Monday, March 14, 2011

THE SOLITARY REAPER


"The Solitary Reaper" is a ballad by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and one of his best-known works in English literature. In it, Wordsworth describes in the first person, present tense, how he is amazed and moved by a Scottish Highlands girl who sings as she reaps grain in a solitary field. Composed in 1805, the poem was first published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). Each of its four stanzas is eight lines long and written in iambic tetrameter, with a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b-c-c-d-d, though in the first and last stanzas the "A" rhyme is off.
'"The Solitary Reaper" is one of Wordsworth's most famous poems.  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 emotion" that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry.'
CENTRAL IDEA
"The Solitary Reaper" begins with the speaker instructing us to look upon "Yon solitary Highland Lass" who is "Reaping and singing by herself". Thrilled by her song, the speaker compares the girl to a nightingale whose "melancholy strain" welcomes "weary bands / Of travellers" to "some shady haunt, / Among Arabian sands". Yet he does not understand the words of her song (presumably they are in the Scottish Gaelic language, and impatiently cries, "Will no one tell me what she sings?" He wonders if the subject is of "battles long ago" or of commonplace and universal things ("familiar matters of to-day"), perhaps "some natural sorrow, loss, or pain."
Then he dismisses his own musings -- "Whatever the theme," he says, "the Maiden sang / As if her song could have no ending" -and refocuses his attention on the song. He listens, "motionless and still", before finally mounting the hill and leaving the solitary reaper, still singing, behind. Though his ears cannot hear the song anymore, the sound of the Highland Lass's music will forever be a fresh and evocative memory in his heart.

"The Solitary Reaper"
In the first stanza the speaker comes across a beautiful girl working alone in the fields of Scotland (the Highland). She is "Reaping and singing by herself." He tells the reader not to interrupt her, and then mentions that the valley is full of song.
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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.
The second stanza is a list of things that cannot equal the beauty of the girl's singing:
No Nightingale did ever chant
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.
In the third stanza the reader learns that the speaker cannot understand the words being sung. He can only guess at what she might be singing about:
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?
In the fourth and final stanza the speaker tells the reader that even though he did not know what she was singing about, the music stayed in his heart as he continued up the hill:
Whatever 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.

Analysis
This poem is unique in Wordsworth's composition because while most of his work is based closely on his own experiences, "The Solitary Reaper" is based on the experience of someone else: Thomas Wilkinson, as described in his Tours to the British Mountains. The passage that inspired Wordsworth is the following: "Passed a female who was reaping alone: she sung in Erse [the Gaelic language of Scotland] 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".
Part of what makes this poem so intriguing is the fact that the speaker does not understand the words being sung by the beautiful young lady. In the third stanza, he is forced to imagine what she might be singing about. He supposes that she may be singing about history and things that happened long ago, or some sadness that has happened in her own time and will happen again.
As the speaker moves on, he carries the music of the young lady with him in his heart. This is a prevalent theme in much of Wordsworth's poetry. For instance, the same idea is used in "I wandered lonely as a cloud" when the speaker takes the memory of the field of daffodils with him to cheer him up on bad days.

SUMMARY
The poet orders his listener to behold a “solitary Highland lass” reaping and singing by herself in a field. He says that anyone passing by should either stop here, or “gently pass” so as not to disturb her. As she “cuts and binds the grain” she “sings a melancholy strain,” and the valley overflows with the beautiful, sad sound. The speaker says that the sound is more welcome than any chant of the nightingale to weary travellers in the desert, and that the cuckoo-bird in spring never sang with a voice so thrilling.
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Impatient, the poet asks, “Will no one tell me what she sings?” He speculates that her song might be about “old, unhappy, far-off things, / And battles long ago,” or that it might be humbler, a simple song about “matter of today.” Whatever she sings about, he says, he listened “motionless and still,” and as he travelled up the hill, he carried her song with him in his heart long after he could no longer hear it.

The Solitary Reaper\" is a delightful lyric by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth is known as a great lover and preacher of nature. He impresses us by the imaginative and philosophical quality of his thoughts.
This poem is a result of his visit to Scotland where he came across a lovely maiden in the fields all alone. Her lovely person and her sweet song had a deep impression on the poet and moved him to compose these verses. The lovely singer appeared to be a part of that beautiful scene of nature.
A highland girl was reaping grain in the field and singing a song at the same time. The poet did not understand the contents of the song as it was in a foreign language. He guessed that it was the tale of old and tragic events of the past. It could also be an account of some recent calamity or mishap. Whatever the theme of the song, it was sung in a beautiful, rich voice. The song seemed to be endless. The poet was bewitched by the thrilling notes of the lonely reaper. The whole valley was ringing with her silvery sound. Even the spring bird Cuckoo could not produce such a magical effect as the maiden\'s song cost on the poet.
The poet stood still and listened to that golden voice for some time. After words, when he was climbing the hill he could not hear that song any longer. But he was still feeling the sweet vibrations of that music in his heart. The sweet memory of that song had become a permanent source of joy.

Once when the poet was in Scotland, he was walking past the highlands. He came across highland lass who was reaping the harvest and binding the grains all by herself. Along with her work she was singing a song. The poet was highly impressed by her singing and stopped to hear her song. Her voice was so enchanting that it seemed to the poet that she was more melodious than the nightingale. The poet could not understand the meaning of her song as she was singing in a hilly dialect. But it seemed to him to be related to some far off happening or natural sorrow or loss or parting from the near ones. Whatever was the theme of the girl’s song, it affected the poet greatly. Even when he walked away, he carried the music along with him. Thus the song of the reaper provided him a rich emotional experience.


2 comments:

  1. nyc dear http://learn-4-future.blogspot.com

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  2. this poem is very nice and it can be written into in a poem,which can be tell as so many things about solitary reaper

    ReplyDelete