The Solitary Reaper

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.

Summary of The Solitary Reaper

  • Popularity of “The Solitary Reaper”: William Wordsworth, a renowned English romantic poet wrote ‘The Solitary Reaper’. It was first published in 1807. The poem speaks about the hidden sorrow of a young girl who sings while working in the field. It also illustrates how that sweet melody captures the speaker’s heart and provides him with a never-ending bliss.
  • “The Solitary Reaper” As a Representative of Wonder: This poem is about a Scottish girl that is alone in the fields working and singing her melodious song. The speaker passes by and gets amazed when hears the sweet sound of that girl. He feels that the whole valley is overflowing with that enchanting music. The melancholic tone of the song impresses him so much so that he seems unsure whether he should stop to enjoy or continue his journey. He compares her song to that of a nightingale and cuckoo that sing in exotic lands to welcome the travelers. Although he does not understand the language of her melody, the tone suggests that the song is about some past sorrow, pain, loss during battles fought long ago. He also assumes that it might be about a present sorrow, loss or pain. He fails to figure out the reason for her distress. Instead, he enjoys the beauty of her song that lingers in his mind and touches the core of his heart, giving him an everlasting joy.
  • Major Themes in “The Solitary Reaper”: Everlasting beauty and sorrow are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents two things; the labor of that girl and her expression of sorrow. She is working and singing at the same time without being bothered about her surroundings. She does not notice that the speaker is listening and enjoying her song. She just continues as if she is outpouring her heart out in the lap of nature. The speaker, on the other hand, seems enchanted by her song as he claims that the song’s beauty is matchless. Thus, he stops and enjoys its beauty knowing it will not last forever.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Solitary Reaper”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make texts more appealing to the reader. William Wordsworth has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  1. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a sentence that is posed to make the point clear. For example, “Will no one tell me what she sings?”, “That has been, and may be again?” and “Familiar matter of to-day?”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /i/ in “Behold her, single in the field” and the sound of /o/ and /a/ in “Yon solitary Highland Lass!”
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used to make the readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,Reaping and singing by herself”, “I saw her singing at her work” and “More welcome notes to weary bands.”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. “Cuckoo” and “nightingale” are the symbols of sweet melodies whereas the song of the lady symbolizes her intense pain and distress.
  5. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound /r/ in “Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain” and the sound of /m/ in “Or is it some more humble lay”.
  6. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues to the next line. For example,

Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.”

  1. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /p/ in “Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow” and the sound of /n/ in “No Nightingale did ever chaunt”.
  2. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate any statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, the below verses exaggerates the impact of her song,

O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Solitary Reaper”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABABCCDD rhyme scheme and this pattern continues till the end.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “profound/sound”, “still/hill”, “lay/day” and “grain/strain.”
  3. Iambic Tetrameter: It is a type of meter having four iambs per line. The poem follows iambic tetrameter such as; Stop here, or gently pass!”

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful by the traveler explaining the mesmerizing experiences of his past expeditions or camping.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands.”