The Solitary Reaper
"The Solitary Reaper" was a lyric by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and one of his best-known works. The poem was inspired by him and his sister Dorothy's stay at the village of Strathyre in the parish of Balquhidder in Scotland in September 1803.
|by William Wordsworth|
|First published in||1807|
|Read online||"Solitary Reaper" at Wikisource|
"The Solitary Reaper" is one of Wordsworth's most famous post-Lyrical Ballads lyrics. The words of the reaper's song are incomprehensible to the speaker, so his attention is free to focus on the tone, expressive beauty and the blissful mood it creates in him. The poem functions to "praise the beauty of music and its fluid expressive beauty", the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility" that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry. The poet orders or requests his listeners to behold a young maiden reaping and singing to herself. The poet says that anyone passing by should either stop or gently pass as not to disturb her. There is a controversy however over the importance of the reaper along with Nature.
It was published in Poems, in Two Volumes in 1807.
Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass! Alone she cuts and binds the grain, And sings a melancholy strain; O listen! for the Vale profound Is overflowing with the sound.
No Nightingale did ever chaunt More welcome notes to weary bands Of travellers in some shady haunt, Among Arabian sands: A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird, Breaking the silence of the seas Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?— Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow For old, unhappy, far-off things, And battles long ago: Or is it some more humble lay, Familiar matter of to-day? Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang As if her song could have no ending; I saw her singing at her work, And o'er the sickle bending;— 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.
In this poem, the poet (William Wordsworth)tells us about a girl, a Highland lass, who is in a field alone: "single in the field". As she is harvesting her crops, she is singing a sad tune which echoes in the deep valley. The speaker asks us to stop and listen to her tune or "gently pass".
He tells us that no nightingale has sung a welcoming song to wanderers in the deserts more beautiful than the girl's strain. He goes on to say that a cuckoo bird, at its best, during springtime cannot hum a tune better. Her singing is the only sound breaking the silence in the Hebrides, a groups of islands off the coast of Scotland.
The poet has not a clue of what this song is about or if it has a theme. Having no answer, he guesses it's about a war long ago, something mundane, or even some suffering which she's has gone through and may go through again.
He eventually resigns himself to the fact that he may never find out the theme of her never-ending song. Its beauty changed the poet's heart and he captured it and heard it after it was heard no more. What one gets from the last lines, "And as I mounted up the hill / The music in my heart I bore / Long after it was heard no more", is that the impression created on the poet is so powerful that it will live on in his mind.
- "SparkNote on Wordsworth's Poetry: The Solitary Reaper". Retrieved 18 August 2007.
- "The Trossachs". Retrieved 24 January 2016.
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