Summary of William Wordsworth’s The Solitary Reaper

The Solitary Reaper is a poem by William Wordsworth.


The poet saw a highland girl. This young girl was in a field. She was all alone. She was reaping the crop and binding it into sheaves. She was also singing a sad song. The sound of her song was echoing in the whole valley. It could be heard even beyond the valley. The poet did not want to disturb her. He stood silently to listen to her song. He did not make any noise lest she should stop singing.

The song by the girl was really very sweet and charming. It was sweeter than the song of a nightingale. Tired travellers resting under a tree in an oasis, after their long journey in the deserts of Arabia, find the nightingale’s song very sweet and charming. These songs provide them comfort. But no nightingale could have sung so sweetly as the solitary reaper sang.

The cuckoo heralds the onset of the spring. Cuckoo birds sing welcome songs in the Hebrides Islands in the northeast. They welcome the sailors. Their songs break the silence of the seas in the spring season. Their songs are very sweet. To the poet, the song of the solitary reaper seemed sweeter than the songs of the cuckoo-birds.

The solitary reaper was a highland (Scottish) girl. She was singing in a hilly dialect. The poet couldn’t understand what she was singing. There was no one around to assist him. So he started making guesses. Perhaps she was singing of some old, sorrowful things of the past or battles fought long ago. She might be singing about some unusual, unpleasant things or known problems of day-to-day life. It might also be about some natural sorrow, loss or pain that might recur.

The poet couldn’t understand what she was singing. But whatever was the theme of her song, it affected him deeply. Like her work, her song seemed endless. He saw her singing and reaping in the field. He listened to it while standing quietly for a long time Then he climbed up the hill. He carried the music in his heart though he could no longer hear it.

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