent
6 = hex
7 = hept
8 = oct
                     “The Solitary Reaper” 1807 (beginning of the Romantic Period)

Lyric Ballad (tells a narrative story)

Summary: narrator/speaker sees a woman alone in a field singing to herself. Speaker hears this
beautiful song of a “Highland Lass” (Scotland) and is narrating what he thinks of when he hears it.
Speaker says either “stop here or gently pass” (either stop and listen to the beautiful song, or go past
quietly so you don‟t interrupt her harmony with nature or song as it is so beautiful.) He is thinking of
things that could compare to the song of a Nightingale and Cuckoo bird. He ponders on what she is
singing about. 3rd Stanza – doesn‟t know what she is singing (he imagines what it could be about) so she
is singing in foreign language; maybe Gaelic. 4th Stanza – concludes that even though he doesn‟t know
what she is signing about, it is one of the most beautiful songs he‟s heard. In comparing her to the birds
– she is seen as being natural in harmony with nature. Her voice would be beautiful in any part of the
world like Hebrides. As he travelled up the hill, and even after he could see her no more he carried the
beauty of the song with him. Her song was beautiful and timeless.

Setting: Scotland


4, 8 line stanzas in iambic tetrameter. (In English most common foot is a iamb – U/).


      Those who are alone are in harmony with nature. That there is beauty in things we can‟t truly
       explain or put into words (like the woman‟s song).
      The soothing effect of beautiful memories on human thought and feelings.
      Happiness in solitude when at one with the world


Sad, yet being in harmony with nature is a happy thing. Admiration. Melancholy, yet most beautiful.


Descriptive language – for sight - Harvest imagery:– (typical of Wordsworth); winding down of the
season; death of plants; cutting and binding grain as is typical in the Fall. Exotic places such as Arabian
sands, Hebrides showing how her voice is beautiful anywhere in the world. Solitary imagery – single,
solitary, alone, by herself (she is diminutive in contrast to the big valley, yet her song makes her large
and important. She has power through her voice.

Descriptive language – for auditory – (particularly in stanza 2) Musical imagery:– reference to auditory
listen, chant, “welcome note,” music, “melancholy strain,” “listen,” “voice so thrilling,” “humble lay,”
(narrative song with common refrain), “plaintive numbers,” (melancholy musical notes), etc.

Questions, exclamation points, caesuras (pause in the natural flow of the line – can be identified by
punctuation), enjambment (lines cannot make sense without the following line)
Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
            - Simple setting (girl alone)
            - Nature/harvest imagery (in a lot of poems)
            - Relatable (e.g. like going to a play hearing something beautiful)
            - Illustrates feelings of speaker (hearing her) and the girl (her feeling for what she is
              doing/how she seems)
            - Simple language
            - Beauty in the world (not necessarily physical beauty – beauty in nature)
            - Dealing with youth/innocence of youth
                                      “Strange Fits of Passion Have I Known”

Lyric Ballad (tells a narrative story)

Summary: Part of a sequence of short lyrical ballads concerning the death of the speaker‟s beloved Lucy. Tells of
the speaker‟s act of reciting his tale (he will whisper it – sets actual events in the past) as he travels to his Lucy‟s
house when all of a sudden he is overwhelmed with a sudden fear (irrational fear) that what if Lucy were dead! It
is as if the speaker is saying, “this happened to me and isn‟t this strange it did! Yet, it really isn‟t so strange
because anyone could experience this sort of thing. The setting is at night beneath the moon.

Had an additional stanza:

I told her this: her laughter light
Is ringing in my ears;
And when I think upon that night
My eyes are dim with tears                    Which ending do you prefer? Why?


7, 4 line stanzas where the meter alternates between iambic tetrameter (1st and 3rd lines) and iambic trimester (2nd
and 4th lines). (In English most common foot is an iamb – U/).
ABAB rhyme scheme. Uses end rhyme.

The structure of the poem increases its intensity of feeling


        The depth of human feeling and emotion can produce strange irrational fears
        Within pleasant experiences there are moments when we are gripped by irrationality.
        Dual nature of love, it can bring happiness and sometimes irrationality (“fond and wayward thoughts”

Recounting, pleasant – until suspense builds in the 5th stanza when the moon descends and the plodding horse
brings him close to his location when he is overcome with a strange and passionate thought – “If Lucy should be


Descriptive language – for sight – Nature imagery: moon, hill,
                      - for sound – horses plodding hooves (beats sounds like a horse
                           hoof) (builds suspense)
Moon is a symbol for the speaker‟s thoughts/feelings/fears for Lucy – “beneath an evening moon,” and later “the
sinking moon,” “descending moon,” “at once, the bright moon dropped.”

Combination of enjambment and end stopped.

Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
Simple rustic setting – familiar landscape Nature imagery – reverence in nature (“as fresh as a rose
                                                      in June”
Relatable – concepts for common man        Emotional appeal-intensity of love
Simple language                            Lucy Poem
                                         “We are Seven” (1798)

Lyric Ballad (tells a narrative story)

Summary: This poem was inspired by observing a little girl when Wordsworth was on a walk. The
poem tells the story about a child who teaches the adult about death. The poem offers a dialogue
between the speaker and the young 8 year old girl who offers a child‟s viewpoint of death. Adult
perspective dismisses the innocence of youth – if died you are dead and gone, whereas child believes her
siblings are a part of her life still.


17, 4 line stanzas, where there is an alternating meter. Simple, light rhythm. The rhyme scheme
alternates between ABCB, ABAB, ABCB, ABAB. Uses end rhyme as well as internal rhyme (Lines 37,


        That the truth lies in the eyes of a child
        The idea of life after death is comforting
        The innocence of childhood bares hope, while adulthood bares suspicion and doubt.

Innocent, matter of fact – from child‟s perspective
Frustrated (line 27, 65), dismissive (line 31), questioning (line 60-61)


Descriptive language – for sight – Nature imagery: woodland air, eyes were very fair,
                                   churchyard cottage, churchyard.

Questions, exclamation marks, caesuras, mostly enjambment

Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
Writes about real life
Concrete situations in a natural setting
Simplicity of words
                     “Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower” (between 1798-1801)

Lyric Ballad (tells a narrative story)

Summary: This poem is one of a set of 5 called the “Lucy Poems” (identity not known). The poem begins with
the personified Nature (noticing Lucy at 3 years old). Nature thinks she is the most beautiful thing on earth. The
speaker does not speak until the final stanza. For the first 6 stanzas he simply describes the declarations and
promises of nature. It is only in the end that the reader learns what happened to Lucy (she died as soon as she
reached maturity) and why the speaker is writing the poem/out of grief. In the last stanza Nature declares that her
work is done: she has fulfilled her promise to Lucy letting her grow into a mature woman (as promised in the 6 th
stanza). The speaker left with calm scene to enjoy with a beautiful memory. Nature takes on an interesting role
in this poem – she is beautiful and giving and yet ultimately dictates the circumstances of Lucy‟s death. Nature
expounds on what it means to be „Nature‟s lady‟ for several stanzas. Nature promises to make Lucy par of nature
itself. She will be a a part of the rocks, earth, heaven, glades, etc. There is an antithetical pattern in the poem
that begins with „sun and shower‟ in the opening line and is most noticeable in the second stanza („law and
impulse,‟ „rock and plain‟, „earth and heaven‟, „glade and bower‟, „kindle or restrain‟). The effect is to suggest
that the complex process of natural, organic growth involves an interaction of opposing forces, an idea that is
found elsewhere in his poetry. Lucy will fully enjoy nature and understand it. It will be as if they‟re in constant
communication. The poem becomes a beautiful elegy written to a woman who has died and who Wordsworth
admired not only for her beauty but also for her connection to nature, which Wordsworth felt was the highest
possible achievement. In the final stanza there is an emphasis on the tragedy of that death.


7, 6 line stanzas. The rhyme scheme follows a AABCCB and uses an alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic
trimeter. Uses end rhyme.

    There is peace in being at one with the non-human universe – to share the calm of the hearth and of „mute
       insensate (inanimate) things‟

Elegiac tone (some say Lucy is his sister Dorothy/others say she is an idealized figure.


    Descriptive language – for sight – Nature imagery: storm, flower, rock plain, glade, bower, lawn, mountain
    springs, willow bend, etc.

Dialogue, enjambment.

Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
Writes about real life
Concrete situations in a natural setting
Simplicity of words
                                “The World is too much with us” (early 1800s)

Petrarchan Sonnet (14 lines divided into 8 [octave – usually proposes a question] and 6 [sestet – answers,
comments on, or criticizes]

Summary: Wordsworth‟s sonnets articulate his view on the state of the world and his political views. This poem
shows how far the early 19th century was from living out the Wordsworthian ideal of communication with nature.
Man is caught up in the hustle and bustle of the world. Industrialism has taken over and people are taking the
natural world for granted. It criticizes decadent materialism. At one point the speaker says they‟d rather be a
pagan, than a Christian in a Christian world so they can see the ancient gods in the actions of nature. The poet is
angry at the Modern Age for losing connection to nature and to everything meaningful. Humanity is seen as out
of tune and looks on uncaringly at the spectacle of the storm. Poet prefers the simpler kind of life. Wordsworth
wants to see industrialism slow down; he sees that people are consumed with “getting and spending” (line 2), and
“lay waste our powers” (line 2), and instead would prefer them to be witness to the “sea that bares her bosom to
the moon,” and “winds that will be howling at all hours” (lines 5-6). He says that these things are all gathered up
like “sleeping flowers” (their beauty there, but unable to be seen). In essence this sonnet is written to try to save
this decadent era from itself.


14 line written in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme follows a ABBAABBA, CDCDCD. Uses end rhyme.

Octave (first 8 lines) – presents the problem. The poet criticizes the human preoccupation with the decadent

Sestet (last 6 lines) – after the caesura: answers by suggesting a simpler form of life is best. Speaker dramatically
proposes an important personal solution – he wishes he could have been raised a pagan so he could still see
ancient gods in the action of nature and thereby gain spiritual solace. “Great God!” demonstrates the extremity of
his wish.

Familiar communion with nature
Humanity is out of touch with the natural world
Being out of tune with the natural world and its beauty.

Sarcasm/anger – shown by punctuation: “sordid boom!” “Great God!” Critical of people submitting to industry.
Wordsworth shows his devotion to his feelings by expressing his desire to be pagan in a Christian world.


   Descriptive language – for sight – Nature imagery: sleeping flowers,
                      - for sound – winds howling
   Figurative language – personification: “sea that bares her bosom to the moon,” “winds that
                         will be howling,” and “like sleeping flowers” (also a simile).

Mythological figures – Proteus, Triton (both sea gods)
Christian – “Great God!” (and the preference to be Pagan to show extreme desire to be more in
             tune with nature and to make this distinction all the more dramatic).

Exclamation – to show anger, caesura, enjambment.

Simple – easy, short sentences.
Oxymoron – “sordid boon” – filthy blessing

Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
Concern with being in harmony with nature
Nature imagery
Frustrated by material world of the 19th century
Raw emotion discussed
Being in tune/out of tune with nature (like other Wordworth poems such as “Solitary Reaper,” and “Mutability”
                                                “Mutability” (1822)


Summary: “Mutability,” a traditional sonnet of fourteen lines in iambic pentameter, is William Wordsworth‟s
meditation on change and transformation. Something that is mutable is able to shift, alter, and adapt itself, and the
poet juxtaposes his reflections on the impermanence of forms to the permanence of ‘Truth.‟ Although
grounded in concrete images, the poem addresses the concept of mutability in the abstract and entertains both
positive and negative aspects of its manifestation. Wordsworth is disgruntled by industrialization as it is ruining
the natural world. Webster‟s II New Riverside Dictionary defines mutability in the following manner: 1. Capable
of or subject to change. 2. Apt to change. Both William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley composed poems
entitled “Mutability,” which addressed the inevitability of change through the passage of time. While the two
poems share the same title, each poet‟s conceptions regarding the qualities that survive the passage of time differ
slightly. While Wordsworth‟s “Mutability” reflects the idea that only Truth remains unchanged despite the
passage of time, Shelley‟s “Mutability” views Change as the sole survivor of the passage of time. Through the
utilization of poetic devices, both poets expose the certainty of change in life and the qualities that endure the
passage of time.

In Wordsworth‟s “Mutability,” the notion of change is introduced through the incorporation of an image of a
musical scale. The poet states, “From low to high doth dissolution climb, / And sink from high to low, along a
scale / Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail” (ll. 1-3). Wordsworth echoes “low to high” and “high to
low” to emphasize the notion of change (society has progressed from low to high – industrial revolution has
brought about great change for the better; it has moved from „high to low‟ as it is now out of tune with nature.
While the changing of the notes produces a harmonious sound, the competing notion of “dissolution” reveals
“awful notes” and exposes sadness in the form of “A musical but melancholy chime” (ll. 4).

Wordsworth‟s notion of Truth as enduring becomes apparent through his metaphorical comparison of Truth to a
snowy hill, which illustrates for the reader its ability to survive the passage of time. He states “Truth fails not; but
her outward forms that bear / The longest date do melt like frosty rime, / That in the morning whitened hill and
plain / And is no more; drop like the tower sublime” (ll. 7-10). While her “outward forms” or externals cannot
endure time and melt away with the coming day, on the inside Truth remains unchanged throughout time.

In another metaphor, Wordsworth compares Truth to the power of nobility, thus demonstrating further the
essence of Truth and its permanence. He states, “And is no more; drop like the tower sublime / Of yesterday,
which royally did wear / His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain / Some casual shout that broke the silent
air, / or the unimaginable touch of Time.” While at some point in time the “tower sublime” was ruled by nobility,
it is now fallen and its externals have not been able to endure the test of time. It‟s Truth, however, is still intact
even though its ruler was unable to break through “the unimaginable touch of Time.” Wordsworth‟s belief in the
endurance of Truth is optimistic because the person or object being subjected to the passage of time will always
leave behind a legacy in the essence of Truth after its “outward forms” have melted away. For Wordsworth, only
“outward forms” are affected by the passage if time. While time effects external or “outward forms,” the internal
Truth endures and is able to penetrate through what Wordsworth calls “the unimaginable touch of Time.” Since
the internal qualities are preserved through the process of change, Truth is able to endure throughout time.
Something that is mutable is able to shift, alter, and adapt itself, and the poet juxtaposes his reflections on the
impermanence of forms to the permanence of Truth.

A sonnet of fourteen lines in iambic pentameter (14 lines divided into:
8 [octave – usually proposes a question] and 6 [sestet – answers, comments on, or criticizes]. The rhyme scheme
follows an ABBAABBA, CDECED. Uses end rhyme.

Octave (first 8 lines) – presents the problem – through industrialization natural world is being ruined and people
(possibly) naturalists) are aware of this problem. In this poem the first 6 lines show how the „highs‟ and „lows‟
Sestet (last 6 lines – but sometime in English sonnets this rule is broken with the sestet beginning early as it does
in this poem after line 6 – so instead of 8 and 6; it is roughly 6 and 8) – answers by suggesting that
industrialization and its harmful effects is inevitable but seemingly all efforts (here outward forms) to avert this
trouble are ineffective. In the final 8 lines Wordsworth moralizes that Time catches up with anything and
eventually exposes the difference between truth and boloney which pretends to be truth.

Familiar communion with nature
Humanity is out of touch with the natural world

Foreboding, dissolutions, sin, awful notes, melancholy – have a crown of weeds.


     Descriptive language – for sight – morning whitened hill and plain, crown of weeds,
                            - for sound – melancholy chime, casual shout, silent air
     Figurative language – personification: truth (efforts) as her outward forms, truth (efforts)
                             royally wears his crown of weeds; simile: melt like frosty rime, drop
                             like the tower sublime.
“drop like a crown of weeds” Efforts to avert trouble with industry are futile. Truth does not change whereas title
suggest apt to change. The title can function ironically – „mutability‟ being apt to change yet the argument
Wordsworth is making is that Truth is constant and does not change. Yet, perhaps not ironic if you take it to infer
that the world‟s situation is mutable (in other words, we could change if we saw the error of our ways… as Jesus
was sent to save us, we can change and save our world).

Nobility – even could not withstand the problems brought about through time. The crown of thorns represents the
ever increasing destruction that being out of touch brings. Such external showings of power can stand. All
outward forms will melt away/be destroyed. But Truth remains at the core through the “unimaginable touch of
Biblical – Jesus was sacrificed - so is the world and its beauty being sacrificed by the inability or unwillingness of
man to change. As Jesus was sent to save the people of the world, people if they care can save the world also)

Enjambment, caesuras.

Typical of Romantic Era &/Or Wordsworthian
Concern with being in harmony with nature
Nature imagery
Frustrated by material world of the 19th century
Sonnets relay his view of politics and the world

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