The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth

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.

Stanza Explanation

Stanza 1

The poet sees a Highland girl in the field. This girl is reaping the crop and singing to herself. The poet likes this scene. He says to the passers-by either to stop there quietly or to pass from there without making the least noise. The girl is cutting and binding the crop alone and also singing a song. This song is of sad nature. But the poet likes it very much and wants everybody to listen to it. The song is also echoing in the valley.

Stanza 2

The poet thinks that even the nightingale famous for its singing to the tired travellers in the Arabian desert when they take rest at an Oasis, cannot sing better than this girl.The singing of the girl is also better and more thrilling than the Cuckoo-bird which sings in the spring season and then breaks the silence of the seas among the faraway Hebrides.

Stanza 3

The poet is unable to understand the language in which the girl is singing. He does not know the theme of the song and wants somebody to tell him the theme. He thinks that the song is about old, unhappy incidents or of some battles in the past. The song can also be about some familiar matter related to the life of the girl. The song may also be about some natural sorrow, pain or loss which has happened to her.

Stanza 4

The poet does not think too much about the theme of the song. He is enjoying the song heartily. The poet thinks that there is no end to the girl’s singing as if she will never stop singing. He watches her singing and using the sickle to do her work at the same time in the field. The poet says that he listened to her song without making any kind of movement and noise. When the poet went up the hill he says that, he still remembered the music of the song which that highland girl sang. The poet also says that he will always remember her singing.

Summary

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 of the girl was really very sweet and charming. It was sweeter than the song of a nightingale. Tired travelers 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 north-east. They welcome the sailors. Their songs break the silence of the seas in 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.

Analysis

Williarn Wordsworth through his unmatchable expressions and beautiful ideas has made The solitary Reaper a real figure. The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings arising from emotions recollected in tranquillity makes us feel that we have all met William Wordsworth’s solitary reaper somewhere in our life, or are waiting to meet her.

In the poem ‘The Solitary Reaper‘ the poet describes the melodious and mellifluous voice of a highland lass who is cutting and binding the grain all by herself. The poet finds her song to be sweeter than the song of the nightingale. The song of the nightingale and the cuckoo is the sweetest, most pleasant, and most refreshing. By comparing it, the poet wants to establish a fact that the song of the solitary reaper is simply incomparable in its music melody and sweetness.

The poet cannot understand the words but can feel them. Its plaintive tone and melancholy sound touches him deeply. The fascination of the unfamiliar prompts him to let his imagination roan freely. He imagines all possible matters – romantic ancient occurrences to dull, everyday incidents- as the subject of the song. Perhaps it is about a disaster or calamity in the past or it is of loved one or it is any common routine event.

The incident described in the poem is quite simple. The poet comes across a highland lass reaping and singling all alone in her field. There is nothing unusual or extraordinary as it is a common practice among hilly girls. It is the description of the impact of her song on the poet’s mind and heart that makes the incident a memorable one. It leaves him spellbound. He stands still, motionless listening to her song and carries it in his heart. The song stays with him as a pleasant memory and can be heard after it is heard no more. It is a source of joy for him for ever.

Critical Appreciation

In this poem Wordsworth has beautifully described the life in a countryside, a girl cutting the crop while singing. He has used the language of the common man to describe the country life. The poet sees a highland girl working alone in the field, reaping the crop and singing a melancholy song to herself. The poet immediately feels attracted towards this beautiful song. Although he is unable to understand the language of the song but even then he is enjoying the music of the song. The poet loves the girl’s singing so much that he compares it with that of a nightingale and a cuckoo bird. Both these birds are well known for their singing abilities but the poet thinks that the girl was singing sweeter and better than these two birds. He does not want to disturb the girl in her singing. He says to the passers – by either to stop there or to pass away from there without making any kind of disturbance. He himself is listening to the song silently while standing still. As the poet is not sure of the theme of the song, he imagines that the song could be about some old, unhappy incidents or about the battles of the past. The song could also be about some familiar matter related to the girl’s life, or it could also be related to some natural sorrow, loss or pain which must have happened to the girl before. This shows the love of past which is a characteristics feature of the romantic poetry. For the poet to enjoy the music of the song is more important than knowing the theme of the song. He is not concerned about the theme. It seems to him that there is no end of the girl’s singing and she will continue to sing forever. At the end of the poem, the poet says that he knows he will not get a chance to listen to this song again. But even then he will remember her singing. It is impossible for him to forget that singing. He will always remember it.

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