William Wordsworth is the archetypal romantic poet. His contemplative poetry inspired by nature sums up the very essence of romantic ideals. In this poem, Wordsworth paints the pastoral scene in a poetical, but still simple, way. Read the poem and do the tasks which follow.
The Solitary Reaper
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing to 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 a 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.
A Closer Look at the Poem
- Point out some typical romantic ideals that come to life in this poem.
- Wordsworth took long walks in the countryside for inspiration and to feel the closeness of nature. Where, specifically, do you think he is walking in this poem? What are the clues?
- The poem has references to far-away and exotic places. Why do you think they are mentioned?
- Wordsworth wanted his poetry to reflect the language of ordinary people. How does that show in this poem?
- Look at the rhyme pattern and see if you can spot some irregularities.
- Follow the link below and read more about William Wordsworth.