Friday, November 05, 2010

The Solitary Reaper

William Wordsworth composed "The Solitary Reaper" on this day in 1805. The poem was partly inspired by Wordsworth’s 1803 walking tour of the Scottish Highlands in harvest time. The second inspiration was a sentence in a book by his friend, Thomas Wilkinson, describing a moment during his own harvest walk: "Passed a Female who was reaping alone: she sung in Erse as she bended over her sickle; the sweetest human voice I ever heard: her strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious, long after they were heard no more." In such moments of "low and rustic life," Wordsworth believed, "the essential passions of the heart find a better soil” (Preface to Lyrical Ballads). The poem's final stanzas:

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 listen'd, till I had my fill;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.

Source: Today in Literature

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