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05-09-2010, 08:35 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light



The world is too much with us by william wordsworth The world is too much with us by william wordsworth


The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathd horn

Summary and Analysis of "The world is too much with us"

The speaker begins this poem by saying that the world is too full of humans who are losing their connection to divinity and, even more importantly, to nature. Humans, the speaker says, have given their hearts away, and the gift is a morally degraded one:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
In the second quartet the speaker tells the reader that everything in nature, including the sea and the winds, is gathered up in a powerful connection with which humanity is "out of tune." In other words, humans are not experiencing nature as they should:
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.
The speaker ends the poem by saying that he would rather be a pagan attached to a worn-out system of beliefs than be out of tune with nature. At least if he were a pagan he might be able to see things that would make him less unhappy, like the sea gods Proteus and Triton:
-Great God! I'd rather beA Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

"The world is too much with us" is a sonnet with an abbaabbacdcdcd rhyme scheme. The poem is written from a place of angst and frustration. All around him, Wordsworth sees people who are obsessed with money and with manmade objects. These people are losing their powers of divinity, and can no longer identify with the natural world. This idea is encapsulated in the famous lines: "Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers; / Little we see in Nature that is ours." Wordsworth believes that we have given our hearts (the center of ourselves) away in exchange for money and material wealth. He is disgusted at this especially because nature is so readily available; it almost calls to humanity. In the end, Wordsworth decides that he would rather be a pagan in a complete state of disillusionment than be out of touch with nature.
The final image of the poem is of Wordsworth standing on a lea (or a tract of open land) overlooking the ocean where he sees Proteus and Triton. He is happy, but this happiness is not what the reader is meant to feel. In actuality, the reader should feel saddened by the scene, because Wordsworth has given up on humanity, choosing instead to slip out of reality


Angrily, the speaker accuses the modern age of having lost its connection to nature and to everything meaningful: Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: / Little we see in Nature that is ours; / We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! He says that even when the sea bares her bosom to the moon and the winds howl, humanity is still out of tune, and looks on uncaringly at the spectacle of the storm. The speaker wishes that he were a pagan raised according to a different vision of the world, so that, standing on this pleasant lea, he might see images of ancient gods rising from the waves, a sight that would cheer him greatly. He imagines Proteus rising from the sea, and Triton blowing his wreathed horn.

This poem is one of the many excellent sonnets Wordsworth wrote in the early 1800s. Sonnets are fourteen-line poetic inventions written in iambic pentameter. There are several varieties of sonnets; The world is too much with us takes the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, modeled after the work of Petrarch, an Italian poet of the early Renaissance. A Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two parts, an octave (the first eight lines of the poem) and a sestet (the final six lines). The rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet is somewhat variable; in this case, the octave follows a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and the sestet follows a rhyme scheme of CDCDCD. In most Petrarchan sonnets, the octave proposes a question or an idea that the sestet answers, comments upon, or criticizes.

The world is too much with us falls in line with a number of sonnets written by Wordsworth in the early 1800s that criticize or admonish what Wordsworth saw as the decadent material cynicism of the time. This relatively simple poem angrily states that human beings are too preoccupied with the material (The world...getting and spending) and have lost touch with the spiritual and with nature. In the sestet, the speaker dramatically proposes an impossible personal solution to his problemhe wishes he could have been raised as a pagan, so he could still see ancient gods in the actions of nature and thereby gain spiritual solace. His thunderous Great God! indicates the extremity of his wishin Christian England, one did not often wish to be a pagan.
On the whole, this sonnet offers an angry summation of the familiar Wordsworthian theme of communion with nature, and states precisely how far the early nineteenth century was from living out the Wordsworthian ideal. The sonnet is important for its rhetorical force (it shows Wordsworths increasing confidence with language as an implement of dramatic power, sweeping the wind and the sea up like flowers in a bouquet), and for being representative of other poems in the Wordsworth canonnotably London, 1802, in which the speaker dreams of bringing back the dead poet John Milton to his decadent era







05-09-2010, 08:37 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

The Solitary Reaper by william wordsworth 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 and Analysis of "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.
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 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.
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:
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.

"The Solitary Reaper" was written on November 5, 1805 and published in 1807. The poem is broken into four eight-line stanzas (32 lines total). Most of the poem is in iambic tetrameter. The rhyme scheme for the stanzas is either abcbddee or ababccdd. (In the first and last stanzas the first and third lines don't rhyme, while in the other two stanzas they do.)
This poem is unique in Wordsworth's oeuvre 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" (as qtd. in The Norton Anthology English Literature).
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


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 travelers in the desert, and that the cuckoo-bird in spring never sang with a voice so thrilling.

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 traveled up the hill, he carried her song with him in his heart long after he could no longer hear it.

The four eight-line stanzas of this poem are written in a tight iambic tetrameter. Each follows a rhyme scheme of ABABCCDD, though in the first and last stanzas the A rhyme is off (field/self and sang/work).

Along with I wandered lonely as a cloud, The Solitary Reaper is one of Wordsworths most famous post-Lyrical Ballads lyrics. In Tintern Abbey Wordsworth said that he was able to look on nature and hear human music; in this poem, he writes specifically about real human music encountered in a beloved, rustic setting. The song of the young girl reaping in the fields is incomprehensible to him (a Highland lass, she is likely singing in Scots), and what he appreciates is its tone, its expressive beauty, and the mood it creates within him, rather than its explicit content, at which he can only guess. To an extent, then, this poem ponders the limitations of language, as it does in the third stanza (Will no one tell me what she sings?). But what it really does is praise the beauty of music and its fluid expressive beauty, the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry.

By placing this praise and this beauty in a rustic, natural setting, and by and by establishing as its source a simple rustic girl, Wordsworth acts on the values of Lyrical Ballads. The poems structure is simplethe first stanza sets the scene, the second offers two bird comparisons for the music, the third wonders about the content of the songs, and the fourth describes the effect of the songs on the speakerand its language is natural and unforced. Additionally, the final two lines of the poem (Its music in my heart I bore / Long after it was heard no more) return its focus to the familiar theme of memory, and the soothing effect of beautiful memories on human thoughts and feelings.

The Solitary Reaper anticipates Keatss two great meditations on art, the Ode to a Nightingale, in which the speaker steeps himself in the music of a bird in the forestWordsworth even compares the reaper to a nightingaleand Ode on a Grecian Urn, in which the speaker is unable to ascertain the stories behind the shapes on an urn. It also anticipates Keatss Ode to Autumn with the figure of an emblematic girl reaping in the fields

05-09-2010, 08:39 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge


IT IS an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May'st hear the merry din.'
He holds him with his skinny hand,
'There was a ship,' quoth he.
'Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!'
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.
He holds him with his glittering eye--
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years' child:
The Mariner hath his will.
The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
'The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.
The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
Higher and higher every day,
Till over the mast at noon--'
The Wedding-Guest here beat his breast,
For he heard the loud bassoon.
The bride hath paced into the hall,
Red as a rose is she;
Nodding their heads before her goes
The merry minstrelsy.
The Wedding-Guest he beat his breast,
Yet he cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.
And now the Storm-blast came, and he
Was tyrannous and strong:
He struck with his o'ertaking wings,
And chased us south along.
With sloping masts and dipping prow,
As who pursued with yell and blow
Still treads the shadow of his foe,
And forward bends his head,
The ship drove fast, loud roared the blast,
And southward aye we fled.
And now there came both mist and snow,
And it grew wondrous cold:
And ice, mast-high, came floating by,
As green as emerald.
And through the drifts the snowy clifts
Did send a dismal sheen:
Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken--
The ice was all between.
The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!
At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through!
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners' hollo!
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.'
'God thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!--
Why look'st thou so?'--'With my cross-bow
I shot the Albatross.'
THE Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo!
And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!
Nor dim nor red like God's own head,
The glorious Sun uprist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
'Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.
The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.
Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
'Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!
All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
About, about, in reel and rout
The death-fires danced at night;
The water, like a witch's oils,
Burnt green, and blue and white.
And some in dreams assur'ed were
Of the Spirit that plagued us so;
Nine fathom deep he had followed us
From the land of mist and snow.
And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.
Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung

THERE passed a weary time. Each throat

Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye,
When looking westward, I beheld
A something in the sky.
At first it seemed a little speck,

And then it seemed a mist;
It moved and moved, and took at last
A certain shape, I wist.
A speck, a mist, a shape, I wist!

And still it neared and neared:
As if it dodged a water-sprite,
It plunged and tacked and veered.
With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

We could nor laugh nor wail;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood!
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sail! a sail!
With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,

Agape they heard me call:
Gramercy! they for joy did grin
And all at once their breath drew in,
As they were drinking all.
See! see! (I cried) she tacks no more!

Hither to work us weal;
Without a breeze, without a tide,
She steadies with upright keel!
The western wave was all a-flame.

The day was well nigh done!
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright Sun;
When that strange shape drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the Sun.
And straight the Sun was flecked with bars,

(Heaven's Mother send us grace!)
As if through a dungeon-grate he peered
With broad and burning face.
Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud)

How fast she nears and nears!
Are those her sails that glance in the Sun,
Like restless gossameres?
Are those her ribs through which the Sun

Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that woman's mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,

Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was as white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man's blood with cold.
The naked hulk alongside came,

And the twain were casting dice;
'The game is done! I've won! I've won!'
Quoth she, and whistles thrice.
The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out:

At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.
We listened and looked sideways up!

Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip--
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The horn'ed Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.
One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.
Four times fifty living men,

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
They dropped down one by one.
The souls did from their bodies fly,--

They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my cross-bow!
'I FEAR thee, ancient Mariner!
I fear thy skinny hand!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.
I fear thee and thy glittering eye,

And thy skinny hand, so brown.'--
Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
This body dropt not down.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,

Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
The many men, so beautiful!

And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.
I looked upon the rotting sea,

And drew my eyes away
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay
I looked to Heaven, and tried to pray;

But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.
I closed my lids, and kept them close,

And the balls like pulses beat;
For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky
Lay like a load on my weary eye,
And the dead were at my feet.
The cold sweat melted from their limbs,

Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away.
An orphan's curse would drag to hell

A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man's eye!
Seven days, seven nights saw that curse,
And yet I could not die.
The moving Moon went up the sky,

And no where did abide:
Softly she was going up,
And a star or two beside--
Her beams bemocked the sultry main,

Like April hoar-frost spread;
But where the ship's huge shadow lay,
The charm'ed water burnt alway
A still and awful red.
Beyond the shadow of the ship,

I watched the water-snakes:
They moved in tracks of shining white
And when they reared, the elfish light
Fell off in hoary flakes.
Within the shadow of the ship

I watched their rich attire:
Blue, glossy green, and velvet black,
Then coiled and swam; and every track
Was a flash of golden fire.
O happy living things! no tongue

Their beauty might declare:
A spring of love gushed from my heart,
And I blessed them unaware:
Sure my kind saint took pity on me,
And I blessed them unaware.
The self-same moment I could pray;

And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank

Like lead into the sea

OH sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole!
To Mary Queen the praise be given!
She sent the gentle sleep from Heaven,
That slid into my soul.
The silly buckets on the deck,
That had so long remained,
I dreamt that they were filled with dew;
And when I awoke, it rained.
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.
I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light--almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a bless'ed ghost.
And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.
The upper air burst into life!
And a hundred fire-flags sheen,
To and fro they were hurried about!
And to and fro, and in and out,
The wan stars danced between.
And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge;
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The Moon was at its edge.
The thick black cloud was cleft, and still
The Moon was at its side:
Like waters shot from some high crag,
The lightning fell with never a jag,
A river steep and wide.
The loud wind never reached the ship,
Yet now the ship moved on!
Beneath the lightning and the Moon
The dead men gave a groan.
They groaned, they stirred, they all uprose,
Nor spake, nor moved their eyes;
It had been strange, even in a dream,
To have seen those dead men rise.
The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up-blew;
The mariners all 'gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools--
We were a ghastly crew.
The body of my brother's son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.
'I fear thee, ancient Mariner!'
Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest!
'Twas not those souls that fled in pain,
Which to their corses came again,
But a troop of spirits blest:
For when it dawned--they dropped their arms,
And clustered round the mast;
Sweet sounds rose slowly through their mouths,
And from their bodies passed.
Around, around, flew each sweet sound,
Then darted to the Sun;
Slowly the sounds came back again,
Now mixed, now one by one.
Sometimes a-dropping from the sky
I heard the sky-lark sing;
Sometimes all little birds that are,
How they seemed to fill the sea and air
With their sweet jargoning!
And now 'twas like all instruments,
Now like a lonely flute;
And now it is an angel's song,
That makes the heavens be mute.
It ceased; yet still the sails made on
A pleasant noise till noon,
A noise like of a hidden brook
In the leafy month of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune.
Till noon we quietly sailed on,
Yet never a breeze did breathe:
Slowly and smoothly went the Ship,
Moved onward from beneath.
Under the keel nine fathom deep,
From the land of mist and snow,
The spirit slid: and it was he
That made the ship to go.
The sails at noon left off their tune,
And the ship stood still also.
The Sun, right up above the mast,
Had fixed her to the ocean:
But in a minute she 'gan stir,
With a short uneasy motion--
Backwards and forwards half her length
With a short uneasy motion.
Then like a pawing horse let go,
She made a sudden bound:
It flung the blood into my head,
And I fell down in a swound.
How long in that same fit I lay,
I have not to declare;
But ere my living life returned,
I heard and in my soul discerned
Two voices in the air.
'Is it he?' quoth one, 'Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.
The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.'
The other was a softer voice,
As soft as honey-dew:
Quoth he, 'The man hath penance done,
And penance more will do.'
First Voice
'BUT tell me, tell me! speak again,
They soft response renewing--
What makes that ship drive on so fast?
What is the ocean doing?'
Second Voice
'Still as a slave before his lord,
The ocean hath no blast;
His great bright eye most silently
Up to the Moon is cast--
If he may know which way to go;
For she guides him smooth or grim.
See, brother, see! how graciously
She looketh down on him.'
First Voice
'But why drives on that ship so fast,
Without or wave or wind?'
Second Voice
'The air is cut away before,
And closes from behind.
Fly, brother, fly! more high, more high!
Or we shall be belated:
For slow and slow that ship will go,
When the Mariner's trance is abated.'
I woke, and we were sailing on
As in a gentle weather:
'Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.
All stood together on the deck,
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the Moon did glitter.
The pang, the curse, with which they died,
Had never passed away:
I could not draw my eyes from theirs,
Nor turn them up to pray.
And now this spell was snapt: once more
I viewed the ocean green,
And looked far forth, yet little saw
Of what had else been seen--
Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
But soon there breathed a wind on me,
Nor sound nor motion made:
Its path was not upon the sea,
In ripple or in shade.
It raised my hair, it fanned my cheek
Like a meadow-gale of spring--
It mingled strangely with my fears,
Yet it felt like a welcoming.
Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too:
Sweetly, sweetly blew the breeze--
On me alone it blew.
Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed
The light-house top I see?
Is this the hill? is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree?
We drifted o'er the harbour-bar,
And I with sobs did pray--
O let me be awake, my God!
Or let me sleep alway.
The harbour-bay was clear as glass,
So smoothly it was strewn!
And on the bay, the moonlight lay,
And the shadow of the Moon.
The rock shone bright, the kirk no less,
That stands above the rock:
The moonlight steeped in silentness
The steady, weathercock.
And the bay was white with silent light,
Till rising from the same,
Full many shapes, that shadows were,
In crimson colours came.
A little distance from the prow
Those crimson shadows were:
I turned my eyes upon the deck--
Oh, Christ! what saw I there!
Each corse lay flat, lifeless and flat,
And, by the holy rood!
A man all light, a seraph-man,
On every corse there stood.
This seraph-band, each waved his hand:
It was a heavenly, sight!
They stood as signals to the land,
Each one a lovely light;
This seraph-band, each waved his hand,
No voice did they impart--
No voice; but oh! the silence sank
Like music on my heart.
But soon I heard the dash of oars,
I heard the Pilot's cheer;
My head was turned perforce away
And I saw a boat appear.
The Pilot and the Pilot's boy,
I heard them coming fast:
Dear Lord in Heaven! it was a joy
The dead men could not blast.
I saw a third-I heard his voice:
It is the Hermit good!
He singeth loud his godly hymns
That he makes in the wood.
He'll shrieve my soul he'll wash away
The Albatross's blood.
THIS Hermit good lives in that wood
Which slopes down to the sea.
How loudly his sweet voice he rears!
He loves to talk with marineres
That come from a far countree.
He kneels at morn, and noon, and eve--
He hath a cushion plump:
It is the moss that wholly hides
The rotted old oak-stump.
The skiff-boat neared: I heard them talk,
'Why, this is strange, I trow!
Where are those lights so many and fair,
That signal made but now?'
'Strange, by my faith!' the Hermit said--
'And they answered not our cheer!
The planks looked warped! and see those sails,
How thin they are and sere!
I never saw aught like to them,
Unless perchance it were
Brown skeletons of leaves that lag
My forest-brook along;
When the ivy-tod is heavy with snow,
And the owlet whoops to the wolf below,
That eats the she-wolf's young.'
'Dear Lord! it hath a fiendish look--
(The Pilot made reply)
I am a-feared'--'Push on, push on!'
Said the Hermit cheerily.
The boat came closer to the ship,
But I nor spake nor stirred;
The boat came close beneath the ship,
And straight a sound was heard.
Under the water it rumbled on,
Still louder and more dead:
It reached the ship, it split the bay;
The ship went down like lead.
Stunned by that loud and dreadful sound,
Which sky and ocean smote,
Like one that hath been seven days drowned
My body lay afloat;
But swift as dreams, myself I found
Within the Pilot's boat.
Upon the whirl, where sank the ship,
The boat spun round and round;
And all was still, that the hill
Was telling of the sound.
I moved my lips--the Pilot shrieked
And fell down in a fit;
The holy Hermit raised his eyes,
And prayed where he did sit.
I took the oars: the Pilot's boy,
Who now doth crazy go,
Laughed loud and long, and all the while
His eyes went to and fro.
'Ha! ha!' quoth he, 'full plain I see,
The Devil knows how to row.'
And now, all in my own countree,
I stood on the firm land!
The Hermit stepped forth from the boat,
And scarcely he could stand.
'O shrieve me, shrieve me, holy man!'
The Hermit crossed his brow.
'Say quick,' quoth he, 'I bid thee say--
What manner of man art thou?
Forthwith this frame of mine was wrenched
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale;
And then it left me free.
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns:
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
What loud uproar bursts from that door!
The wedding-guests are there:
But in the garden-bower the bride
And bride-maids singing are:
And hark the little vesper bell,
Which biddeth me to prayer!
O Wedding-Guest! this soul hath been
Alone on a wide wide sea:
So lonely 'twas, that God himself
Scarce seem'ed there to be.
O sweeter than the marriage-feast,
'Tis sweeter far to me,
To walk together to the kirk
With a goodly company!--
To walk together to the kirk,
And all together pray,
While each to his great Father bends,
Old men, and babes, and loving friends
And youths and maidens gay!
Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
The Mariner, whose eye is bright,
Whose beard with age is hoar,
Is gone: and now the Wedding-Guest
Turned from the bridegroom's door.
He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Parts I-IV


Three young men are walking together to a wedding, when one of them is detained by a grizzled old sailor. The young Wedding-Guest angrily demands that the Mariner let go of him, and the Mariner obeys. But the young man is transfixed by the ancient Mariners glittering eye and can do nothing but sit on a stone and listen to his strange tale. The Mariner says that he sailed on a ship out of his native harborbelow the kirk, below the hill, / Below the lighthouse topand into a sunny and cheerful sea. Hearing bassoon music drifting from the direction of the wedding, the Wedding-Guest imagines that the bride has entered the hall, but he is still helpless to tear himself from the Mariners story. The Mariner recalls that the voyage quickly darkened, as a giant storm rose up in the sea and chased the ship southward. Quickly, the ship came to a frigid land of mist and snow, where ice, mast-high, came floating by; the ship was hemmed inside this maze of ice. But then the sailors encountered an Albatross, a great sea bird. As it flew around the ship, the ice cracked and split, and a wind from the south propelled the ship out of the frigid regions, into a foggy stretch of water. The Albatross followed behind it, a symbol of good luck to the sailors. A pained look crosses the Mariners face, and the Wedding-Guest asks him, Why lookst thou so? The Mariner confesses that he shot and killed the Albatross with his crossbow.

At first, the other sailors were furious with the Mariner for having killed the bird that made the breezes blow. But when the fog lifted soon afterward, the sailors decided that the bird had actually brought not the breezes but the fog; they now congratulated the Mariner on his deed. The wind pushed the ship into a silent sea where the sailors were quickly stranded; the winds died down, and the ship was As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean. The ocean thickened, and the men had no water to drink; as if the sea were rotting, slimy creatures crawled out of it and walked across the surface. At night, the water burned green, blue, and white with death fire. Some of the sailors dreamed that a spirit, nine fathoms deep, followed them beneath the ship from the land of mist and snow. The sailors blamed the Mariner for their plight and hung the corpse of the Albatross around his neck like a cross.
A weary time passed; the sailors became so parched, their mouths so dry, that they were unable to speak. But one day, gazing westward, the Mariner saw a tiny speck on the horizon. It resolved into a ship, moving toward them. Too dry-mouthed to speak out and inform the other sailors, the Mariner bit down on his arm; sucking the blood, he was able to moisten his tongue enough to cry out, A sail! a sail! The sailors smiled, believing they were d. But as the ship neared, they saw that it was a ghostly, skeletal hull of a ship and that its crew included two figures: Death and the Night-mare Life-in-Death, who takes the form of a pale woman with golden locks and red lips, and thicks mans blood with cold. Death and Life-in-Death began to throw dice, and the woman won, whereupon she whistled three times, causing the sun to sink to the horizon, the stars to instantly emerge. As the moon rose, chased by a single star, the sailors dropped dead one by oneall except the Mariner, whom each sailor cursed with his eye before dying. The souls of the dead men leapt from their bodies and rushed by the Mariner.
The Wedding-Guest declares that he fears the Mariner, with his glittering eye and his skinny hand. The Mariner reassures the Wedding-Guest that there is no need for dread; he was not among the men who died, and he is a living man, not a ghost. Alone on the ship, surrounded by two hundred corpses, the Mariner was surrounded by the slimy sea and the slimy creatures that crawled across its surface. He tried to pray but was deterred by a wicked whisper that made his heart as dry as dust. He closed his eyes, unable to bear the sight of the dead men, each of who glared at him with the malice of their final curse. For seven days and seven nights the Mariner endured the sight, and yet he was unable to die. At last the moon rose, casting the great shadow of the ship across the waters; where the ships shadow touched the waters, they burned red. The great water snakes moved through the silvery moonlight, glittering; blue, green, and black, the snakes coiled and swam and became beautiful in the Mariners eyes. He blessed the beautiful creatures in his heart; at that moment, he found himself able to pray, and the corpse of the Albatross fell from his neck, sinking like lead into the sea.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is written in loose, short ballad stanzas usually either four or six lines long but, occasionally, as many as nine lines long. The meter is also somewhat loose, but odd lines are generally tetrameter, while even lines are generally trimeter. (There are exceptions: In a five-line stanza, for instance, lines one, three, and four are likely to have four accented syllablestetrameterwhile lines two and five have three accented syllables.) The rhymes generally alternate in an ABAB or ABABAB scheme, though again there are many exceptions; the nine-line stanza in Part III, for instance, rhymes AABCCBDDB. Many stanzas include couplets in this wayfive-line stanzas, for example, are rhymed ABCCB, often with an internal rhyme in the first line, or ABAAB, without the internal rhyme.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is unique among Coleridges important works unique in its intentionally archaic language (Eftsoons his hand drops he), its length, its bizarre moral narrative, its strange scholarly notes printed in small type in the margins, its thematic ambiguity, and the long Latin epigraph that begins it, concerning the multitude of unclassifiable invisible creatures that inhabit the world. Its peculiarities make it quite atypical of its era; it has little in common with other Romantic works. Rather, the scholarly notes, the epigraph, and the archaic language combine to produce the impression (intended by Coleridge, no doubt) that the Rime is a ballad of ancient times (like Sir Patrick Spence, which appears in Dejection: An Ode), reprinted with explanatory notes for a new audience.

But the explanatory notes complicate, rather than clarify, the poem as a whole; while there are times that they explain some unarticulated action, there are also times that they interpret the material of the poem in a way that seems at odds with, or irrelevant to, the poem itself. For instance, in Part II, we find a note regarding the spirit that followed the ship nine fathoms deep: one of the invisible inhabitants of this planet, neither departed souls nor angels; concerning whom the learned Jew, Josephus, and the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, may be consulted. What might Coleridge mean by introducing such figures as the Platonic Constantinopolitan, Michael Psellus, into the poem, as marginalia, and by implying that the verse itself should be interpreted through him?
This is a question that has puzzled scholars since the first publication of the poem in this form. (Interestingly, the original version of the Rime, in the 1797 edition of Lyrical Ballads, did not include the side notes.) There is certainly an element of humor in Coleridges scholarly glossesa bit of parody aimed at the writers of serious glosses of this type; such phrases as Platonic Constantinopolitan seem consciously silly. It can be argued that the glosses are simply an amusing irrelevancy designed to make the poem seem archaic and that the truly important text is the poem itselfin its complicated, often Christian symbolism, in its moral lesson (that all creatures great and small were created by God and should be loved, from the Albatross to the slimy snakes in the rotting ocean) and in its characters.
If one accepts this argument, one is faced with the task of discovering the key to Coleridges symbolism: what does the Albatross represent, what do the spirits represent, and so forth. Critics have made many ingenious attempts to do just that and have found in the Rime a number of interesting readings, ranging from Christian parable to political allegory. But these interpretations are dampened by the fact that none of them (with the possible exception of the Christian reading, much of which is certainly intended by the poem) seems essential to the story itself. One can accept these interpretations of the poem only if one disregards the glosses almost completely.
A more interesting, though still questionable, reading of the poem maintains that Coleridge intended it as a commentary on the ways in which people interpret the lessons of the past and the ways in which the past is, to a large extent, simply unknowable. By filling his archaic ballad with elaborate symbolism that cannot be deciphered in any single, definitive way and then framing that symbolism with side notes that pick at it and offer a highly theoretical spiritual-scientific interpretation of its classifications, Coleridge creates tension between the ambiguous poem and the unambiguous-but-ridiculous notes, exposing a gulf between the old poem and the new attempt to understand it. The message would be that, though certain moral lessons from the past are still comprehensiblehe liveth best who loveth best is not hard to understand other aspects of its narratives are less easily grasped.
In any event, this first segment of the poem takes the Mariner through the worst of his trials and shows, in action, the lesson that will be explicitly articulated in the second segment. The Mariner kills the Albatross in bad faith, subjecting himself to the hostility of the forces that govern the universe (the very un-Christian-seeming spirit beneath the sea and the horrible Life-in-Death). It is unclear how these forces are meant to relate to one anotherwhether the Life-in-Death is in league with the submerged spirit or whether their simultaneous appearance is simply a coincidence.
After earning his curse, the Mariner is able to gain access to the favor of Godable to regain his ability to prayonly by realizing that the monsters around him are beautiful in Gods eyes and that he should love them as he should have loved the Albatross. In the final three books of the poem, the Mariners encounter with a Hermit will spell out this message explicitly, and the reader will learn why the Mariner has stopped the Wedding-Guest to tell him this story.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Parts V-VII


The Mariner continues telling his story to the Wedding-Guest. Free of the curse of the Albatross, the Mariner was able to sleep, and as he did so, the rains came, drenching him. The moon broke through the clouds, and a host of spirits entered the dead mens bodies, which began to move about and perform their old sailors tasks. The ship was propelled forward as the Mariner joined in the work. The Wedding-Guest declares again that he is afraid of the Mariner, but the Mariner tells him that the mens bodies were inhabited by blessed spirits, not cursed souls. At dawn, the bodies clustered around the mast, and sweet sounds rose up from their mouthsthe sounds of the spirits leaving their bodies. The spirits flew around the ship, singing. The ship continued to surge forward until noon, driven by the spirit from the land of mist and snow, nine fathoms deep in the sea. At noon, however, the ship stopped, then began to move backward and forward as if it were trapped in a tug of war. Finally, it broke free, and the Mariner fell to the deck with the jolt of sudden acceleration. He heard two disembodied voices in the air; one asked if he was the man who had killed the Albatross, and the other declared softly that he had done penance for his crime and would do more penance before all was rectified.

In dialogue, the two voices discussed the situation. The moon overpowered the sea, they said, and enabled the ship to move; an angelic power moved the ship northward at an astonishingly rapid pace. When the Mariner awoke from his trance, he saw the dead men standing together, looking at him. But a breeze rose up and propelled the ship back to its native country, back to the Mariners home; he recognized the kirk, the hill, and the lighthouse. As they neared the bay, seraphsfigures made of pure lightstepped out of the corpses of the sailors, which fell to the deck. Each seraph waved at the Mariner, who was powerfully moved. Soon, he heard the sound of oars; the Pilot, the Pilots son, and the holy Hermit were rowing out toward him. The Mariner hoped that the Hermit could shrive (absolve) him of his sin, washing the blood of the Albatross off his soul.
The Hermit, a holy man who lived in the woods and loved to talk to mariners from strange lands, had encouraged the Pilot and his son not to be afraid and to row out to the ship. But as they reached the Mariners ship, it sank in a sudden whirlpool, leaving the Mariner afloat and the Pilots rowboat spinning in the wake. The Mariner was loaded aboard the Pilots ship, and the Pilots boy, mad with terror, laughed hysterically and declared that the devil knows how to row. On land, the Mariner begged the Hermit to shrive him, and the Hermit bade the Mariner tell his tale. Once it was told, the Mariner was free from the agony of his guilt. However, the guilt returned over time and persisted until the Mariner traveled to a new place and told his tale again. The moment he comes upon the man to whom he is destined to tell his tale, he knows it, and he has no choice but to relate the story then and there to his appointed audience; the Wedding-Guest is one such person.
The church doors burst open, and the wedding party streams outside. The Mariner declares to the Wedding-Guest that he who loves all Gods creatures leads a happier, better life; he then takes his leave. The Wedding-Guest walks away from the party, stunned, and awakes the next morning a sadder and a wiser man.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is written in loose, short ballad stanzas usually either four or six lines long but occasionally as many as nine lines long. The meter is also somewhat loose, but odd lines are generally tetrameter, while even lines are generally trimeter. (There are exceptions: In a five-line stanza, for instance, lines one, three, and four are likely to have four accented syllablestetrameterwhile lines two and five have three accented syllables.) The rhymes generally alternate in an ABAB or ABABAB scheme, though there are again many exceptions; the nine-line stanza in Part III, for instance, rhymes AABCCBDDB. Many stanzas include couplets in this wayfive-line stanzas, for example, are rhymed ABCCB, often with an internal rhyme in the first line, or ABAAB, without the internal rhyme.

This second segment of the Rime concludes the Mariners narrative; here he meets the host of seraph-like spirits who (rather grotesquely) rescue his ship by entering the corpses of the fallen sailors, and it is here that he earns his moral salvation through his confession to the Hermit and the subsequent confessions he must continue to make throughout his lifeincluding this one, to the Wedding-Guest. This second segment lacks much of the bizarre imagistic intensity found in the first section, and the supernatural powers even begin to seem sympathetic (the submerged spirit from the land of mist and snow is now called the lonesome spirit in a side note). The more gruesome elements still surface occasionally, however; the sinking of the ship and the insanity of the Pilots son could have come from a dramatic, gritty tale such as Moby- Dick, and the seraphs of the previous scene evoke such fantastical works as Paradise Lost.

The figurative arrangement of this poem is complicated: one speaker pronounces judgments like A sadder and a wiser man / He rose the morrow morn; the side notes are presumably written by a scholar, separate from this first speaker; independent of these two voices is the Mariner, whose words make up most of the poem; the Wedding-Guest also speaks directly. Moreover, the various time frames combine rather intricately. Coleridge adds to this complexity at the start of Part VI, when he introduces a short dramatic dialogue to indicate the conversation between the two disembodied voices. This technique, again, influenced later writers, such as Melville, who often used dramatic dialogues in his equally complicated tale of the sea, Moby-Dick. Here in Coleridges poem, this dialogue plunges the reader suddenly into the role of the Mariner, hearing the voices around him rather than simply hearing them described. Disorienting techniques such as this one are used throughout the Rime to ensure that the poem never becomes too abstract in its interplay between side notes and verse; thus, however theoretical the level of the poems operation, its story remains compelling

Short Summary

An Ancient Mariner, unnaturally old and skinny, with deeply-tanned skin and a "glittering eye", stops a Wedding Guest who is on his way to a wedding reception with two companions. He tries to resist the Ancient Mariner, who compels him to sit and listen to his woeful tale. The Ancient Mariner tells his tale, largely interrupted for the sounds from the wedding reception and the Wedding Guest's fearsome interjections. One day when he was younger, the Ancient Mariner set sail with two hundred other sailors from his native land. The day was sunny and clear, and all were in good cheer until the ship reached the equator. Suddenly, a terrible storm hit and drove the ship southwards into a "rime" - a strange, icy patch of ocean. The towering, echoing "rime" was bewildering and impenetrable, and also desolate until an Albatross appeared out of the mist. No sooner than the sailors fed it did the ice break and they were able to steer through. As long as the Albatross flew alongside the ship and the sailors treated it kindly, a good wind carried them and a mist followed. One day, however, the Ancient Mariner shot and killed the Albatross on impulse.

Suddenly the wind and mist ceased, and the ship was stagnant on the ocean. The other sailors alternately blamed the Ancient Mariner for making the wind die and praised him for making the strange mist disappear. Then things began to go awry. The sun became blindingly hot, and there was no drinkable water amidst the salty ocean, which tossed with terrifying creatures. The sailors went dumb from their thirst and sunburned lips. They hung the Albatross around the Ancient Mariner's neck as a symbol of his sin. After a painful while, a ship appeared on the horizon, and the Ancient Mariner bit his arm and sucked the blood so he could cry out to the other sailors. The ship was strange: it sailed without wind, and when it crossed in front of the sun, its stark masts seemed to imprison the sun. When the ship neared, the Ancient Mariner could see that it was a ghost ship manned by Death, in the form of a man, and Life-in-Death, in the form of a beautiful, naked woman. They were gambling for the Ancient Mariner's soul. Life-in-Death won the Ancient Mariner's soul, and the other sailors were left to Death. The sky went black immediately as the ghost ship sped away. Suddenly all of the sailors cursed the Ancient Mariner with their eyes and dropped dead on the deck. Their souls zoomed out of their bodies, each taunting the Ancient Mariner with a sound like that of his crossbow. Their corpses miraculously refused to rot; they stared at him unrelentingly, cursing him with their eyes.
The Ancient Mariner drifted on the ocean in this company, unable to pray. One night he noticed some beautiful water-snakes frolicking at the ship's prow in the icy moonlight. Watching the creatures brought him unprecedented joy, and he blessed them without meaning to. When he was finally able to pray, the Albatross fell from his neck and sank into the sea. He could finally sleep, and dreamed of water. When he awoke, it was raining, and an awesome thunderstorm began. He drank his fill, and the ship began to sail in lieu of wind. Then the dead sailors suddenly arose and sailed the ship without speaking. They sang heavenly music, which the ship's sails continued when they had stopped. Once the ship reached the equator again, the ship jolted, causing the Ancient Mariner to fall unconscious. In his swoon, he heard two voices discussing his fate. They said he would continue to be punished for killing the Albatross, who was loved by a spirit. Then they disappeared. When the Ancient Mariner awoke, the dead sailors were grouped together, all cursing him with their eyes once again. Suddenly, however, they disappeared as well. The Ancient Mariner was not relieved, because he realized that he was doomed to be haunted by them forever.
The wind picked up, and the Ancient Mariner spotted his native country's shore. Then bright angels appeared standing over every corpse and waved silently to the shore, serving as beacons to guide the ship home. The Ancient Mariner was overjoyed to see a Pilot, his boy, and a Hermit rowing a small boat out to the ship. He planned to ask the Hermit to absolve him of his sin. Just as the rescuers reached the ship, it sank suddenly and created a vortex in the water. The rescuers were able to pull the Ancient Mariner from the water, but thought he was dead. When he abruptly came to and began to row the boat, the Pilot and Pilot's Boy lost their minds. The spooked Hermit asked the Ancient Mariner what kind of man he was. It was then that the Ancient Mariner learned of his curse; he would be destined to tell his tale to others from beginning to end when an agonizing, physical urge struck him. After he related his tale to the Hermit, he felt normal again.
The Ancient Mariner tells the Wedding Guest that he wanders from country to country, and has a special instinct that tells him to whom he must tell his story. After he tells it, he is temporarily relieved of his agony. The Ancient Mariner tells the Wedding Guest that better than any merriment is the company of others in prayer. He says that the best way to become close with God is to respect all of His creatures, because He loves them all. Then he vanishes. Instead of joining the wedding reception, the Wedding Guest walks home, stunned. We are told that he awakes the next day "sadder and...wiser" for having heard the Ancient Mariner's tale

Character List

Ancient Mariner
The poem's protagonist. He is unnaturally old, with skinny, deeply-tanned limbs and a "glittering eye." He sets sail from his native country with two hundred other men who are all d from a strange, icy patch of ocean when they are kind to an Albatross that lives there. Impulsively and inexplicably, he shoots the Albatross with his crossbow and is punished for his crime by a spirit who loved the Albatross. He is cursed to be haunted indefinitely by his dead shipmates, and to be compelled to tell the tale of his downfall at random times. Each time he is compelled to share his story with someone, he feels a physical agony that is abated only temporarily once he finishes telling the tale.
Wedding Guest
One of three people on their way to a wedding reception; he is next of kin to the bridegroom. The Ancient Mariner stops him, and despite his protests compels him to sit and listen to the entirety of his story. He is afraid of the Ancient Mariner and yearns to join the merriment of the wedding celebration, but after he hears the Ancient Mariner's story, he becomes both "sadder and...wiser."
The Sailors
Two hundred seamen who set sail with the Ancient Mariner one clear, sunny day and find themselves in the icy world of the "rime" after a storm, from which the Albatross frees them. They feed and play with the Albatross until the Ancient Mariner inexplicably kills it. They begin to suffer from debilitating heat and thirst. They hang the Albatross's corpse around the Ancient Mariner's neck to punish him. When Life-in-Death wins the Ancient Mariner's soul, the sailors' souls are left to Death and they curse the Ancient Mariner with their eyes before dying suddenly. Even though their souls fly out, their bodies refuse to rot and lie open-eyed on the deck, continuously cursing the Ancient Mariner. After the rain returns, the sailors come alive and silently man the ship, singing beautiful melodies. When the ship reaches the harbor, they once again curse the Ancient Mariner with their eyes and then disappear, leaving only their corpses behind. The Ancient Mariner is destined to suffer the curse of a living death and continually be haunted by their cursing eyes.
A great, white sea bird that presumably s the sailors from the icy world of the "rime" by allowing them to steer through the ice and sending them a good, strong wind. The Albatross, however, also makes a strange mist follow the ship. It flies alongside the ship, plays with the sailors, and eats their food, until the Ancient Mariner shoots it with his crossbow. Its corpse is hung around the Ancient Mariner's neck as a reminder of his crime and falls off only when he is able to appreciate the beauty of nature and pray once more. The Albatross is loved by a powerful spirit who wreaks havoc on and kills the sailors while leaving the Ancient Mariner to the special agony of Life-in-Death.
Embodied in a hulking form on the ghost ship. He loses at dice to Life-in-Death, who gets to claim the Ancient Mariner's soul; instead, Death wins the two hundred sailors.
The Night-mare Life-in-Death
Embodied in a beautiful, naked, ghostly woman with golden hair and red lips. She wins at dice over Death and gets to claim the Ancient Mariner's soul, condemning him to a limbo-like living death.

The captain of the small boat that rows out to the Ancient Mariner's ship. He loses his mind when the Ancient Mariner abruptly comes to life and begins to row his boat.
Pilot's Boy
The assistant to the Pilot; he rows the small boat. He loses his mind when the Ancient Mariner, whom he thinks is dead, abruptly comes to life and takes the oars from him.
A recluse who prays three times a day and lives in communion with nature in the woods. He accompanies the Pilot and the Pilot's boy on the small boat because "he loves to talk with mariners / from a far countree." The Ancient Mariner reveres the Hermit as a righteous and holy man, and asks him to absolve him of his sin. The Hermit is the first person to whom the Ancient Mariner is compelled to tell his tale.
First Voice

One of two voices presumably belonging to a spirit. The Ancient Mariner hears the First Voice after he is knocked unconscious when the ship jolts forward. He explains that the Ancient Mariner offended a spirit by killing the Albatross, because the spirit loved the bird. Other than this moment, the First Voice relies on the Second Voice to explain the Ancient Mariner's situation to him.
Second Voice
The second of two voices presumably belonging to a spirit. The Second Voice is softer than the First Voice-"as soft as honey-dew"-and more knowledgeable. He explains to the First Voice that the Ancient Mariner will pay for his crime much more dearly than he already has. Even though the First Voice tells the Second Voice that the Ancient Mariner angered a spirit who loved the Albatross, the latter explains that the Moon and air move the ship in lieu of wind, and not the spirit who loved the Albatross. Then he urges the First Voice onward, as they are hurrying somewhere

Major Themes

The Natural World: The Physical
While it can be beautiful and frightening (often simultaneously), the natural world's power in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is unquestionable. In a move typical of Romantic poets both preceding and following Coleridge, and especially typical of his colleague, William Wordsworth, Coleridge emphasizes the way in which the natural world dwarfs and asserts its awesome power over man. Especially in the 1817 text, in which Coleridge includes marginal glosses, it is clear that the spiritual world controls and utilizes the natural world. At times the natural world seems to be a character itself, based on the way it interacts with the Ancient Mariner. From the moment the Ancient Mariner offends the spirit of the "rime," retribution comes in the form of natural phenomena. The wind dies, the sun intensifies, and it will not rain. The ocean becomes revolting, "rotting" and thrashing with "slimy" creatures and sizzling with strange fires. Only when the Ancient Mariner expresses love for the natural world-the water-snakes-does his punishment abate even slightly. It rains, but the storm is unusually awesome, with a thick stream of fire pouring from one huge cloud. A spirit, whether God or a pagan one, dominates the physical world in order to punish and inspire reverence in the Ancient Mariner. At the poem's end, the Ancient Mariner preaches respect for the natural world as a way to remain in good standing with the spiritual world, because in order to respect God, one must respect all of his creations. This is why he valorizes the Hermit, who sets the example of both prayer and living in harmony with nature. In his final advice to the Wedding Guest, the Ancient Mariner affirms that one can access the sublime, "the image of a greater and better world," only by seeing the value of the mundane, "the petty things of daily life."
The Spiritual World: The Metaphysical
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" occurs in the natural, physical world-the land and ocean. However, the work has popularly been interpreted as an allegory of man's connection to the spiritual, metaphysical world. In the epigraph, Burnet speaks of man's urge to "classify" things since Adam named the animals. The Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross as if to prove that it is not an airy spirit, but rather a mortal creature; in a symbolic way, he tries to "classify" the Albatross. Like all natural things, the Albatross is intimately tied to the spiritual world, and thus begins the Ancient Mariner's punishment by the spiritual world by means of the natural world. Rather than address him directly; the supernatural communicates through the natural. The ocean, sun, and lack of wind and rain punish the Ancient Mariner and his shipmates. When the dead men come alive to curse the Ancient Mariner with their eyes, things that are natural-their corpses-are inhabited by a powerful spirit. Men (like Adam) feel the urge to define things, and the Ancient Mariner seems to feel this urge when he suddenly and inexplicably kills the Albatross, shooting it from the sky as though he needs to bring it into the physical, definable realm. It is mortal, but closely tied to the metaphysical, spiritual world-it even flies like a spirit because it is a bird.
The Ancient Mariner detects spirits in their pure form several times in the poem. Even then, they talk only about him, and not to him. When the ghost ship carrying Death and Life-in-Death sails by, the Ancient Mariner overhears them gambling. Then when he lies unconscious on the deck, he hears the First Voice and Second Voice discussing his fate. When angels appear over the sailors' corpses near the shore, they do not talk to the Ancient Mariner, but only guide his ship. In all these instances, it is unclear whether the spirits are real or figments of his imagination. The Ancient Mariner-and we the reader-being mortal beings, require physical affirmation of the spiritual. Coleridge's spiritual world in the poem balances between the religious and the purely fantastical. The Ancient Mariner's prayers do have an effect, as when he blesses the water-snakes and is relieved of his thirst. At the poem's end, he valorizes the holy Hermit and the act of praying with others. However, the spirit that follows the sailors from the "rime", Death, Life-in-Death, the voices, and the angels, are not necessarily Christian archetypes. In a move typical of both Romantic writers and painters, Coleridge locates the spiritual and/or holy in the natural world in order to emphasize man's connection to it. Society can distance man from the sublime by championing worldly pleasures and abandoning reverence for the otherworld. In this way, the wedding reception represents man's alienation from the holy - even in a religious tradition like marriage. However, society can also bring man closer to the sublime, such as when people gather together in prayer.
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" typifies the Romantic fascination with liminal spaces. A liminal space is defined as a place on the edge of a realm or between two realms, whether a forest and a field, or reason and imagination. A liminal space often signifies a liminal state of mind, such as the threshold of the imagination's wonders. Romantics such as Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Keats valorize the liminal space and state as places where one can experience the sublime. For this reason they are often - and especially in the case of Coleridge's poems - associated with drug-induced euphoria. Following from this, liminal spaces and states are those in which pain and pleasure are inextricable. Romantic poets frequently had their protagonists enter liminal spaces and become irreversibly changed. Starting in the epigraph to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", Coleridge expresses a fascination with the liminal state between the spiritual and natural, or the mundane and the divine. Recall that this is what Burnet calls the "certain [and] uncertain" and "day [and] night."
In the Ancient Mariner's story, liminal spaces are bewildering and cause pain. The first liminal space the sailors encounter is the equator, which is in a sense about as liminal a location as exists; after all, it is the threshold between the Earth's hemispheres. No sooner has the ship crossed the equator than a terrible storm ensues and drives it into the poem's ultimate symbolic liminal space, the icy world of the "rime." It is liminal by its very physical makeup; there, water exists not in one a single, definitive state, but in all three forms: liquid (water), solid (ice), and gas (mist). They are still most definitely in the ocean, but surrounding them are mountainous icebergs reminiscent of the land. The "rime" fits the archetype of the Romantic liminal space in that it is simultaneously terrifying and beautiful, and in that the sailors do not navigate there purposely, but are rather transported there by some other force. Whereas the open ocean is a wild territory representing the mysteries of the mind and the sublime, the "rime" exists just on its edge. As a liminal space it holds great power, and indeed a powerful spirit inhabits the "rime."
As punishment for his crime of killing the Albatross, the Ancient Mariner is sentenced to Life-in-Death, condemned to be trapped in a limbo-like state where his "glittering eye" tells of both powerful genius and pain. He can compel others to listen to his story from beginning to end, but is forced to do so to relieve his pain. The Ancient Mariner is caught in a liminal state that, as in much of Romantic poetry, is comparable to addiction. He can relieve his suffering temporarily by sharing his story, but must do so continually. The Ancient Mariner suffers because of his experience in the "rime" and afterwards, but has also been extremely close to the divine and sublime because of it. Therefore his curse is somewhat of a blessing; great and unusual knowledge accompanies his pain. The Wedding Guest, the Hermit, and all others to whom he relates his tale enter into a momentary liminal state themselves where they have a distinct sensation of being stunned or mesmerized.

Although Christian and pagan themes are confounded at times in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", many readers and critics have insisted on a Christian interpretation. Coleridge claimed that he did not intend for the poem to have a moral, but it is difficult not to find one in Part 7. The Ancient Mariner essentially preaches closeness to God through prayer and the willingness to show respect to all of God's creatures. He also says that he finds no greater joy than in joining others in prayer: "To walk together to the kirk, / And all together pray, / While each to his great Father bends, / Old men, and babes, and loving friends, / And youths and maidens gay!" He also champions the Hermit, who does nothing but pray, practice humility before God, and openly revere God's creatures. The Ancient Mariner's shooting of the Albatross can be compared to several Judeo-Christian stories of betrayal, including the original sin of Adam and Eve, and Cain's betrayal of Abel. Like Adam and Eve, the Ancient Mariner fails to respect God's rules and is tempted to try to understand things that should remain out of his reach. Like them, he is forbidden from being truly close to the sublime, existing in a limbo-like rather than an Eden-like state. However, as a son of Adam and Eve, the Ancient Mariner is already a sinner and cast out of the divine realm. Like Cain, the Ancient Mariner angers God by killing another creature. Most obviously, the Ancient Mariner can be seen as the archetypal Judas or the universal sinner who betrays Christ by sinning. Like Judas, he murders the "Christian soul" who could lead to his salvation and greater understanding of the divine. Many readers have interpreted the Albatross as Christ, since it is the "rime" spirit's favorite creature, and the Ancient Mariner pays dearly for killing it. The Albatross is even hung around the Ancient Mariner's neck to mark him for his sin. Though the rain baptizes him after he is finally able to pray, like a real baptism, it does not ensure his salvation. In the end, the Ancient Mariner is like a strange prophet, kept alive to pass word of God's greatness onto others

"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is in many ways a portrait of imprisonment and its inherent loneliness and torment. The first instance of imprisonment occurs when the sailors are swept by a storm into the "rime." The ice is "mast-high", and the captain cannot steer the ship through it. The sailors' confinement in the disorienting "rime" foreshadows the Ancient Mariner's later imprisonment within a bewildered limbo-like existence. In the beginning of the poem, the ship is a vehicle of adventure, and the sailors set out in one another's happy company. However, once the Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross, it quickly becomes a prison. Without wind to sail the ship, the sailors lose all control over their fate. They are cut off from civilization, even though they have each other's company. They are imprisoned further by thirst, which silences them and effectively puts them in isolation; they are denied the basic human ability to communicate. When the other sailors drop dead, the ship becomes a private prison for the Ancient Mariner.
Even more dramatically, the ghost ship seems to imprison the sun: "And straight the sun was flecked with bars, / (Heaven's Mother send us grace!) / As if through a dungeon-grate he peered / With broad and burning face." The ghost ship has such power that it can imprison even the epitome of the natural world's power, the sun. These lines symbolize the spiritual world's power over the natural and physical; spirits can control not only mortals, but the very planets themselves. After he is rescued from the prison that is the ship, the Ancient Mariner is subject to the indefinite imprisonment of his soul within his physical body. His "glittering" eye represents his frenzied soul, eager to escape from his ravaged body. He is imprisoned by the addiction to his own story, as though trapped in the "rime" forever. In a sense, the Ancient Mariner imprisons others by compelling them to listen to his story; they are physically compelled to join him in his torment until he releases them.
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is a tale of retribution, since the Ancient Mariner spends most of the poem paying for his one, impulsive error of killing the Albatross. The spiritual world avenges the Albatross's death by wreaking physical and psychological havoc on the Ancient Mariner and his shipmates. Even before the sailors die, their punishment is extensive; they become delirious from a debilitating state of thirst, their lips bake black in the sun, and they must endure the torment of seeing water all around them while being unable to drink it for its saltiness. Eventually the sailors all die, their souls flying either to heaven or hell. There are at least two ways to interpret the fact that the sailors suffer with the Ancient Mariner although they themselves have not erred. The first is that retribution is blind; inspired by anger and the desire to punish others, even a spirit may hurt the wrong people. The second is that the sailors are implicated in the Ancient Mariner's crime. If the Ancient Mariner represents the universal sinner, then each sailor, as a human, is guilty of having at some point disrespected one of God's creatures-or if not, he would have in the future. But the eternal punishment called Life-in-Death is reserved for the Ancient Mariner. Presumably the spirit, being immortal, must endure eternal grief over the murder of its beloved Albatross. In retribution, it forces the Ancient Mariner to endure eternal torment as well, in the form of his curse. Though he never dies - and may never, in a sense - the Ancient Mariner speaks from beyond the grave to warn others about the harsh, permanent consequences of momentary foolishness, selfishness, and disrespect of the natural world. The Act of Storytelling
In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge draws our attention not only to the Ancient Mariner's story, but to the act of storytelling itself. The Ancient Mariner's tale comprises so much of the poem that moments that occur outside of it often seem like interruptions. We are not only Coleridge's audience, but the Ancient Mariner's. Therefore, the messages that the protagonist delivers to his audience apply to us, as well. Storytelling is a preventative measure in the poem, used to dissuade those who favor the pleasures of society (like the Wedding Guest and, presumably, ourselves) from disregarding the natural and spiritual worlds. The poem can also be seen as an allegory for the writer's task. Coleridge uses the word "teach" to describe the Ancient Mariner's storytelling, and says that he has "strange power of speech." In this way, he compares the protagonist to himself: both are gifted storytellers who impart their wisdom unto others. By associating himself with the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge implies that he, and by extension all writers, are not only inspired but compelled to write. Their gift is equally a curse; the pleasure of writing is marred with torment. According to this interpretation, the writer writes not to please himself or others, but to sate a painful urge. Inherent in the writer's task is communication with others, whom he must warn lest they suffer a similar fate. Just as the Ancient Mariner is forced to balance in a painful limbo between life and death, the writer is compelled and even condemned to balance in the liminal space of the imagination "until [his] tale is told." Like a writer, he is equally enthralled and pained by his imagination. Both are addicts, and storytelling is their drug; it provides only momentary relief until the urge to tell returns. In modern psychological terms, the Ancient Mariner as well as the writer relies on "the talking cure" to relieve himself of his psychological burden. But for the Ancient Mariner, the cure - reliving the experience that started with the "rime" by repeating his "rhyme" - is part of the torture. Coleridge paints an equally powerful and pathetic image of the writer. The Ancient Mariner is able to inspire the Wedding Guest so that he awakes the next day a new man, yet he is also the constant victim of his own talent - a curse that torments, but never destroys

Summary and Analysis of Part 1

In the poem's first line, we meet its protagonist, "an ancient Mariner." He stops one of three people on their way to a wedding celebration. The leader of the group, the Wedding Guest, tries to resist being stopped by the strange old man with the "long grey beard and glittering eye." He explains that he is on his way to enjoy the wedding merriment; he is the closest living relative to the groom, and the festivities have already begun. Still, the Ancient Mariner takes his hand and begins his story. The Wedding Guest has no choice but to sit down on a rock to listen.

The Ancient Mariner explains that one clear and bright day, he set out sail on a ship full of happy seamen. They sailed along smoothly until they reached the equator. Suddenly, the sounds of the wedding interrupt the Ancient Mariner's story. The Wedding Guest beats his chest impatiently as the blushing bride enters the reception hall and music plays. However, he is compelled to continue listening to the Ancient Mariner, who goes on with his tale. As soon as the ship reached the equator, a terrible storm hit and forced the ship southwards. The wind blew with such force that the ship pitched down in the surf as though it were fleeing an enemy. Then the sailors reached a calm patch of sea that was "wondrous cold", full of snow and glistening green icebergs as tall as the ship's mast. The sailors were the only living things in this frightening, enclosed world where the ice made terrible groaning sounds that echoed all around. Finally, an Albatross emerged from the mist, and the sailors revered it as a sign of good luck, as though it were a "Christian soul" sent by God to them. No sooner than the sailors fed the Albatross did the ice break apart, allowing the captain to steer out of the freezing world. The wind picked up again, and continued for nine days. All the while, the Albatross followed the ship, ate the food the sailors gave it, and played with them. At this point, the Wedding Guest notices that the Ancient Mariner looks at once grave and crazed. He exclaims: "God thee, ancient Mariner! / From the fiends that plague thee thus!- / Why lookst thou so?" The Ancient Mariner responds that he shot the Albatross with his crossbow.
In editions where it is included, the Latin epigraph serves as a semi-thesis for the poem. It is a Latin quote from Burnet's "Archaeologiae Philosophicae" (1692), which Coleridge translates as follows:
I readily believe that there are more invisible than visible Natures in the universe. But who will explain for us the family of all these beings, and the ranks and relations and distinguishing features and functions of each? What do they do? What places do they inhabit? The human mind has always sought the knowledge of these things, but never attained it. Meanwhile I do not deny that it is helpful sometimes to contemplate in the mind, as on a tablet, the image of a greater and better world, lest the intellect, habituated to the petty things of daily life, narrow itself and sink wholly into trivial thoughts. But at the same time we must be watchful for the truth and keep a sense of proportion, so that we may distinguish the certain from the uncertain, day from night.
Burnet, who authored the original quote, begins by acknowledging that "invisible natures" such as spirits, ghosts, and angels exist; moreover, there are more of them than their readily-perceivable counterparts such as humans and animals. However, "invisible natures" are difficult to classify, because people perceive them only occasionally. Burnet asserts that while it is important to strive to understand the ethereal and ideal, one must stay grounded in the temporal, imperfect world. By maintaining a balance between these two worlds, one avoids becoming too idealistic or too hopeless, and can eventually reach the truth. By prefacing "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" with this quote, Coleridge asks the reader to pay careful attention to the near-constant interactions between the spiritual and temporal worlds in the poem. Like the Ancient Mariner, the reader must navigate these interactions and worlds in order to understand the truth ingrained in the poem. The Ancient Mariner as a character can be identified with a number of archetypes: the wise man, the writer, the traitor, and more. The epigraph suggests that regardless of with whom the reader associates the Ancient Mariner, there is great importance in the way in which he manages (or fails) to balance the spiritual and temporal worlds. From the Ancient Mariner's first interaction with the Wedding Guest, we know there is more to him than the fact that he appears unnaturally old. He has a "glittering eye" that immediately unnerves the Wedding Guest, who presumes he is mad and calls him a "grey-beard loon." Yet there is more to his "glittering eye" than mere madness, as he is able to compel the Wedding Guest to listen to his story with the fascination of a three-year-old child. Although he is clearly human, the Ancient Mariner seems to have a touch of the otherworldly in him.
Throughout Part 1, the temporal world interjects itself into the storytelling haze in which the Ancient Mariner captures the Wedding Guest and reader. For example, just as the Ancient Mariner begins his tale, the joyful sound of a bassoon at the wedding reception distracts the Wedding Guest. He "beat[s] his breast" in frustration that he is missing the festivities. In light of Burnet's quote, one can say that the temporal world with its "petty" pleasures tempts the Wedding Guest. He is of that world - indeed he is next of kin to the bridegroom and therefore intimate with the festival's worldly joy. Meanwhile, the Ancient Mariner cannot enjoy the temporal world because he is condemned to perpetually relive the story of his past.
In the Ancient Mariner's story itself, the spiritual and temporal worlds are confounded the moment the sailors cross the equator. Suddenly the natural world - which is closely connected to the spiritual world - makes the sailors lose control of their course. The storm drives them into an icy world that is called "the land of mist and snow" throughout the rest of the poem. The word "rime" can mean "ice", and can also be interpreted as an alternate spelling of the word "rhyme." Therefore, as much as the poem is the rhymed story of the Ancient Mariner, it is also the tale of the "land of mist and snow": the "rime", where the Ancient Mariner's troubles begin. By calling the poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Coleridge equates the "rhyme" or tale with the actual "rime" or icy world. As we learn at the story's end, the Ancient Mariner is condemned to feel perpetual pangs of terror that force him to tell his "rhyme," a fate just as confining and terrifying as the "rime" itself is initially for the sailors

Summary and Analysis of Part 2

The ship sailed northward into the Pacific Ocean, and although the sun shone during the day and the wind remained strong, the mist held fast. The other sailors were angry with the Ancient Mariner for killing the Albatross, which they believed had d them from the icy world by summoning the wind: "Ah wretch! Said they, the bird to slay / That made the breeze to blow!" Then the mist disappeared and the sun shone particularly brightly, "like God's own head." The sailors suddenly changed their opinion. They decided that the Albatross must have brought the must, and praise the Ancient Mariner for having killed it and rid them of the mist: "Twas right, said they, such birds to slay, / That bring the fog and mist."

The ship sailed along merrily until it entered an uncharted part of the ocean, and the wind disappeared. The ship could not move, and sat "As idle as a painted ship / Upon a painted ocean." Then the sun became unbearably hot just as the sailors ran out of water, leading up to the most famous lines in the poem: "Water, water, every where, / And all the boards did shrink; / Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink." The ocean became a horrifying place; the water churned with "slimy" creatures, and at night, eerie fires seemed to burn on the ocean's surface. Some of the sailors dreamed that an evil spirit had followed them from the icy world, and they all suffered from a thirst so terrible that they could not speak. To brand the Ancient Mariner for his crime and place the guilt on him and him alone, the sailors hung the Albatross's dead carcass around his neck.
Coleridge introduces the idea of responsibility in Part 2. The sailors have an urge to pin whatever happens to them on the Ancient Mariner, since he killed the Albatross for no good reason. It seems more important to them to make him claim responsibility for their fate than what their fate actually is; first, they curse him for making the wind disappear, and then they praise him for making the mist disappear. Coleridge may be poking fun at allegory in this section. He told reviewers after the poem's release that he did not intend for it to have a moral, even though when reading the poem, one is hard-pressed not to discern a moral message. By having the sailors switch from blame to praise and back to blame again, Coleridge mocks those quick to judge. To go back to the preface, the sailors represent those too eager to discern the "certain" from the "uncertain", preferring to see things in black-and-white terms.
The major theme of liminality emerges more fully in Part 2. In literature - and especially Romantic literature - a liminal space is where plot twists occur or things begin to go awry. The Romantic hero, although he begins confident and with a clear mission, stumbles into a bewildering space where he struggles, and from which he emerges wizened and saddened. Traditionally these places are borderlines, such as the edge of a forest or a shoreline. Recall from Part 1 that the ship's course is sunny and smooth until it crosses the equator and the storm begins. The equator is the boundary between the earth's hemispheres, and is therefore an extreme example of a liminal space. The icy world or "rime" itself is also a compelling liminal space. At first it seems to be the epitome of the temporal; there are no visible creatures there besides the sailors, whose senses it assaults with huge icy forms, terrifying sounds, and bewildering echoes. But it is equally a spiritual place, the dwelling of a very powerful spirit who wreaks havoc on the sailors to punish the Ancient Mariner for killing its beloved Albatross. The icy world represents a tenuous balance between the temporal and spiritual. The physicality of the icy world represents its tenuousness; in it, water exists in all its three phases: ice, water, and mist. The boundaries between the temporal and the spiritual, what Burnet calls the "certain and uncertain" in the epigraph, are as indistinct there as the physical state of water. It is not necessarily the loudness, coldness, or desolateness of the icy world that makes it so terrifying. Rather, it is the fact that nothing there is easily definable. In light of the epigraph, it represents the balance that one must seek between the "certain and uncertain," which will ultimately lead to the truth. However, the icy world as a symbol suggests that this path to enlightenment is equally fascinating and terrifying.
The most famous lines in "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" are unquestionably: "Water, water, every where, / Nor any drop to drink." The sailors are punished for the Ancient Mariner's mistake with deprivation made worse by the fact that what they need so badly - water - is all around them, but is entirely undrinkable. Since the poem's publication, these lines have come into common usage to refer to situations in which one is surrounded by the thing one desires, but is denied it nevertheless.
In light of the epigraph, the Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross because he, like humans throughout time, wants to learn about the spiritual world. The Albatross is an animal, but it is akin to a spirit, and its murder wreaks spiritual havoc on the sailors. We are given no reason why the Ancient Mariner shoots the Albatross, and he does so without premeditation. It is as though he needs to bring the beauty of the spiritual world (embodied in the Albatross) down to the temporal world in order to understand it. He takes the bird out of the air and onto the deck, where it proves to be mortal indeed. After that, the spiritual world begins to punish the Ancient Mariner and the other sailors by making all elements of the temporal world painful. They are thirsty and sunburned, cannot sail for lack of wind, and are threatened by creatures and strange lights in the water. The sailors add to the Ancient Mariner's physical punishment when they hang the Albatross around his neck, giving him a physical burden to remind him of the spiritual burden of sin he carries. They too punish him physically for his spiritual depravity

Summary and Analysis of Part 3

The sailors were trapped in their ship on the windless ocean for some time, and eventually became delirious with thirst. One day, the Ancient Mariner noticed something approaching from the West. As it moved closer, the sailors realized it was a ship, but no one could cry out because their throats were dry and their lips badly sunburned. The Ancient Mariner bit his own arm and sipped the blood so that he could wet his mouth enough to cry out: "A sail! A sail!" Mysteriously, the approaching ship managed to turn its course to them, even though there was still no wind. Suddenly, it crossed the path of the setting sun, and its masts made the sun look as though it was imprisoned, "As if through a dungeon-grate he peered." The Ancient Mariner's initial joy turned to dread as he noticed that the ship was approaching menacingly quickly, and had sails that looked like cobwebs. The ship came near enough for the Ancient Mariner to see who manned it: Death, embodied in a naked man, and The Night-mare Life-in-Death, embodied in a naked woman. The latter was eerily beautiful, with red lips, golden hair, and skin "as white as leprosy." Death and Life-in-Death were gambling with dice for the Ancient Mariner's soul, and Life-in-Death won. She whistled three times just as the last of the sun sank into the ocean; night fell in an instant, and the ghost ship sped away, though its crew's whispers could be heard long after it was out of sight. The crescent moon rose above the ship with "one bright star" just inside its bottom rim, and all at once, the sailors turned towards the Ancient Mariner and cursed him with their eyes. Then all two hundred of them dropped dead without a sound. The Ancient Mariner watched each sailor's soul zoom out of his body like the arrow he shot at the Albatross: "And every soul, it passed me by, / Like the whiz of my cross-bow!"

In Part 3, the poem becomes more fantastical as the spiritual world continues to punish the Ancient Mariner and his fellow sailors. Although later in the poem Coleridge reveals that a specific spirit is responsible for their demise, it seems as though the spiritual world as a whole is punishing the men, using the natural world as its weapon: the wind refuses to blow, the ocean churns with dreadful creatures, and the sun's relentless heat chars the men. The ghost ship, however, is separate from the natural world - it sails without wind, and its inhabitants are spirits. Death and Life-in-Death are allegorical figures who become frighteningly real for the sailors, especially the Ancient Mariner, whose soul Life-in-Death "wins", thereby dooming him to a fate worse than death. Even those sailors whose souls go to hell seem freer than the Ancient Mariner; while their souls fly unencumbered out of their bodies, he is destined to be trapped in his indefinitely - a living hell.
Life-in-Death, who takes on the form of an alluring naked woman, represents perpetual temptation. Because she wins the Ancient Mariner's soul, he is doomed to die only when he has paid his due...perhaps never. As we learn later, the Ancient Mariner is cursed to continually feel the agonizing compulsion to tell his tale to others; although telling the tale allows him temporary relief, he may never be free. First, he and the sailors are denied the satisfaction of drinking; now the Ancient Mariner will be denied the satisfaction of being able to die. His spirit is trapped in his own body, in an excruciating state of limbo - the realm of Life-in-Death. His "glittering eye" suggests more than madness; it is also a synecdoche representing his soul, which longs to be released from living death. It yearns to fly out of his body like the two hundred other sailors' souls did. In fact, when the sailors' souls are released, they fly past the Ancient Mariner with the same sound as the arrow he shot at the Albatross. Initially, the Ancient Mariner is relieved to have survived his shipmates, but in retrospect the sound tantalizes him, as it reminds him that his impulsive sin is the reason for his torture.
Part 3 introduces the theme of imprisonment. As we have said, the Ancient Mariner is doomed to be trapped in a state of deathlike life; his own immortal body is his prison. The ship itself is a prison for the sailors when there is no wind to carry it. Even before the ghost ship comes near enough for the Ancient Mariner to see its crew, it seems to imprison the very sun with its masts. This symbolizes Death and Life-in-Death's level of power; they have so much sway over the natural world and its inhabitants that they can jail the sun itself. The natural world seems to have this power, as well: the sailors are trapped in the "rime" by impenetrable ice until the Albatross sets them free. For this reason, many have interpreted the Albatross as Christ, and the Ancient Mariner as the archetypal sinner. The Albatross has the power to guide the sailors just as Christ has the ability to guide men's souls to heaven. By sinning on impulse, the Ancient Mariner ruins his chances at salvation, and is condemned to the eternal limbo of Life-in-Death. This interpretation implies that every time a person sins, he destroys his relationship with Christ and his chances of reaching heaven, and must redeem himself through acts of atonement. Just as people wear crucifixes around their necks to remind them of Christ's sacrifice and their responsibility to him, the sailors hang the Albatross around the Ancient Mariner's neck to remind him of his sin

Summary and Analysis of Part 4

The Wedding Guest proclaims that he fears the Ancient Mariner because he is unnaturally skinny, so tanned and wrinkled that he resembles the sand, and possesses a "glittering eye." The Ancient Mariner assures him that he has not returned from the dead; he is the only sailor who did not die on his ship, but rather drifted in lonely, scorching agony. His only living company was the plethora of "slimy" creatures in the ocean. He tried to pray, but could produce only a muffled curse. For seven days and nights the Ancient Mariner remained alone on the ship. The dead sailors, who miraculously did not rot, continued to curse him with their open eyes. Only the sight of beautiful water snakes frolicking beside the boat lifted the Ancient Mariner's spirits. They cheered him so much that he blessed them "unawares"; finally, he was able to pray. At that very moment, the Albatross fell off his neck and sank heavily into the ocean.

As the Ancient Mariner drifts on the ocean, the natural world becomes more threatening. His surroundings - the ship, the ocean, and the creatures within it - are "rotting" in the heat and sun, but he is the one who is rotten on the inside. Meanwhile the sailors' corpses refuse to rot, and their open eyes curse him continuously, giving the Ancient Mariner a visible manifestation of the living death that awaits him. He will age, but his body will never rot enough to release his soul; his eye will glitter forever with the horror of damnation. As the Ancient Mariner floats, he becomes delirious, unable to escape his overwhelming loneliness even by sleeping: "I closed my lids, and kept them close, / And the balls like pulses beat; / For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky / Lay like a load on my weary eye..." His depravity has even denied him the comfort of prayer.
Ironically, it is the "slimy", "rotten" creatures themselves that finally comfort the Ancient Mariner and allow him to pray. Until this moment, Coleridge's imagery has underscored the overbearing nature of the Ancient Mariner's environment: it is hot, salty, pungent, and "rotten." However, his surroundings - and the imagery that accompanies them - turn cool in the moonlight. Coleridge compares the moonlight to a gentle frost, connecting it to the serenity of the "rime": "[The moon's] beams bemocked the sultry main, / Like April hoar-frost spread." Aglow in the moonlight, the sea creatures begin frolicking, rather than churning nastily; creatures of a beautiful, supernatural world, they "moved in tracks of shining white, / And when they reared, the elfish light / Fell off in hoary flakes...I watched their rich attire; / Blue, glossy green, and velvet black, / They coiled and swam; and every track / Was a flash of golden fire." Whereas Coleridge's descriptions of the ghost ship, sun, and sailors are replete with spare, harsh imagery, he describes the water-snakes in decadent, lush terms. Only when the Ancient Mariner is able to appreciate the beauty of the natural world is he granted the ability to pray - and, it is implied, eventually redeem himself. Earlier in the work, the desiccated setting represented the Ancient Mariner's moral drought, but the moment he begins to view the natural world benevolently, his spiritual thirst is quenched: "A spring of love gushed from my heart." As a sign that his burden has been lifted, the Albatross - the burden of sin - falls from his neck: it is no longer his cross to bear

Summary and Analysis of Part 5

After praying, the Ancient Mariner thanked the Virgin Mary for finally allowing him to sleep. He dreamed that the buckets on the ship were filled with dew, and awoke to the sound of the falling rain. He drank and drank after so many days of thirst, and became so lightheaded that he thought he was a ghost. Suddenly he heard a loud wind far off, and the sky lit up with darting "fire-flags" that could be interpreted as lightning, aurora borealis, or "St. Elmo's Fire" (electricity visible in the atmosphere that sailors consider a sign of bad luck). The rain poured from a single cloud, as did an unbroken stream of lightning. The ship began to sail, although there was still no wind. Just then, all the dead men stood up and went about their jobs as a mute, ghostly crew.

The Wedding Guest proclaims again: "I fear thee, Ancient Mariner!" but the Ancient Mariner quickly assures him that the dead sailors were not evil. At dawn, they even gathered around the mast and sang so beautifully that they sounded like an orchestra. When they stopped singing, the ship's sails sang instead. The ship sailed on miraculously in the absence of wind, moved instead by the spirit that had followed it from the icy world. Once the ship reached the equator and the sun was directly overhead, it stopped moving and the sails stopped singing. Then it began to rock back and forth uneasily until it suddenly jolted, causing the Ancient Mariner to faint. He lay for an indeterminate period of time on the ship's deck, during which he heard two voices. The first voice swore on Christ that he was the man who betrayed the Albatross that loved him, and that the spirit from the icy world also loved the Albatross: "The spirit who bideth by himself / In the land of mist and snow, / He loved the bird that loved the man / Who shot him with his bow." The second voice, softer than the first, declared that the Ancient Mariner would continue to pay for his crime: "The man hath penance done, / And penance more will do."
Until the end of Part 5, it seems as though the Ancient Mariner is redeemed. Not only is he allowed to sleep, but it finally rains, and his thirst is quenched. Since physical drought and thirst have represented the Ancient Mariner's moral depravity up until this point, it is implied that the abundant rain symbolizes his redemption. According to a Christian interpretation, the rain signifies that he is being baptized anew as a righteous servant of Christ who respects God's creatures. Even though terrifying things continue to happen all around him - a storm, lightning, thunder - the Ancient Mariner is awed by them, instead of fearful of them. The natural world is no less forceful or imposing than it was previously, but it is now benevolent. Part 5 also sees an end to the Ancient Mariner's loneliness, as the sailors 'awaken' to sail the ship; they and the ship itself sing beautiful music, and some spiritual force moves the ship along its course even though the air is still. Again, only when the ship crosses a boundary - the equator - does confusion return; the Ancient Mariner is knocked unconscious, and the reader begins to doubt whether he will actually be redeemed.
The voices confirm that it is indeed a specific spirit punishing the Ancient Mariner. The text's suggestions of sin, baptism, redemption, and other Christian themes shifts towards a more pagan understanding of the story's moral intricacies. A spirit that inhabits the icy world of the "rime" loved the Albatross - perhaps kept it as a pet - and is making the Ancient Mariner pay for murdering it. In the 1817 version of the poem, we are told that the two voices that the Ancient Mariner hears are spirits. Perhaps they are kin to the spirit that is punishing the Ancient Mariner, or are even taking part in his punishment. It is also possible, however, that they, like all of the supernatural elements of the Ancient Mariner's story, are merely figments of his imagination. That Coleridge leaves their identity somewhat open-ended harkens back to Burnet's musings on "invisible Natures"; humans cannot classify spirits, and therefore cannot really know them. Likewise, the Ancient Mariner - and the reader - cannot define what kind of spirits are speaking, or if they are indeed spirits at all. Burnet's statements are applicable to all humans. Furthermore, the reader is as subject to Coleridge's whims as his protagonist, and therefore cannot know any more than him. As humans - and therefore sinners - we can all identify with the Ancient Mariner, and are thus equally implicated in his crime

Summary and Analysis of Part 6

Part 6 opens with a dialogue between the two voices: the first voice, the Ancient Mariner says, asked the second voice to remind it what moved the Ancient Mariner's ship along so fast, and the second voice postulated that the moon must be controlling the ocean. The first voice asked again what could be driving the ship, and the second voice replied that the air was pushing the ship from behind in lieu of wind. After this declaration, the voices disappeared. The Ancient Mariner awoke at night to find the dead sailors clustered on the deck, again cursing him with their eyes. They mesmerized him, until suddenly the spell broke and they too disappeared. The Ancient Mariner, however, was not relieved; he knew that the dead men would come back to haunt him over and over again. Just then, a wind began to blow and the ship sailed quickly and smoothly until the Ancient Mariner could see the shore of his own country. As moonlight illuminated the glassy harbor, lighthouse, and church he sobbed and prayed, happy to be either alive or in heaven. Suddenly, crimson shapes began to rise from the water in front of the ship. When the Ancient Mariner looked down at the deck, he saw an angel standing over each dead man's corpse. The angels waved their hands silently, serving as beacons to guide the ship into port. The Ancient Mariner heard voices: a Pilot, the Pilot's boy, and a Hermit were approaching the ship in a boat. The Ancient Mariner was overjoyed to see other living human beings and wanted the Hermit to wipe him clean of his sin, to "wash away the Albatross's blood."

In Part 6, the two voices offer a narrative and stylistic break in the poem. Whereas before the text was unbroken, their speech is structured much as in the script of a play. The voices are also omniscient in that they know everything that has happened up until now, and are able to offer the Ancient Mariner a more complete explanation of his situation. The manner in which the voices are presented lends a didactic, narratorial feel to their words. The voices leave because, like the Wedding Guest, they have somewhere to be; the second voice urges the first: "Fly, brother, fly! More high, more high! / Or we shall be belated." Yet unlike the Wedding Guest, the voices are not riveted by the Ancient Mariner's tale and can continue on to their destination after briefly stopping to consider him. They are like the two other guests walking with the Wedding Guest when the Ancient Mariner stops him; while his tale may interest them, they are not compelled to hear it.
When the Ancient Mariner is out in the open ocean, Coleridge's imagery is heavily visual and tactile, but also focuses on sound: the noises of the wedding merriment interrupt the Ancient Mariner's tale, "voices in a swound" fill the "rime", there is a terrible silence that abounds when the men are unable to speak, and the glorious music created by the ship and the sailors implies that fortune has once again smiled on the Ancient Mariner. Indeed, in Part 6 sounds are especially important. We know of the two voices only because they speak; they have no visible presence. If they are indeed spirits, then they are discernable to humans only because of the sounds that they make. Furthermore, the Ancient Mariner hears his rescuers before he sees them, although he does not cry out to them. Coleridge's focus on sound connects us to the fact that the Ancient Mariner is telling a story to the Wedding Guest. While readers must view the story on the page, the tale is being told aloud, and is meant to be passed on in this manner, much like a sermon.
As the ship enters the harbor, we once again get the sense that the Ancient Mariner will be redeemed, although we know that he is doomed to be haunted by the dead men indefinitely: The ship is now in the safety of the harbor, and home is in sight; two hundred angels, one for each dead man, silently guide the ship into shore, acting as beacons that attract the Ancient Mariner's rescuers. Not only are the Pilot and Pilot's Boy coming to rescue the Ancient Mariner, but a Hermit has come out of the woods to help them. By definition, a hermit is someone who lives in seclusion in a natural setting, making the natural world his shrine and living place. He does not venture out into society, and certainly not on the ocean. The Hermit that the Ancient Mariner meets is joyous and social, urging the Pilot and Pilot's Boy on even though they are afraid of the tattered ship. Although at the end of Part 6 the Ancient Mariner knows that he will soon be home and believes that the Hermit can absolve him of his sin, the reader can't help but suspect that more horror is in store.

Summary and Analysis of Part 7

The Ancient Mariner was cheered by the Hermit's singing. He admired the way the Hermit lived and prayed alone in the woods, but also "love[d] to talk with mariners." As they neared the ship, the Pilot and the Hermit wondered where the angels - which they had thought were merely beacon lights - had gone. The Hermit remarked on how strange the ship looked with its misshapen boards and flimsy sails. The Pilot was afraid, but the Hermit encouraged him to steer the boat closer. Just as the boat reached the ship, a terrible noise came from under the water, and the ship sank straightaway. The men d the Ancient Mariner even though they thought he was dead; after all, he appeared "like one that hath been seven days drowned." The boat spun in the whirlpool created by the ship's sinking, and all was quiet the loud sound echoing off of a hill. The Ancient Mariner moved his lips and began to row the boat, terrifying the other men; the Pilot had a conniption, the Hermit began to pray, and the Pilot's Boy laughed crazily, thinking the Ancient Mariner was the devil. When they reached the shore, the Ancient Mariner begged the Hermit to absolve him of his sins. The Hermit crossed himself and asked the Ancient Mariner what sort of man he was. The Ancient Mariner was instantly compelled to share his story with the Hermit. His need to share it was so strong that it wracked his body with pain. Once he shared it, however, he felt restored.

The Ancient Mariner tells the Wedding Guest that ever since then, the urge to tell his tale has returned at unpredictable times, and he is in agony until he tells it to someone. He wanders from place to place, and has the strange power to single out the person in each location who must hear his tale. As he puts it: "I have strange power of speech; / That moment that his face I see, / I know the man that must hear me: / To him my tale I teach." The Ancient Mariner explains that while the wedding celebration sounds uproariously entertaining, he prefers to spend his time with others in prayer. After all, he was so lonely on the ocean that he doubted even God's companionship. He bids the Wedding Guest farewell with one final piece of advice: "He prayeth well, who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast." In other words, one becomes closer to God by respecting all living things, because God loves all of his creations "both great and small." Then the Ancient Mariner vanishes. Instead of entering the wedding reception, the Wedding Guest walks away mesmerized. We are told that he learned something from the Ancient Mariner's tale, and was also saddened by it: "A sadder and a wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn."
As expected, things again go awry for the Ancient Mariner despite his momentary relief. Though safely in the harbor, the ship is pulled under by a forceful undertow, but the Ancient Mariner cannot drown since he is doomed to a living death. Just as he is compelled to tell the Wedding Guest his story, he is compelled to tell it to the Hermit. The Hermit does not ask him where he came from or how he got to the harbor, but rather asks, "What manner of man art thou?" as if to discern whether or not he is human. After all, the Ancient Mariner appears dead when the rescuers pull him into the boat, and suddenly comes to life to row the boat to shore. Instead of answering the Hermit's question directly, the Ancient Mariner is forced for the first time to tell his tale, or be consumed by agony. As he tells the Wedding Guest, he does not seek out certain people to whom to relate his tale, but rather knows them when he sees them. Since both the Hermit and the Wedding Guest are forced to listen to the tale, it is implied that there must be some similarity between the two men even though they appear to come from entirely opposite worlds.
The Hermit, a type of character often valorized by the Romantics, is pious and keeps to himself except to converse with transient sailors. He has divorced himself from worldly pleasures, preferring to live in harmony with nature. Meanwhile the Wedding Guest yearns to join his friends in a social and merry setting, full of decadent pleasures such as fine food, wine, song, and dance. The Ancient Mariner's final message is that by respecting all creatures, one can become closer to God. This advice is certainly not new to the Hermit, who devotes his whole life to living in unity with nature and praying three times a day. If the Wedding Guest must be reminded of this because he is on his way to indulge in earthly pleasures separated from nature, why doesn't the Ancient Mariner stop either of the Wedding Guest's two companions? As in the rest of the poem, we cannot know more than the Ancient Mariner himself; by maintaining this device, Coleridge reminds us that we are subject to the same moral laws and consequences as his characters. He also maintains a position of authorial power, as though to remind us that while we inhabit his story, we are in his hands. Just as the Ancient Mariner can compel men to listen to his tale, Coleridge can compel us to read "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" from first line to last, and communicate his message to us so that we become "sadder and...wiser."
Coleridge famously claimed that he did not intend for "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" to have a moral, although he seems to phrase one neatly in the lines: "He prayeth best, who loveth best / All things both great and small; / For the dear God who loveth us, / He made and loveth all." Put differently, one becomes closer to God by respecting all his creations. Coleridge uses the word "teach" to describe the Ancient Mariner's storytelling technique, and says that he has "strange power of speech." In this way, he compares the protagonist to himself; both are gifted storytellers who impart their wisdom unto others. By associating himself with the Ancient Mariner, Coleridge implies that he - and by extension all writers - are tormented by their gift for storytelling; it is in fact a curse. Just as the Ancient Mariner is forced to balance in a painful limbo, the writer is compelled to balance in the liminal space of the imagination "until [his] tale is told." Both are like addicts, and storytelling is their drug; it provides only momentary relief until the urge returns. Coleridge paints an equally powerful and pathetic image of the writer. He is able to hold an audience's attention so completely that he can force a man to miss his next of kin's wedding reception. He is capable of forever changing his listeners, but is also the constant victim of his own talent - a skill that torments, but never destroys.

05-09-2010, 08:40 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

It is a beauteous evening by William Wordsworth
It is a beauteous evening by William Wordsworth


It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly.
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year,
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not

Summary and Analysis of "It is a beauteous evening"

The speaker begins by describing the scene. It is a calm and beautiful evening, and the sun is setting peacefully as the sky hangs over the sea:
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free, The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
At line six the speaker begins to address someone who turns out to be a young girl. He tells her to listen, that "the mighty Being is awake" and making a "sound like thunder" that lasts forever:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake, And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder--everlastingly.
The speaker then tells the child (actually his daughter, Caroline) who is walking beside him that even though she isn't affected by the solemn ideas he has when he comes face to face with nature, she is not any less divine. In fact, she "liest in Abraham's bosom all year," because God is with her even when she is not aware of Him:
Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here, If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

"It is a beauteous evening" does exactly what its title implies it will--it describes a beautiful evening scene--and yet this sonnet goes far beyond aesthetic pleasures, paralleling a simple walk along the beach with the religious power that Wordsworth feels in nature.
The poem gains even more power when the reader learns that the child Wordsworth walks with is his daughter Caroline, whom he has not seen in ten years because he has been separated from her and her mother by the war in France. The child's innocence is inspirational: even though she is not actively considering the power of the nature that surrounds them, she is a part of it nevertheless. And because, for Wordsworth, the very fact of being in nature is enough to inspire a powerful religious experience, he envisions his pure daughter standing alongside God, as if she has been accepted into heaven well before the hour of her death.


On a beautiful evening, the speaker thinks that the time is quiet as a Nun, and as the sun sinks down on the horizon, the gentleness of heaven broods oer the sea. The sound of the ocean makes the speaker think that the mighty Being is awake, and, with his eternal motion, raising an everlasting sound like thunder. The speaker then addresses the young girl who walks with him by the sea, and tells her that though she appears untouched by the solemn thought that he himself is gripped by, her nature is still divine. He says that she worships in the Temples inner shrine merely by being, and that God is with thee when we know it not.

This poem is one of the many excellent sonnets Wordsworth wrote in the early 1800s. Sonnets are fourteen-line poetic inventions written in iambic pentameter. There are several varieties of sonnets; The world is too much with us takes the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, modeled after the work of Petrarch, an Italian poet of the early Renaissance. A Petrarchan sonnet is divided into two parts, an octave (the first eight lines of the poem) and a sestet (the final six lines). In this case, the octave follows a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA, and the sestet follows a rhyme scheme of CDEDEC.

This poem is one of the most personal and intimate in all of Wordsworths writing, and its aura of heartfelt serenity is as genuine as anything in the Wordsworth canon. Shortly before he married Mary Hutchinson, Wordsworth returned to France to see his former mistress Annette Vallon, whom he would likely have married ten years earlier had the war between France and England not separated them. He returned to visit Annette to make arrangements for her and for their child, Caroline, who was now a ten-year-old girl. This poem is thought to have originated from a real moment in Wordsworths life, when he walked on the beach with the daughter he had not known for a decade.

Unlike many of the other sonnets of 1802, It is a beauteous evening is not charged with either moral or political outrage; instead it is as tranquil as its theme. The main technique of the sonnet is to combine imagery depicting the natural scene with explicitly religious imagerya technique also employed, although less directly, in Tintern Abbey. The octave of the sonnet makes the first metaphorical comparisons, stating that the evening is a holy time, and quiet as a nun / Breathless with adoration. As the sun sets, the mighty Being moves over the waters, making a thunderous sound everlastingly. In the sestet, the speaker turns to the young girl walking with him, and observes that unlike him, she is not touched by solemn thought (details also appearing in the Immortality Ode). But he declares that this fact does not make her less divinechildhood is inherently at one with nature, worshipping in the unconscious, inner temple of pure unity with the present moment and surroundings

In his sonnet "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free" William Wordsworth uses imagery and poetic language in order to show the symmetry between nature and God, as he does in many of his other works. In the sonnet he addresses his illegitimate daughter, Caroline. While many see this is a thoughtful attempt to engage his daughter by drawing her in to his world viewpoint, I see it as an attempt only to comfort and excuse himself of his absence in his daughter's life.

While visiting France as a young man Wordsworth met Annette Vallon, and the two began an affair. She became pregnant and delivered Anne-Caroline in December 1793. Later that same month, Wordsworth left France and returned to England. He returned to France only once, in 1802, to visit Annette and Caroline before marrying Mary Hutchinson. It is speculated that "It is a beauteous evening" was written regarding this brief visit. He lived and remained in England until his death in 1850 (Watson 2-4). Therefore Wordsworth was almost completely absent from his daughter Caroline's life.
"Beauteous Evening" begins with Wordsworth seeming to paint a very somber calm mood. He writes:

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
Here the reader gets a picture of a tranquil sunset setting into a gentle sea. However in the following lines, he implies that things are not as calm and quiet as they first appear. "Listen! The Mighty Being is awake,/And doth with his eternal motion make/A sound like thunder - everlastingly." Wordsworth is making a statement that there is much more going on under the calm exterior. "The Mighty Being" refers to the sea or may even refer more specifically to the god Poseidon. Waves are crashing against the storm, making "a sound like thunder." Wordsworth may have been using this imagery to show the parallel between what is going on in nature and what is going on in the interaction with his daughter. Things could have appeared calm and collected on the outside, while actually very tumultuous just under the surface. Bailostosky supports this idea in Wordsworth, dialogics, and the practice of criticism, "The speaker, carried away with his sense of the evening, has invited the child to enter into something unsuited to her, and , like the father in 'Anecdote for Fathers,' he covers his embarrassment

at the awkward discovery of his mistaken manner of address with affectionate declarations and compensatory imaginings (Bialostosky 88)".
The reader sees evidence of this awkward interaction further when Wordsworth begins addressing Caroline directly after the turn saying, "Dear Child! Dear Girl! That walkest with me here,/If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,/Thy nature is not therefore less divine." The reader is able to see here that his attempt to draw his daughter into his "Nature is Divine" viewpoint has failed. She simply is not as engaged in what is going on as he is, despite his implorations.

To comfort himself in this awkwardness and justify his absence in his daughters life, Wordsworth uses the poem as a means to convince himself and his daughter that though he is not present, Caroline has a father in God. This patriarchal and spiritual imagery is found throughout the sonnet beginning with the references to evening as "holy time quiet as a Nun" at adoration. As previously mentioned "Mighty Being" may be reference to the god Poseidon, who was also considered the father of the sea. The sonnet concludes with "Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;/And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,/God being with thee when we know it not." Abraham was considered by the Old Testament Hebrews to be the father of all peoples, so Wordsworth may be making a statement that Caroline has a father in Abraham. There is also the possibility that it may be something even more sinister. "Abraham's bosom" is a reference to what the ancient Jews believed to be the afterlife. Therefore, Wordsworth may actually be figuratively "killing" his daughter (Bialostosky 116). Regardless it is evident that he has detached himself from Caroline, believing God to be the only father she needs.
Like Wordsworth imagery of the sea, "It is a beauteous evening, calm and free" appears to be a beautiful sonnet about the divinity of nature. However, when the reader takes a deeper look at the imagery presented and Wordsworth's life it becomes a dark excuse offered by an uncaring father wishing for freedom from responsibility

05-09-2010, 08:42 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Shelley
Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Shelley


The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats through unseen among us,-visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,-
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,-
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,-
Like memory of music fled,-
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.
Spirit of Beauty, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form,-where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom,-why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given-
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour,
Frail spells-whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance, and mutability.
Thy light alone-like mist oe'er the mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal, and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messgenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers' eyes-
Thou-that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not-lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard-I saw them not-
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,-
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!

I vowed that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine-have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in visioned bowers
Of studious zeal or love's delight
Outwatched with me the envious night-
They know that never joy illumed my brow
Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou-O awful Loveliness,
Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past-there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm-to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, Spirit fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind


The speaker says that the shadow of an invisible Power floats among human beings, occasionally visiting human heartsmanifested in summer winds, or moonbeams, or the memory of music, or anything that is precious for its mysterious grace. Addressing this Spirit of Beauty, the speaker asks where it has gone, and why it leaves the world so desolate when it goeswhy human hearts can feel such hope and love when it is present, and such despair and hatred when it is gone. He asserts that religious and superstitious notionsDemon, Ghost, and Heavenare nothing more than the attempts of mortal poets and wise men to explain and express their responses to the Spirit of Beauty, which alone, the speaker says, can give grace and truth to lifes unquiet dream. Love, Hope, and Self-Esteem come and go at the whim of the Spirit, and if it would only stay in the human heart forever, instead of coming and going unpredictably, man would be immortal and omnipotent. The Spirit inspires lovers and nourishes thought; and the speaker implores the spirit to remain even after his life has ended, fearing that without it death will be a dark reality.

The speaker recalls that when he was a boy, he sought for ghosts, and traveled through caves and forests looking for the departed dead; but only when the Spirits shadow fell across himas he mused deeply on the lot / Of life outdoors in the springdid he experience transcendence. At that moment, he says, I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy! He then vowed that he would dedicate his life to the Spirit of Beauty; now he asserts that he has kept his vowevery joy he has ever had has been linked to the hope that the awful Loveliness would free the world from slavery, and complete the articulation of his words.
The speaker observes that after noon the day becomes more solemn and serene, and in autumn there is a lustre in the sky which cannot be found in summer. The speaker asks the Spirit, whose power descended upon his youth like that truth of nature, to supply calm to his onward lifethe life of a man who worships the Spirit and every form that contains it, and who is bound by the spells of the Spirit to fear himself, and love all humankind.

Each of the seven long stanzas of the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty follows the same, highly regular scheme. Each line has an iambic rhythm; the first four lines of each stanza are written in pentameter, the fifth line in hexameter, the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh lines in tetrameter, and the twelfth line in pentameter. (The syllable pattern for each stanza, then, is 555564444445.) Each stanza is rhymed ABBAACCBDDEE.

This lyric hymn, written in 1816, is Shelleys earliest focused attempt to incorporate the Romantic ideal of communion with nature into his own aesthetic philosophy. The Intellectual Beauty of the poems title does not refer to the beauty of the mind or of the working intellect, but rather to the intellectual idea of beauty, abstracted in this poem to the Spirit of Beauty, whose shadow comes and goes over human hearts. The poem is the poets exploration both of the qualities of beauty (here it always resides in nature, for example), and of the qualities of the human beings response to it (Love, Hope, and Self-esteem).
The poems process is doubly figurative or associative, in that, once the poet abstracts the metaphor of the Spirit from the particulars of natural beauty, he then explains the workings of this Spirit by comparing it back to the very particulars of natural beauty from which it was abstracted in the first place: Thy light alone, like mist oer mountains driven; Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart... This is an inspired technique, for it enables Shelley to illustrate the stunning experience of natural beauty time and again as the poem progresses, but to push the particulars into the background, so that the focus of the poem is always on the Spirit, the abstract intellectual ideal that the speaker claims to serve.

Of course Shelleys atheism is a famous part of his philosophical stance, so it may seem strange that he has written a hymn of any kind. He addresses that strangeness in the third stanza, when he declares that names such as Demon, Ghost, and Heaven are merely the record of attempts by sages to explain the effect of the Spirit of Beautybut that the effect has never been explained by any voice from some sublimer world. The Spirit of Beauty that the poet worships is not supernatural, it is a part of the world. It is not an independent entity; it is a responsive capability within the poets own mind.
If the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty is not among Shelleys very greatest poems, it is only because its project falls short of the poets extraordinary powers; simply drawing the abstract ideal of his own experience of beauty and declaring his fidelity to that ideal seems too simple a task for Shelley. His most important statements on natural beauty and on aesthetics will take into account a more complicated idea of his own connection to nature as an expressive artist and a poet, as we shall see in To a Skylark and Ode to the West Wind. Nevertheless, the Hymn remains an important poem from the early period of Shelleys maturity. It shows him working to incorporate Wordsworthian ideas of nature, in some ways the most important theme of early Romanticism, into his own poetic project, and, by connecting his idea of beauty to his idea of human religion, making that theme explicitly his own

Romantic poets like Wordsworth seem as though they have a solid foundation of where their Truth comes from. Wordsworth concentrates a great majority of his poetry on his interaction with nature, such as trees, as well as the seemingly never-ending brook that shows up in a handful of his poems. For Wordsworth, that which is tangible, that which he sees, is his Truth. Shelley, on the other hand, although he does admire Wordsworth, doesn't seem to trust the imagery he encounters, and thus doesn't attach himself to any feeling that imagery evokes within him. A lot of Shelley's imagery focuses on the intangible in his world, like the "awful shadow of some unseen Power" in Hymn to Intellectual Beauty (1). Shelley's fascination with this speaks toward the idea that Shelley is more of a student of the world, still a seeker of Truth, and thus has the ability to see a deeper, more profound Truth than Wordsworth found.

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty is a rather effective piece to examine to get a sense of how Shelley feels about the seen and the unseen, and how his thoughts differ from Wordsworth. This poem allows us as readers to discover a world that Wordsworth didn't see. He concentrates so deeply on what he sees that he doesn't fully examine the intangibility of what he sees around him. Shelley's Hymn, because it begins with a look at what he cannot see, has an advantage over Wordsworth's in that it has more of an opportunity to delve to a deeper element of Truth-that element being the journey, which Shelley believes begins in the mind. Wordsworth focuses a lot on being in the moment, having already arrived at his destination, and what he learns once there. Unlike Shelley, he doesn't seem to look at the value of how he got to that point, either in his eyes or through his mind.

The opening line of Hymn begins with a line that introduces the "awful shadow," which implies a different (yet still similar) feeling than that which Wordsworth spoke of. At first, it reads as though this shadow is itself a being separate from Wordsworth's image, but it also seems like it is simultaneously a part of the same idea, since Shelley mentions them within the same line, and also uses the simple conjunction "of" to connect both ideas. Shelley also connects these ideas on a bit deeper level by using the word "awful," which Duncan Wu in his footnotes to the poem tells us means "awesome," thereby creating an equally positive feeling toward both ideas, with the key being that we think of them as equals, or inherently having the same value as functional ideas in our minds.

It is also important to note that Shelley doesn't use language that speaks toward the negative idea of a shadow, or one that we as contemporary readers would likely view upon our first glance at this line. Instead, Shelley describes this Power as "hues and harmonies of evening" (8), which evokes positive emotions in us as readers. Shelley also speaks positively in the line following, when he writes that this being is "Like clouds in starlight widely spread" (9) Although this line could be read in a couple different ways, it ought to be interpreted as saying that the unseen feeling is being examined in conjunction to clouds, but as it is written, Shelley isn't saying that the shadow is a part of the clouds. Rather, those clouds are far apart, letting "light" from the stars through.

What's interesting in that interpretation is that we readers can make a connection to that starlight coming through as though it functions to make the shadow more visible, and thus tangible, as the eyes of a poet function as fingers for his mind, allowing him to feel what he sees. Lastly in that stanza, it's important to dissect the last two lines, as they speak of the importance of the eyes being the vehicle by which the mind interacts with what it sees, through a strange kind of transcendent touch. Shelley says that this shadow "for its grace may be dear" (11), meaning that the shadow is influential because of how it makes him feel, but he then says that it is "dearer for its mystery," which means that the unseen Power is even more meaningful because of what we cannot figure out about it. For Shelley, using a word like "grace" implies a connection close to the intangible (as we connect grace with God), whereas including a word like "mystery" creates an even closer experience akin to a journey, because something mysterious almost begs to be figured out, and because that thing is a mystery, we are led to think that it does exist somewhere, so we're more likely to use our eyes to reach for it with our minds

The second stanza begins with the phrase "Spirit of Beauty" (13), mirroring the opening line of the poem in that Shelley again speaks of the unseen, the intangible, by referring to a Spirit, and makes the idea more interesting by connecting that Spirit to beauty, which is an idea more associated with that which we can see. Just as the "awful shadow" is an unseen part of the Power in the opening line, so goes the Spirit, itself unseen, of Beauty, and in this case he means intellectual Beauty, as his title clearly states.

In the second part of line 13, Shelley says that the Spirit of Beauty "doth consecrate with thine own hues all thou dost shine upon." This particular line moves the poem into a more spiritual sense, although it isn't clear that this spirituality refers to God. In fact, this spirituality is connected specifically to ghosts, as the poem later states. At this point, however, the poem's meaning of spirituality is evident because of Shelley's choice to use "consecrate," which means to make something holy, and furthers a singular connection to a particular spirit (be it God or another) by saying "thine own hues" (14, emphasis added). Shelley doesn't end the connection there, though. He chooses another "light" image (similar to lines 5 and 9) by saying that this Spirit makes holy "all thou dost shine upon."

The following moment, in connection with this last "light" image, is an interesting one because Shelley seems to be playing with the form of his poetry. He says, in line 15, "Of human thought or form-where art thou gone?" One could read line 15 as a continuance of line 14, thereby finishing Shelley's supposed thought stemming from 14. Or, as I did, we could read line 15 as an entirely separate thought. If we do so, it reads as a turning point in Shelley's mind-one at which he seems to step back, still within himself, from his own mind, or what his eyes are feeling for him. In an odd and interesting way, it's as though Shelley is having a thought within a thought, evidenced in this case by the fact that he asks a question while he is already inherently questioning other ideas.

The third stanza begins with "No voice from some sublimer world hath ever/To sage or poet these responses given;" (25-26). In this moment, if we sift through his poetic diction, Shelley is saying that there isn't a voice that has given a sage (a wise man) or poet (Shelley himself), the opportunities, thought processes and ideas that he has discovered in his mind. What he means here is that that which he has found within himself, he has found through his own mind's processes, through that journey. This is perhaps more clearly seen through his choice of saying that there is "no voice," and more precisely no voice from a world existing within the idea of the sublime, which Wordsworth would say lies in tangible nature. The fact that he chose that phrasing suggests that he went on a very brief journey in his mind, weighing both poetically and for his own sake, the notion of a voice versus a sight, thus continuing his fascination with the intangible.

To further solidify this idea of an unseen sound being valued more than tangible nature, Shelley writes in the next two lines, "Therefore the name of God, and ghosts and heaven/Remain the records of their vain endeavour" (27-28). Here, Shelley is saying that those poets and sages (as "their" in line 28 refers to them) who rely on the belief in the sublime as the ultimate Truth, have only the name of God, and not God himself, as their proof that the sublime is the Truth. Interestingly enough, Shelley does include ghosts in that trio in line 27, which seems to speak toward his uneasiness of believing purely in any of those three ideas.

The fact that each of those three ideas was equally unsettling to him is evident in line 29, as he calls all three "frail spells" and more so that those "uttered charms might not avail to sever/From all we hear and all we see/Doubt, chance, and mutability" (29). The fact that he uses the words "charms" and "might" tells us that he really doesn't trust any of them as beliefs. No matter which he believes, with each of them comes some degree of doubt. Charms, for example, is another word for spells, which he uses in line 29, thus making the fact that he doesn't trust these images more evident.

With that doubt, though, comes a chance to explore why it exists in the first place, and in the fifth stanza, Shelley begins that journey. As he has done before, Shelley creates in the first line of this stanza a sort of moment-within-a-moment, simultaneously staying in the present with his writing, but also taking us on a journey through his mind when he was younger. This is similar to Wordsworth's childhood reflections, but unlike him, Shelley is not necessarily reminiscing peacefully. He doesn't seem at peace perhaps because he has not yet found his Truth, and in one moment, he uses the word "fearful" which implies that he is somewhat frightened while searching for his ghosts. At the same time, though, he also says that he was "pursuing" the ghosts, conveying the idea that this search is a purposeful one, despite having fear about it.

One idea that ought to be addressed here is that, since Shelley is writing this in a present moment, does he mean that he was fearful as a child, or has this fear somehow stuck with him and is affecting him here, in his present life? He editorializes this way in line 53, when he writes of prayer. He says it is that "with which our youth is fed." In that particular moment, it reads as though he isn't taking prayer or a belief in God or some higher being as a serious or valuable thing. Similar to that, then, is whether or not he is creating the same kind of message when referring to his "fearful" pursuit. Since he uses a visceral word like "fed" and describes God as "poisonous," (another similarly visceral word) I am led to believe that in both cases he is relying on his adult feelings to help him make sense of beliefs.

What is strange, though, if we accept the above interpretation, is the very sudden moment at which the shadow finds Shelley. It seems a happy moment in his life, as he says I "clasped my hands in ecstasy" (60). Yet, in the stanzas immediately after, there are moments in which it's as if he is sorry that it happened, as though he realizes his journey might be coming to an end. In the sixth stanza, he says that he "vowed that I would dedicate my powers" (61). By using dense language like "vowed" and "dedicate," he has made a promise, and because of his "beating heart and streaming eyes" (63) the promise doesn't seem as strong, or that it has already somehow been broken, at least in his mind, hence the crying and pleading heart. In lines 72 and 73, he writes "That thou, oh awful loveliness/Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express," which says that he needs the shadow to help him find himself again. From the moment that the shadow finds him until the end of the sixth stanza, Shelley seems enveloped within that moment of being discovered by the shadow, and is having difficulty making sense of the whole thing.

This poem effectively shows how that which we cannot see holds as much, if not more, value as the tangible things. For Shelley, although the unseen it is not as easy or comforting as Wordsworth's tangible nature, he is more concerned with setting himself within the process of the mind, itself an intangible, and seems to relish in the journey he takes in being a student of the world, in trying to find something in which to believe

05-09-2010, 08:43 AM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
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  is a glorious beacon of light

05-10-2010, 02:33 AM
mazen70 mazen70
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mazen70 has a spectacular aura about

For sure it is one of the most excellent and rich posts in this forum

Thank you so much for this extraordinarily great effort

Have a great day

:  mazen70

05-10-2010, 07:13 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
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  is a glorious beacon of light

05-10-2010, 07:15 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

England in 1819 by Shelley England in 1819 by Shelley


Sonnet: England in 1819

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,

Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow

Through public scorn, mud from a muddy spring,

Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,

But leech-like to their fainting country cling,

Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,

A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field,

An army, which liberticide and prey

Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield

Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;

Religion Christless, Godless a book sealed;

A Senate, Time's worst statute unrepealed,

Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may

Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

Percy Bysshe Shelley


The speaker describes the state of England in 1819. The king is old, mad, blind, despised, and dying. The princes are the dregs of their dull race, and flow through public scorn like mud, unable to see, feel for, or know their people, clinging like leeches to their country until they drop, blind in blood, without a blow. The English populace are starved and stabbed in untilled fields; the army is corrupted by liberticide and prey; the laws tempt and slay; religion is Christless and Godless, a book sealed; and the English Senate is like Times worst statute unrepealed. Each of these things, the speaker says, is like a grave from which a glorious Phantom may burst to illuminate our tempestuous day.

England in 1819 is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem metered in iambic pentameter. Like many of Shelleys sonnets, it does not fit the rhyming patterns one might expect from a nineteenth-century sonnet; instead, the traditional Petrarchan division between the first eight lines and the final six lines is disregarded, so that certain rhymes appear in both sections: ABABABCDCDCCDD. In fact, the rhyme scheme of this sonnet turns an accepted Petrarchan form upside-down, as does the thematic structure, at least to a certain extent: the first six lines deal with Englands rulers, the king and the princes, and the final eight deal with everyone else. The sonnets structure is out of joint, just as the sonnet proclaims England to be.

For all his commitment to romantic ideals of love and beauty, Shelley was also concerned with the real world: he was a fierce denouncer of political power and a passionate advocate for liberty. The result of his political commitment was a series of angry political poems condemning the arrogance of power, including Ozymandias and England in 1819. Like Wordsworths London, 1802, England in 1819 bitterly lists the flaws in Englands social fabric: in order, King George is old, mad, blind, despised, and dying; the nobility (princes) are insensible leeches draining their country dry; the people are oppressed, hungry, and hopeless, their fields untilled; the army is corrupt and dangerous to its own people; the laws are useless, religion has become morally degenerate, and Parliament (A Senate) is Times worst statute unrepealed. The furious, violent metaphors Shelley employs throughout this list (nobles as leeches in muddy water, the army as a two-edged sword, religion as a sealed book, Parliament as an unjust law) leave no doubt about his feelings on the state of his nation. Then, surprisingly, the final couplet concludes with a note of passionate Shelleyean optimism: from these graves a glorious Phantom may burst to illumine our tempestuous day. What this Phantom might be is not specified in the poem, but it seems to hint simultaneously at the Spirit of the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and at the possibility of liberty won through revolution, as it was won in France. (It also recalls Wordsworths invocation of the spirit of John Milton to England in the older poets poem, though that connection may be unintentional on Shelleys part; both Wordsworth and Shelley long for an apocalyptic deus ex machina to their country, but Shelley is certainly not summoning John Milton

That most courtly of forms, the sonnet, turns against the court, among other power structures, in this week's choice. Shelley's extraordinarily-shaped "England in 1819" is centaur-like, its majestic, nearly Petrarchan opening sestet fused with a heavier, rougher octet. The octet's rhymes partly interlock, but the Petrarchan scheme dissolves with the two sets of rhyming couplets the centaur's hooves. You can almost hear the angry howl of an invisible people rising up against their useless royal family and treacherous government.
Grammatically, it's all of a piece. The swelling roll-call of injustice consists of main clauses unresolved until the 13th line. It's almost a list-poem, a piling-on of sound-bites which, for a modern writer, might not demand the syntactic resolution Shelley eventually provides, and which therefore surprises us so effectively. In microcosm, the same process occurs in the build-up of splendidly simple and exact adjectives in line one. The hapless George III (who was to die the following year) stands before us with a Lear-like pathos. He is despised and mad and blind (uncomprehending): he is old and dying. Shelley enjoys paradox throughout this sonnet and here the tone is more horrified than hating. But there is no sympathy for the heir to the throne, the dissolute Prince Regent ("a corpulent Adonis of 50", as Shelley's friend, Leigh Hunt, rather mercifully described him).
In the vividly alliterative line, "A people starv'd and stabb'd in the untill'd field", we seem to hear the swords cutting through skin and tendons as troops ride in to instigate the infamous Peterloo Massacre. The trope by which this army becomes a "two-edg'd sword" consisting of "liberticide and prey" is more obscure. Paradox is the clue: the killer of liberty and his prey, liberty itself, are both destroyed. "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"(Matthew, 52). Christ said it more concisely, but Shelley's oddly sorted nouns forge their own hobnailed eloquence.
The princes are dregs, the royal line a muddy spring, the rulers, engorged leeches: these plain, ugly metaphors are as exact as they are obvious. But then comes further obscurity. In line 12, is the Senate (parliament) equated with "Time's worst statute unrepeal'd" or is the "worst statute" another addition to the list of evils? Some commentators say that Shelley means the 1801 Act of Union between England and Ireland. But the metaphor of parliament itself as a rotten law, convoluted though it is, remains intriguing, and the dash suggests this should be the primary reading.
When the poem finally reaches its apogee, its main verb, what do we learn? A further metaphor is heaped on top of the rest like a truckload of earth all the horrors are mere graves, redundant in the dreamed-of new dawn. The sonnet abruptly "turns" with the hastily-sketched millenarian image of Liberty triumphant.
"England in 1819" is a young man's poem (as, of course, are all Shelley's poems, including the magnificent "Mask of Anarchy", written in the same year), and it has its awkward moments. But youth's idealism is also its virtue. There is no shallow self-display in Shelley's anger. Sincerity, that unfashionable emotion, gives the poem not only its splendid energy, but an authority beyond the writer's years. The sonnet is powered by the momentum established in the sestet, and somehow maintains the intensity of its indignation through the weaker octet because the political emotion is genuine

Cohesion Analysis.

b. England in 1819
Shelley employs two exophoric references(England,times worst statute unrepealed), and six endophoric references(theirprinces, whoprinces, theirrulers, theyrulers whichgrave, ourEngland) in this poem. The exophoric references rely on readers knowledge of history and politics for their resolution. There are two important examples of ellipsis: they occur in lines nine and ten, in both cases serving to convert verbs that are usually transitive into intransitive verbs. Overall, the entire poem seems to be in a relation of extension to the title of the poem: it is written as one continuous sentence, a garden path, with a great reversal of meaning in the last two lines. More specifically, there seem to be two other important conjunctions in the poem, in lines two and three (mud from a muddy spring seems to elaborate princes) and in lines four and five( But seems to elaborate rulers who neither). Again, lexically Shelley creates chains of words with shared semantic features (see below under word choice), in addition to using straight repetition (andand, an-a-an ). The repetition of the indefinite article seems to underscore the singularity of the situation, but as singularity differs from particularity, it allows the situation in England to resonate with that in other countries while retaining its own specificity.

2. Perspective Analysis
b. England in 1819

Again, Shelley chooses a complex perspective: this time, he shifts from a third person description in the first thirteen lines of the poem to a first person perspective in the final line. This shift is indicated by the presence of the first person plural pronoun in the final line. He starts by offering us a polemical description of the social order at that time; it is not a positive evaluation. However, in the last lines, we are treated to the possibility of something better emerging from this situation. This may mirror Shelleys own ratio of feeling about his countrys politics: two parts hope twelve parts anger and indignation. Also, the poem seems to be making a statement about identity: the narrator is not a part of England as it is enumerated in the first twelve lines, but he associates himself only with the hope of better things to come.

3.Type of Speech Analysis
b. England in 1819
In this poem, we have a speaker describing a scene. I am tempted to refer to this style of speech as indirect discourse without any indication of a reporter. It is obvious that a speaker is describing this scene, and maybe the clause that usually indicates reported speech can be elided because the poem does not introduce any other voice besides that of the speaker.

4. Verb Analysis

b. England in 1819

England in 1819 uses ten verbs, six of which are intransitive (flow, neither see, nor feel, nor know, cling, drop, tempt and slay, may burst). Three verbs are transitive (makes, wield, illumine) and there is also one instance of the very to be. The preponderance of intransitive verbs underscores the focus on the malignancy of the subject of the descriptive sentences. The reason for this can be clarified by considering the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs: the former need to take an object, whereas the latter are complete without one. Thus, intransitives can direct the focus of the reader toward the subject of the action. The use of the verb to be signals the poems dominant metaphor and the reversal of meaning that comes at the end. In addition Shelley employs a modal in line thirteen seemingly to show that in contrast to the rest of the poem what is to be hoped for is not as certain as the existing evils.

5. Diction and Word Choice Analysis

b. England in 1819
This poems diction is highly charged with emotion, it employs a highly polemical diction. For example, Shelley seems to include a dictionary of political insult in this poem(old, mad, blind, despised, dying, the dregs, leech-like, sanguine, Christless, Godless) these are all familiar terms of political invective. Like he did in Ozymandias, Shelley seems to create strings of terms with shared semantic features. In this poem I discern four strings: Privation Words ( Neither see, nor feel nor know, blind, without a blow, untilled, Christless, Godless, unrepealed) Death Words (dying, drop, liberticide, slay, grave) Violence Words ( blow, stabbed, sword, weild )and Liquid Words (dregs, flow, muddy spring, blood, sanguine). This seems to be generally consistent with Shelleys tone: England in 1819 is a place where privation, death, and violence reign. The liquid words seem to imply an impeded flow, which I infer is cognate with Shelleys frustrations. In addition, Shelleys use of the word Phantom is highly significant. In the context of two mentions of religion in the preceding lines we would be expecting something about resurrection. This would imply that the same body would rise again to the day; however, Shelley chooses the phantom, an entity of another kind, to rise from the grave and do something.

6. Metaphor Analysis

b. England in 1819
This text is filled with metaphoric naming: England in 1819=grave, princes=dregs and mud, rulers=leeches, laws=blood and gold, the Army=two edged sword. These equivalences established within the social body serve to characterize the political life of the country in a certain way. This was a very new way at the time, so new in fact that Mary Shelley did not dare publish this poem in his lifetime. As Ian Lancashire explains in his editorial notes, Shelley sent this sonnet to Leigh Hunt, the editor ofThe Examiner, on November 23, 1819, saying, "I don't expect you to publish it but you may show it to whom you wish" It was not published until Mrs. Shelley's collected editions of 1839 (RPO, notes ). This naming was held by Shelley, as we will see in the next section of this paper, to be one of the essential functions of poetry in social life.

05-10-2010, 07:16 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

To a Skylark by Shelley To a Skylark by Shelley


Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert-
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest,
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden light'ning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are bright'ning,
Thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

The pale purple even
Melts around thy flight;
Like a star of heaven,
In the broad daylight
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight-

Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear,
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud,
As when night is bare,
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflow'd.

What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody:-

Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden
Its arial hue
Among the flowers and grass which screen it from the view:

Like a rose embower'd
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower'd,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-wingd thieves.

Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awaken'd flowers-
All that ever was
Joyous and clear and fresh-thy music doth surpass.

Teach us, sprite or bird,
What sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Match'd with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt-
A thin wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain?
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

With thy clear keen joyance
Languor cannot be:
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest, but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Yet, if we could scorn
Hate and pride and fear,
If we were things born
Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know;
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now


The speaker, addressing a skylark, says that it is a blithe Spirit rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pours profuse strains of unpremeditated art. The skylark flies higher and higher, like a cloud of fire in the blue sky, singing as it flies. In the golden lightning of the sun, it floats and runs, like an unbodied joy. As the skylark flies higher and higher, the speaker loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its shrill delight, which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the white dawn, which can be felt even when they are not seen. The earth and air ring with the skylarks voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind a lonely cloud.

The speaker says that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even rainbow clouds do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark. The bird is like a poet hidden / In the light of thought, able to make the world experience sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not. It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with too much sweet. The skylarks song surpasses all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh, whether the rain falling on the twinkling grass or the flowers the rain awakens.
Calling the skylark Sprite or Bird, the speaker asks it to tell him its sweet thoughts, for he has never heard anyone or anything call up a flood of rapture so divine. Compared to the skylarks, any music would seem lacking. What objects, the speaker asks, are the fountains of thy happy strain? Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or love of thine own kind or ignorance or pain? Pain and languor, the speaker says, never came near the skylark: it loves, but has never known loves sad satiety. Of death, the skylark must know things more true and deep than mortals could dream; otherwise, the speaker asks, how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?
For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men pine for what is not; their laughter is fraught with some pain; their sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. But, the speaker says, even if men could scorn / Hate and pride and fear, and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark. Calling the bird a scorner of the ground, he says that its music is better than all music and all poetry. He asks the bird to teach him half the gladness / That thy brain must know, for then he would overflow with harmonious madness, and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.

The eccentric, songlike, five-line stanzas of To a Skylarkall twenty-one of themfollow the same pattern: the first four lines are metered in trochaic trimeter, the fifth in iambic hexameter (a line which can also be called an Alexandrine). The rhyme scheme of each stanza is extremely simple: ABABB.

If the West Wind was Shelleys first convincing attempt to articulate an aesthetic philosophy through metaphors of nature, the skylark is his greatest natural metaphor for pure poetic expression, the harmonious madness of pure inspiration. The skylarks song issues from a state of purified existence, a Wordsworthian notion of complete unity with Heaven through nature; its song is motivated by the joy of that uncomplicated purity of being, and is unmixed with any hint of melancholy or of the bittersweet, as human joy so often is. The skylarks unimpeded song rains down upon the world, surpassing every other beauty, inspiring metaphor and making the speaker believe that the bird is not a mortal bird at all, but a Spirit, a sprite, a poet hidden / In the light of thought.

In that sense, the skylark is almost an exact twin of the bird in Keatss Ode to a Nightingale; both represent pure expression through their songs, and like the skylark, the nightingale wast not born for death. But while the nightingale is a bird of darkness, invisible in the shadowy forest glades, the skylark is a bird of daylight, invisible in the deep bright blue of the sky. The nightingale inspires Keats to feel a drowsy numbness of happiness that is also like pain, and that makes him think of death; the skylark inspires Shelley to feel a frantic, rapturous joy that has no part of pain. To Keats, human joy and sadness are inextricably linked, as he explains at length in the final stanza of the Ode on Melancholy. But the skylark sings free of all human error and complexity, and while listening to his song, the poet feels free of those things, too.
Structurally and linguistically, this poem is almost unique among Shelleys works; its strange form of stanza, with four compact lines and one very long line, and its lilting, songlike diction (profuse strains of unpremeditated art) work to create the effect of spontaneous poetic expression flowing musically and naturally from the poets mind. Structurally, each stanza tends to make a single, quick point about the skylark, or to look at it in a sudden, brief new light; still, the poem does flow, and gradually advances the mini-narrative of the speaker watching the skylark flying higher and higher into the sky, and envying its untrammeled inspirationwhich, if he were to capture it in words, would cause the world to listen

The speaker, addressing a skylark, says that it is a �blithe Spirit� rather than a bird, for its song comes from Heaven, and from its full heart pours �profuse strains of unpremeditated art.� The skylark flies higher and higher, �like a cloud of fire� in the blue sky, singing as it flies. In the �golden lightning� of the sun, it floats and runs, like �an unbodied joy.� As the skylark flies higher and higher, the speaker loses sight of it, but is still able to hear its �shrill delight,� which comes down as keenly as moonbeams in the �white dawn,� which can be felt even when they are not seen. The earth and air ring with the skylark�s voice, just as Heaven overflows with moonbeams when the moon shines out from behind �a lonely cloud.�
The speaker says that no one knows what the skylark is, for it is unique: even �rainbow clouds� do not rain as brightly as the shower of melody that pours from the skylark. The bird is �like a poet hidden / In the light of thought,� able to make the world experience �sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.� It is like a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with �too much sweet.� The skylark�s song surpasses �all that ever was, / Joyous and clear and fresh,� whether the rain falling on the �twinkling grass� or the flowers the rain awakens.
Calling the skylark �Sprite or Bird,� the speaker asks it to tell him its �sweet thoughts,� for he has never heard anyone or anything call up �a flood of rapture so divine.� Compared to the skylark�s, any music would seem lacking. What objects, the speaker asks, are �the fountains of thy happy strain?� Is it fields, waves, mountains, the sky, the plain, or �love of thine own kind� or �ignorance or pain�? Pain and languor, the speaker says, �never came near� the skylark: it loves, but has never known �love�s sad satiety.� Of death, the skylark must know �things more true and deep� than mortals could dream; otherwise, the speaker asks, �how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?�
For mortals, the experience of happiness is bound inextricably with the experience of sadness: dwelling upon memories and hopes for the future, mortal men �pine for what is not�; their laughter is �fraught� with �some pain�; their �sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.� But, the speaker says, even if men could �scorn / Hate and pride and fear,� and were born without the capacity to weep, he still does not know how they could ever approximate the joy expressed by the skylark. Calling the bird a �scorner of the ground,� he says that its music is better than all music and all poetry. He asks the bird to teach him �half the gladness / That thy brain must know,� for then he would overflow with �harmonious madness,� and his song would be so beautiful that the world would listen to him, even as he is now listening to the skylark.

Anyone who has been entranced by a Skylark in the summer sky will appreciate this poem. In fact, anyone that appreciates poetry will like it, however, I didnt like or appreciate this poem simply because I dont much care for this style of poetry and I especially dont care for picking apart hidden meanings in poems. This poem is obviously about a skylark, which I personally think is a really retarded thing to write a poem about. Anyhow, the skylark was Shelley's inspiration for writing this poem and in the final stanza, Shelley concerns himself with wanting to be a skylark. He longs to be released from the chains of monotony in his life and manages to turn this into an obviously Romantic poem. This desire is the "hidden meaning" of Shelley's poem, which takes on a typical Romantic theme. This poem also deals with the idea that the poet has a far more advanced state of mind than that of an average person, this school of thought is conveyed here: "Like a poet hidden/ In the light of thought /Singing hymns unbidden/ Till the world is wrought/ To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not." Shelley views the skylark as some kind of mentor "Teach us, sprite or bird, What sweet thoughts are thine," and he is using the bird's spirit, which is closely compared to a god earlier in the poem, consecutively to show how the poet's mind can teach other people "the truth" about the world

05-10-2010, 07:18 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
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  is a glorious beacon of light

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Plot Summary

Book the First sowing

Hard Times begins in a classroom in the fictional English industrial town of Coketown, where Thomas Gradgrind is explaining his educational principles. He believes education should be based on facts and nothing else. On his way home, Gradgrind passes a circus and is shocked when he finds his two children, Thomas and Louisa, amusing themselves there. He scolds them and takes them home.
At Gradgrind's home, Bounderby is taking pride in explaining to Mrs. Gradgrind about his deprived childhood, when Gradgrind returns and worries about his children's interest in the circus. He and Bounderby decide this is probably because Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe, one of the pupils at the school, is the daughter of one of the circus men. Bounderby gives instructions for Sissy to be dismissed from the school.
Intending to meet Sissy's father, Gradgrind and Bounderby visit the circus folk at the Pegasus's Arms. But Sissy's father has deserted her. Gradgrind agrees with Mr. Sleary, the circus owner, to take Sissy into his own house and educate her.
Bounderby tells Mrs. Sparsit, his housekeeper, that he intends to employ young Tom Gradgrind after he has finished his education. Later, Tom tells Louisa he hates the education he has received. He plans to enjoy himself more when he lives with Bounderby because he knows Bounderby is fond of Louisa, and he plans to use that to his advantage. Meanwhile, Sissy finds it hard to settle down in her new life, with her education in facts alone. She waits every day for a letter from her father, but it never arrives.
Stephen Blackpool, a weaver at a local factory, meets his friend Rachel in the street and walks her home. When he returns to his own house, he finds that his drunken wife has returned to him again. Stephen makes an appointment with Bounderby and asks whether he can divorce his wife. Bounderby says he must live with the situation. On his way home, Stephen is accosted by a mysterious old woman, who asks him about Bounderby, offering no explanation of why she wants the information. When Stephen arrives home, he finds Rachel attending his wife, who has been injured. During the night his wife wakes up and almost drinks some poisonous medicine. Rachel stops her in the nick of time.
Some time passes. Tom goes to live with Bounderby; Gradgrind becomes a member of Parliament, and Bounderby marries Louisa, even though she does not love him. Bounderby then dismisses Mrs. Sparsit but gives her an apartment in the bank.

Book the Second reaping

Bitzer, the bank messenger, informs Mrs. Sparsit that he does not trust Tom. A well-dressed stranger arrives to speak to Mrs. Sparsit, inquiring about Bounderby and his wife. The stranger is James Harthouse, who has been trained in the "hard facts" school of political thought and sent to Coketown by Gradgrind. Harthouse befriends Tom and takes a liking to Louisa, whom he realizes does not love her husband.
A union representative, Slackbridge, gives a fiery speech to the factory hands, in which he condemns Stephen Blackpool for refusing to join their union. Stephen is thereafter scorned by the other factory hands, who refuse to speak to him.
Stephen is summoned to see Bounderby, who fires him, and Stephen decides he must leave town. The mysterious old woman visits Stephen and Rachel and says she is Mrs. Pegler. Louisa and Tom also visit. Louisa gives Stephen a small amount of money to help him on his way, while Tom lays a plot that will result in Stephen being accused of robbery.
Harthouse ingratiates himself with Louisa by revealing that he knows her brother has gambling debts. Harthouse convinces Louisa that he wishes to help Tom, but his purpose is to win over Louisa's heart for himself. Later, Tom confesses to Hart-house that he is in desperate need of money and resents his sister for not giving him more.
Bounderby reports that some money was stolen from Tom's safe at the bank. He suspects that Stephen is the culprit, since Stephen was seen lurking in the vicinity of the bank for several nights. Bounderby also suspects the mysterious old woman he has heard about. But Louisa fears that Tom might have had something to do with it.
Aided by the meddling Mrs. Sparsit, who is jealous of Louisa, Louisa and Harthouse become closer, and Louisa becomes alienated from her husband. When Bounderby is absent, Mrs. Sparsit observes Harthouse and Louisa in earnest conversation. Harthouse tells Louisa he is in love with her. Mrs. Sparsit thinks they are planning to meet in town, and she follows Louisa on the train to Coketown but then loses track of her.
Louisa confesses to her father that she hates her husband. She also confides that she may be in love with someone else, who is waiting for her to meet him. After appealing to her father for help, she faints at his feet.

Book the Third garnering

Louisa wakes up in her old bed at her father's house. She is comforted by her younger sister, Jane. Gradgrind is distressed about her condition and begins to doubt the wisdom of his "hard facts" philosophy.
Harthouse, who is disturbed about why Louisa has not come to meet him as planned, is confronted by Sissy at his hotel. She knows what has happened between Harthouse and Louisa, and she takes it upon herself to demand that Harthouse leave town immediately. Harthouse reluctantly complies.
In the meantime, Mrs. Sparsit has reported her suspicions to Bounderby. Summoned by Bounderby, Gradgrind refutes Mrs. Sparsit's allegations by informing him that Louisa is at his house and has no intention of acting improperly with Harthouse. Gradgrind requests that Louisa be allowed to stay a little longer at his house, but Bounderby is insulted by this suggestion. He sends Louisa's belongings along and resumes life as a bachelor.
Bounderby offers a reward for the arrest of Stephen, who is then publicly denounced by Slackbridge, the union delegate. Rachel writes to Stephen, asking him to return to clear his name. She expects him within two days, but many days go by and Stephen does not appear.
Mrs. Sparsit confronts Mrs. Pegler, who turns out to be Bounderby's mother. It also transpires that Bounderby lied about his deprived childhood. He was, in fact, well provided for.
Sissy and Rachel walk in the country. By chance they find Stephen's hat, which lies near an old mine shaft. They realize that Stephen must have been walking back to Coketown when he fell down the shaft. They summon local villagers for assistance. After much preparation, two men are lowered into the shaft, and they return with Stephen, who is badly injured. He dies before he can receive proper medical attention.
Gradgrind is now sure that Tom is guilty of the robbery. Tom has disappeared, but Sissy knows he is hiding with the circus. Louisa, Sissy, and Gradgrind travel to the town where the circus is, where Tom confesses. The circus owner, Mr. Sleary, agrees to have Tom conveyed to Liverpool and then shipped to America. But Bitzer arrives and tries to take Tom back with him to Coketown. Sleary arranges to have them intercepted on the way, and so Tom escapes as planned.
Bounderby punishes Mrs. Sparsit by sending her away to live with her relative.
Five years later, Bounderby dies of a fit in the street. Gradgrind repudiates his former philosophy and is derided by his political associates. Rachel continues to work hard and shows compassion for Stephen's wife. Lonely, Tom dies of fever on his way home to see his sister. Louisa, although she never has children of her own, is loved by Sissy's children and does her best to stimulate in others a sense of beauty and imagination



Bitzer is a boy who attends Gradgrind's school and later becomes a porter at the bank. He is clearheaded and calculating, without emotion. Near the end of the novel, when Gradgrind tries to arrange for Tom's escape, Bitzer attempts to thwart their plans by taking Tom back to Coketown. He hopes to be rewarded by Bounderby, his employer, with a promotion. In this incident, Bitzer shows he has fully absorbed his education in the "hard facts" school and acts heartlessly in his own selfish interests.

Stephen Blackpool

Stephen Blackpool is a worker at the factory. He is industrious and virtuous, showing no malice to anyone despite how badly he is treated. Stephen is trapped in a bad marriage to an alcoholic wife, who makes his domestic life a nightmare. He has a loyal friend, Rachel, but they are unable to marry because Stephen cannot afford a divorce. Stephen is ostracized by the other workers at the factory because he refuses to join their union. Bounderby decides Stephen is a troublemaker and fires him. Without any means of livelihood, Stephen leaves Coketown, only to find that he has been accused of a robbery he did not commit. Returning to Coketown to clear his name, he falls down a disused mine shaft. He dies shortly after being rescued.

Josiah Bounderby

Josiah Bounderby is one of Coketown's most important citizens. He is a rich, self-made man in his late forties, although he looks older. He is a banker, a manufacturer, and a merchant. Bounderby is an arrogant, conceited, boastful man who takes pride in endlessly repeating how he dragged himself up by his own efforts after he was abandoned by his mother as a child. He practices a kind of inverted snobbery, in which the more wretched and poor he makes his childhood out to have been, the more moral credit he can claim for himself for becoming the important, respected man he is. Bounderby has no understanding of human nature and is content to hold his bigoted opinions. He thinks all the factory workers are idlers who want a life of luxury. He badly misjudges Stephen Blackpool and has no ability to communicate with his young wife, Louisa. When she goes to stay with her father, he angrily rejects her and returns to living as a bachelor. Bounderby's ultimate humiliation comes when his mother appears and reveals in the presence of others that his claim to have been abandoned is untrue. He was in fact well provided for as a child by a loving mother.

Louisa Bounderby

Louisa Bounderby is Thomas Gradgrind's daughter. She is an imaginative child, but she is emotionally stifled by the rigid education she receives in her father's school and household. She is strongly attached to her brother Tom. She agrees to marry Bounderby, even though she does not love him. She does this in part to please Tom, who is living at Bounderby's house and wants to see more of her. Louisa resigns herself to her fate and keeps her emotions under control. She seems to expect nothing more from life than what she receives, since her father has never allowed her to dream. Her life is disrupted when James Harthouse arouses her affections. In turmoil, she goes to stay with her father and confesses how unhappy she is. Bounderby considers that she has left him, and the marriage is in effect over, although there is no divorce. Louisa lives the rest of her life trying to encourage others to live a more balanced life than mere facts can provide.

Thomas Gradgrind

Thomas Gradgrind is a local businessman who made money in the hardware trade. He prides himself on being "eminently practical" and values only facts and figures. He raises his children according to these principles, refusing to let them indulge in "fancy." He even admonishes them when he finds them trying to peep into a circus booth. Gradgrind becomes a Member of Parliament and only begins to realize the error of his ways when he discovers how unhappy his daughter Louisa is. His misery is compounded when he learns that his son, Tom, is a thief. Realizing that his "hard facts" philosophy is deeply flawed, he tries to amend his life, paying more attention to the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. He is then scorned by his former political associates.

Tom Gradgrind

Tom Gradgrind is Thomas Gradgrind's son and Louisa's brother. He dislikes the education he receives from his father and becomes a failure by his father's standard. Put under Bounderby's wing, he becomes a clerk at the bank, but he is lazy and also accumulates gambling debts. To escape from the debts, he steals money from the bank and tries to frame Stephen Blackpool for the crime. To escape justice, he is forced to emigrate to the United States.

James Harthouse

James Harthouse is a charming but cynical gentleman who has found no true mission in life. He has been a cavalry officer and has traveled around the world, but he always gets bored with what he is doing. He is recruited by Gradgrind for the utilitarian cause and sent to Coketown. But Harthouse only pretends to be a utilitarian and merely idles his time away. He ingratiates himself with Tom Gradgrind and tries to seduce Louisa, but when confronted by Sissy, he agrees to leave town.

Cecilia Jupe

Cecilia Jupe, known as Sissy, is a young girl whose father is a member of the circus. When her father deserts her, Gradgrind takes her into his house and allows her to attend his school. Sissy does not fare well at school because she is too much in touch with her heart and does not understand the school's emphasis on mere facts and figures. She and Louisa become friends, and when Louisa is pursued by Harthouse, Sissy confronts him and demands that he leave town.

Mr. M'choakumchild

Mr M'Choakumchild is the teacher in Gradgrind's school. He is well trained and knowledgeable, but the narrator does not believe he is a good teacher.

Mrs. Pegler

Mrs. Pegler is Josiah Bounderby's mother. She appears mysteriously in Coketown without at first disclosing her identity. But when she meets her son, she discloses the true details of his upbringing, which he has falsified.


Rachel is Stephen Blackpool's longtime friend. She shows great love and loyalty to him, even though she knows they will never be able to marry. She is with him when he dies.


Slackbridge is the union delegate who gives a rabble-rousing speech to the factory workers. He excoriates Stephen Blackpool for not joining their union and later on is quick to condemn Stephen again when Stephen is accused of robbery.

Mr. Sleary

Mr. Sleary is the owner of the circus. He is a kindly old man who suffers from asthma and is frequently the worse for drink. His philosophy is the opposite of Gradgrind's; he believes that people cannot spend all their lives working and learning because they must also have their amusements. Near the end of the novel, he shelters Tom Gradgrind and makes arrangements for Tom to leave the country.

Mrs. Sparsit

Mrs. Sparsit is Bounderby's housekeeper. She comes from the distinguished Powler family, but a long time ago she entered a disastrous marriage and has since come down in the world. She takes a dislike to Louisa and takes great pleasure in the breakup of Louisa's marriage to Bounderby. Bounderby eventually dismisses her, and she goes to live with her irascible great aunt, Lady Scadgers.

Stephen Blackpool's Wife

Stephen Blackpool's wife is never named. She has been married to Stephen for nineteen years, but the marriage deteriorated early because of her love of drink. She remains a drunk who brings her husband nothing but misery


Fact Versus Fancy

Mr. Gradgrind's educational philosophy is based on the utilitarian idea that only facts and figures are important. This excludes all other values, especially "fancy." Everything in Gradgrind's world is based on facts, measurement, and strict order. Even his house, with its rigidly symmetrical design, reflects his principles, as do the grounds. Lawn, garden, and walkway are all "ruled straight like a botanical account-book."
Fancy, on the other hand, is embodied in the child's sense of wonder, which Gradgrind attempts to eradicate in his children. Tom and Louisa are not allowed to read poetry, learn nursery rhymes, or indulge in other childish amusements. Instead of toys, their nursery contains cabinets in which various metallurgical and mineralogical specimens are neatly arranged and labeled. Once, when Louisa began a conversation by saying, "I wonder," her father had replied, "Louisa, never wonder!" For him, all questions in life can be solved by calculation, by arithmetic. Anything that is not amenable to such analysis, that does not have a tangible reality, does not really exist.
Gradgrind's world of "hard facts" also excludes all the values of the heart. This is amusingly depicted when Louisa deliberates about how to respond to Bounderby's marriage proposal. Gradgrind invites her to consider only the facts. Regarding the thirty-year difference between her and Bounderby, Gradgrind offers some statistics. He informs her that a large proportion of marriages in England and Wales are between people of very unequal ages and that in three-quarters of these cases, the elder party is the man. Similar statistics apply, according to Gradgrind, to British possessions in India and in China. Having established these facts, Gradgrind asserts that the difference in the ages of Louisa and Bounderby virtually disappears. For Gradgrind, there is nothing else to consider. Louisa's feelings in the matter are not important.
Facts and statistics are at the heart of the curriculum in Coketown's school. This is why Sissy, who was raised in a circus family (the embodiment of fancy, according to Gradgrind), does not fare well there. The schoolmaster, the appropriately named M'Choakumchild, tries to convince her with statistics about how prosperous a town is if, out of a million inhabitants, only twenty-five starve to death in the streets each year. Sissy replies that it must be just as hard on the twenty-five, however many people there are who are not starving. Sissy always gives common sense answers that show she is in touch with the feeling level of life. She converts statistics into real people with real lives, which is not the way to flourish in Gradgrind's model school.
Gradgrind's dedication to facts does not work because it deprives people of vital aspects of their humanity. Louisa is forced to live an emotionally stifled life and finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage. Tom resents his education and says he would like to take all the facts and figures he has been taught and all the people who had taught them and blow them up with gunpowder. In Book Three, everything Gradgrind represents unravels. Louisa's marriage fails, and Tom is revealed as a thief. Such are the fruits of Gradgrind's "hard facts" approach to education.
The only person who thrives on the education he receives is Bitzer, who shows in his confrontation with Gradgrind in Book Three how well he has absorbed his lessons. When Gradgrind, trying to Tom, asks Bitzer whether he has a heart, Bitzer replies in true Gradgrindian fashion: Since the blood cannot circulate without a heart to pump it, he certainly does have a heart. But it operates only according to the dictates of reason. Bitzer wants to take Tom back to Coketown because he expects Bounderby to reward him by promoting him at the bank. When Gradgrind tells him he has only his own interests at heart, Bitzer reminds his mentor that the whole social system is set up as a matter of self-interest. He is only repeating what he was taught. Gradgrind, to his distress, is hoisted on his own petard.

Evils of Industrialism

Dickens's critique of industrialism is apparent in his physical descriptions of Coketown and in his presentation of relations between owners and workers.
Coketown is an unnatural, blighted place, constructed according to the utilitarian philosophy that Dickens refers to as Fact. Everything in Coketown is designed to maximize industrial output. Nothing else matters. The town itself is disfigured by all the smoke that belches from the factory chimneys and which turns the red bricks of the houses black. The river has been polluted by bad-smelling dye, and the canal is black. All the houses are exactly like one another, and all the other buildings resemble one another, too. (The jail, the infirmary and the town hall all look the same.) Everything, including the people, has been reduced to drab conformity. The place runs according to clockwork; everyone's routine is the same, day after day, year after year. It is a place not fit for humans to live in. This is symbolized by the variety of crooked and stunted chimneys on the houses, which proclaim that anyone born under these roofs is likely to be stunted in some way, too.
Industrialism, with its emphasis on efficient production and nothing else, has ruined the lives of the workers in the factories, who toil long, monotonous hours, with little relief. Relations between the classes in Coketown are abysmal. The employers have a contemptuous opinion of the workers. They think the factory hands drink too much or stupefy themselves with opium. This hostile attitude is represented by Bounderby, who regards all the workers as ungrateful and restless, forever dissatisfied with their lot, even though, in his mind, they can afford to live well. Bounderby assumes the factory hands are all lazy and that anyone who complains simply wants a life of luxury, with "a coach and six, and to be fed on turtle soup and venison, with a gold spoon." He dismisses legitimate complaints as the work of external agitators.
Stephen Blackpool expresses the situation between the two groups in a nutshell when he says the bosses consider themselves "awlus right," while the workers are "awlus wrong," no matter what they say or do. Stephen regards the economic and political system in Coketown and beyond as a "muddle." He can offer no solution to the problem (and neither does Dickens), but he does tell Bounderby the approaches that will not work. It is no use the employers trying to defeat the workers by force. Nor will the economic policy of laissez faire favored by the utilitarians accomplish anything. Stephen calls this "lettin alone"; it refers to the policy of allowing market forces to dictate economic arrangements without interference by government. According to Stephen, this will only create a "black unpassable world" between the two groups. Most of all, Stephen says, it will not work to treat the workers as machines rather than as human beings with feelings and hopes. Bounderby's response to this is to fire Stephen.
Dickens, although often accused of writing a didactic work, offers no prescription for redeeming places like Coketown or changing economic systems that put men like Bounderby in charge of them. His final image is of Louisa doing what she can in her own small sphere to keep alive the hope of a balanced life, one not ruthlessly circumscribed by the worship of purely utilitarian considerations



Satire is the literary technique of exposing someone or something to ridicule. The intent is to arouse contempt or amusement in the reader. Gradgrind, M'Choakumchild, Bounderby, and Mrs. Sparsit are the principle targets of satire in Hard Times, as well as the powers-that-be in Coketown.
For example, in Book 1, chapter 2, the description of the rigors of M'Choakumchild's training and the long list of the subjects he has studied are not meant to impress the reader with his knowledge and wisdom. On the contrary, they are set out only to mock him, as the facetious tone suggests and as the last sentence explicitly states: "Ah, rather overdone, M'Choakumchild. If he had only learnt a little less, how infinitely better he might have taught much more!" The point is that M'Choakumchild may know a lot, but he has neither the wisdom nor the skill to know how to impart it to young minds.
Sometimes Dickens uses satiric irony, in which the satire is carried out by implying the opposite of what the surface meaning of the words states. This technique can be seen in the way Gradgrind mentally introduces himself to virtually anyone he encounters:
Thomas Gradgrind, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over.
The irony is that Gradgrind thinks this shows what an intelligent, "eminently practical" man he is, but of course to the reader it means the exact opposite.


Coketown is always enveloped in clouds of smoke, which are belched out from the chimneys of houses and factories. They are described as "serpents of smoke," primarily because they trail out in a coiled shape that never uncoils. The image, which is repeated several times in the novel, suggests the ominous, life-denying quality of the industrial town, as if an evil, serpent-like spirit hovers over it. The serpent-smoke image is used in conjunction with an elephant image. The pistons of the steam engines in the factories as they move up and down are likened several times to "the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness," an image that gives to inanimate objects the sinister, aggressive quality of great animal power trapped in endless repetitive activity.


Pegasus, the winged horse from Greek mythology, is used in the novel as a symbol of fancy, as opposed to fact. The circus folk, who embody the fancy-principle, live at the Pegasus's Arms, which has a picture of Pegasus on its signboard. Inside, behind the bar, is a framed portrait of "another Pegasus," one of the circus horses, "with real gauze let in for his wings, golden stars stuck on all over him, and his ethereal harness made of red silk." The circus performers make their living by riding horses and performing feats of balance, strength, and horsemanship on them. The horses are a vital part of the entertainment that the circus offers, giving people a sense of wonder, something other than facts and figures. Horses can make the human imagination soar.
The Pegasus symbol offers a devastating comment on Gradgrind's directive to the children in class (Book 1, chapter 2), to define a horse. Bitzer offers a purely factual definition, which includes this: "Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive." This definition pleases Gradgrind, but of course it excludes everything symbolized by Pegasus. The point is driven home further if the flying Pegasus is seen in light of the comment made by the government gentleman to the children in Gradgrind's class. He tells them that they would never paper a room with representations of horses because such a thing would contradict reality: "Do you ever see horses walking up and down the sides of rooms in reality in fact?" The government gentleman cannot conceive of a horse like Pegasus, but "fancy" can



05-10-2010, 07:19 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
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  is a glorious beacon of light

The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth

The Tables Turned

by William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun, above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives

The speaker begins by telling his friend to stop reading books; he'll become fat from being sedentary. The speaker then asks why he chooses to be so serious while outside there is a beautiful evening scene:

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks,
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.
The speaker continues, telling his friend that books are dull and tedious. Rather than reading, he should venture outside to where the linnet (a small finch) and the throstle (a song bird) are singing beautiful music containing more wisdom than any book. The two lines that follow (15 and 16) are probably the most important in the poem: "Come forth into the light of things, / Let Nature be your teacher." The speaker is telling his friend that Nature has more to teach than books, and that he should go outside rather than seek refuge in dry pages:
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.
In the next two stanzas the speaker tells his friend that Mother Nature is full of wealth, and that she is ready to bestow her fruits on our minds and hearts. He also says that in nature wisdom comes from being happy and healthy, and that a person can learn more about humanity and about good and evil from a tree than from a sage:
She has a world of ready wealth,Our minds and hearts to bless--
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
The speaker suggests that even though nature brings humanity sweet traditions of intelligence, we tend to ruin that knowledge by dissecting it. Instead, we should reject traditional science and art and simply come into nature ready to learn with "a heart / That watches and receives":
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

"The Tables Turned" consists of eight four-line stanzas in interlocking rhymes (abab). It is in ballad form, written in iambs with four beats in the first and third lines of each stanza, and three beats in the second and fourth lines.
It certainly seems strange to find a poet telling his friend (and through his friend his readers) to stop reading, and yet much of what Wordsworth is saying in "The Tables Turned" fits perfectly with the Romantic Movement, which emphasizes the importance of being a part of nature. For Wordsworth there is much more to be learned by watching, listening to, and simply taking in one's surroundings than by studying books. At the same time, there is a strong element of irony at play here. First of all, Wordsworth is making these statements in a poem, which will become (as he knew it would) a part of a book meant to be read. Even though he believes that nature is a great teacher, he is not ready to throw away books altogether.
It is important to note the poem's title: "The Tables Turned." The title leads us to believe that Wordsworth is reacting to the status quo, or to the way that people usually think, which in this case is that books are the best way to learn. In order to make the strongest statement possible, Wordsworth goes to the opposite extreme, even though his true feelings probably lie somewhere in the middle

05-10-2010, 07:21 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey

Lines by Wordsworth

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.




The full title of this poem is Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798. It opens with the speakers declaration that five years have passed since he last visited this location, encountered its tranquil, rustic scenery, and heard the murmuring waters of the river. He recites the objects he sees again, and describes their effect upon him: the steep and lofty cliffs impress upon him thoughts of more deep seclusion; he leans against the dark sycamore tree and looks at the cottage-grounds and the orchard trees, whose fruit is still unripe. He sees the wreaths of smoke rising up from cottage chimneys between the trees, and imagines that they might rise from vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, or from the cave of a hermit in the deep forest.

The speaker then describes how his memory of these beauteous forms has worked upon him in his absence from them: when he was alone, or in crowded towns and cities, they provided him with sensations sweet, / Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart. The memory of the woods and cottages offered tranquil restoration to his mind, and even affected him when he was not aware of the memory, influencing his deeds of kindness and love. He further credits the memory of the scene with offering him access to that mental and spiritual state in which the burden of the world is lightened, in which he becomes a living soul with a view into the life of things. The speaker then says that his belief that the memory of the woods has affected him so strongly may be vainbut if it is, he has still turned to the memory often in times of fretful stir.
Even in the present moment, the memory of his past experiences in these surroundings floats over his present view of them, and he feels bittersweet joy in reviving them. He thinks happily, too, that his present experience will provide many happy memories for future years. The speaker acknowledges that he is different now from how he was in those long-ago times, when, as a boy, he bounded oer the mountains and through the streams. In those days, he says, nature made up his whole world: waterfalls, mountains, and woods gave shape to his passions, his appetites, and his love. That time is now past, he says, but he does not mourn it, for though he cannot resume his old relationship with nature, he has been amply compensated by a new set of more mature gifts; for instance, he can now look on nature, not as in the hour / Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity. And he can now sense the presence of something far more subtle, powerful, and fundamental in the light of the setting suns, the ocean, the air itself, and even in the mind of man; this energy seems to him a motion and a spirit that impels / All thinking thoughts.... / And rolls through all things. For that reason, he says, he still loves nature, still loves mountains and pastures and woods, for they anchor his purest thoughts and guard the heart and soul of his moral being.
The speaker says that even if he did not feel this way or understand these things, he would still be in good spirits on this day, for he is in the company of his dear, dear (d) Sister, who is also his dear, dear Friend, and in whose voice and manner he observes his former self, and beholds what I was once. He offers a prayer to nature that he might continue to do so for a little while, knowing, as he says, that Nature never did betray / The heart that loved her, but leads rather from joy to joy. Natures power over the mind that seeks her out is such that it renders that mind impervious to evil tongues, rash judgments, and the sneers of selfish men, instilling instead a cheerful faith that the world is full of blessings. The speaker then encourages the moon to shine upon his sister, and the wind to blow against her, and he says to her that in later years, when she is sad or fearful, the memory of this experience will help to heal her. And if he himself is dead, she can remember the love with which he worshipped nature. In that case, too, she will remember what the woods meant to the speaker, the way in which, after so many years of absence, they became more dear to himboth for themselves and for the fact that she is in them.


Tintern Abbey is composed in blank verse, which is a name used to describe unrhymed lines in iambic pentameter. Its style is therefore very fluid and natural; it reads as easily as if it were a prose piece. But of course the poetic structure is tightly constructed; Wordsworths slight variations on the stresses of iambic rhythms is remarkable. Lines such as Here, under this dark sycamore, and view do not quite conform to the stress-patterns of the meter, but fit into it loosely, helping Wordsworth approximate the sounds of natural speech without grossly breaking his meter. Occasionally, divided lines are used to indicate a kind of paragraph break, when the poet changes subjects or shifts the focus of his discourse.


The subject of Tintern Abbey is memoryspecifically, childhood memories of communion with natural beauty. Both generally and specifically, this subject is hugely important in Wordsworths work, reappearing in poems as late as the Intimations of Immortality ode. Tintern Abbey is the young Wordsworths first great statement of his principle (great) theme: that the memory of pure communion with nature in childhood works upon the mind even in adulthood, when access to that pure communion has been lost, and that the maturity of mind present in adulthood offers compensation for the loss of that communionspecifically, the ability to look on nature and hear human music; that is, to see nature with an eye toward its relationship to human life. In his youth, the poet says, he was thoughtless in his unity with the woods and the river; now, five years since his last viewing of the scene, he is no longer thoughtless, but acutely aware of everything the scene has to offer him. Additionally, the presence of his sister gives him a view of himself as he imagines himself to have been as a youth. Happily, he knows that this current experience will provide both of them with future memories, just as his past experience has provided him with the memories that flicker across his present sight as he travels in the woods.

Tintern Abbey is a monologue, imaginatively spoken by a single speaker to himself, referencing the specific objects of its imaginary scene, and occasionally addressing othersonce the spirit of nature, occasionally the speakers sister. The language of the poem is striking for its simplicity and forthrightness; the young poet is in no way concerned with ostentation. He is instead concerned with speaking from the heart in a plainspoken manner. The poems imagery is largely confined to the natural world in which he moves, though there are some castings-out for metaphors ranging from the nautical (the memory is the anchor of the poets purest thought) to the architectural (the mind is a mansion of memory).
The poem also has a subtle strain of religious sentiment; though the actual form of the Abbey does not appear in the poem, the idea of the abbeyof a place consecrated to the spiritsuffuses the scene, as though the forest and the fields were themselves the speakers abbey. This idea is reinforced by the speakers description of the power he feels in the setting sun and in the mind of man, which consciously links the ideas of God, nature, and the human mindas they will be linked in Wordsworths poetry for the rest of his life, from It is a beauteous evening, calm and free to the great summation of the Immortality Ode

A Synopsis of Wordsworth's "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"
I. ( 1-23) He returns to the Wye after a long absence.

He is at the Wye again after a five year absence. It brings to his mind a more deep seclusion, and he describes the scene which he sees once again.

II. (24-49) In his absence images and feelings of this place have sustained him, guided his moral life, and even allowed him vision into the life of things.

Though absent long thoughts of this place have often been with him.

Not just images, but feelings too, which have a great influence on the moral life.

But he also owes to them a mood of serenity in which the body is laid asleep and in which our soul can see into the life of things.

III. (50-58) Even if this higher vision be impossible, he has often turned to memories of this place in dark times.

Even if this higher vision may be impossible, he has turned often to his thoughts of the Wye in the face of the joyless fever of the world.

IV. (59-112) He contemplates the differences in his love and reverence of nature from that former time to now. He has increased and deepened his love, though it is different now.

Now he looks on it again with hopes that it will serve him as a storehouse of images and feelings over the long years of the future.

He hopes that ...

Even though he is changed from his time here as a boy, when he was immersed in nature and needed nothing beyond the immediate interest of his glad animal movements and their surroundings.

He does not long for that lost time, for he has gained something: he can look upon nature not in the hour but also hearing the still sad music of humanity.

And he has felt the presence of a great motion and spirit that impels all things.

Therefore he is still a lover of nature and of the world of sense which we half-create, and recognizes in them both the guide and anchor of his moral being.

V. (113-160) Not only is he revived by nature, but also by his sister who reminds him of his former self and for whose sake he loves nature even more.

But even were he not so taught by nature, he would still not allow his heart to decay.

For his sister is here with him, and he can see in her the language of his former heart.

So he makes this prayer to Nature, who can impress our minds with beauties that will lead us to bless life despite its cruelties and dreariness:

Let Nature shine upon you, and in later years, when your mind is stored with these memories, if evil befall you, you will remember my words with tender joy.

Or if I should be gone, you will not forget that we stood here, and I a worshipper of nature came unwearied, nay more ardent in love.

Nor will you forget that after these many years these woods were more dear to me, both for their sake and for yours.


05-10-2010, 07:33 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
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  is a glorious beacon of light

05-13-2010, 08:18 PM
: 10 - 11 - 2007
: 14,922
: 23
  is a glorious beacon of light

We Are Seven by William wordsworth

We Are Seven by William wordsworth


We Are Seven

A simple child, dear brother Jim,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl,
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That cluster'd round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad;
Her eyes were fair, and very fair,
--Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? seven in all," she said,
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they, I pray you tell?"
She answered, "Seven are we,
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea."

"Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother,
And in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet you are seven; I pray you tell
Sweet Maid, how this may be?"

Then did the little Maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree."

"You run about, my little maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little Maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door,
And they are side by side."

"My stockings there I often knit,
My 'kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit--
I sit and sing to them."

"And often after sunset, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there."

"The first that died was little Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain,
And then she went away."

"So in the church-yard she was laid,
And all the summer dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I."

"And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you then," said I,
"If they two are in Heaven?"
The little Maiden did reply,
"O Master! we are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven

"We are Seven" by William Wordsworth, first published in 1798 in the highly significant collection of poems entitled Lyrical Ballads, is a touching and emotionally beautiful piece. It is a strong and powerful poem which rates amongst the very best of Wordsworth's work.

Set within the confines of a churchyard it features a man who gets in an innocent, but thought-provoking conversation with a young girl of eight years of age. He joyfully asks how many brothers and sisters she has got, expecting a simple reply, but finds much more than he bargains for.

Thematically it is nothing new, it features something which is runs through many of Wordsworth's poems, that of an adult figure learning from the innocence and wisdom of a child or the common figure. Though as ever Wordsworth deals with interesting subject matter in a non-complex way. However it is the nature of the poem which makes it something special, even for Wordsworth.

Structurally it consists of seventeen verses complete with four lines in each. As is standard for Wordsworth it features simple language in order to convey a direct and "none poetic" voice, as was his intention in writing the Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge. It features an easy ABAB rhyme scheme throughout. But now to examine more of the beauty and emotion of this poem.

Immediately the first stanza captures something of the brooding nature of the whole piece:

A simple child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?

It sets the tone of the poem and is a very commanding opening. The contrast of the child and death together immediately jars and places a dark shadow over the atmosphere of the poem. The third line "And Feels its life in every limb" effortlessly captures the nature of the child at play. We can see that it draws out the theme of innocence and the knowledge of simplicity as discussed above.

From there we are introduced to the main conflict in the poem the question of how many brothers and sisters she has:

Sisters and Brothers, little Maid

How many may you be?

Here is the innocent question which provokes such a powerful conflict within the poem as a whole. Throughout the poem the little girl insists that she has seven (including herself) despite two of them being dead. The narrator is somewhat confused by her claim figuring that she as simply miscalculated.

If two are in the church yard laid,

Then ye are only five.

man is jovial still in his replies and this comes across in the tone of the poem, in fact it is not until after the poem has ended in which we feel the narrator comes to realise the real significance of the child's thoughts. In the conversation the child is quietly steadfast in her replies to the man as she sits amongst the gravestones of her fallen relatives. Death is something which is obviously common place to the child as it would have been in the early part of 19th century Britain. The death of her brother and sister is something which is presented in a lightening and heartfelt way. Wordsworth is able to convey this subject matter as merely something which is part of daily life. The real understanding that death does not separate the memory of loved ones still goes amiss upon the narrator.

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little Maid's reply,
"O Master! we are seven."

The insistence can be seen here in the last line, the use of the exclamation adding to her response. But the real power of her thoughts is not fully felt till the last lines of the poem:

The little Maid would have her will,
And said, "Nay, we are seven!"

The strength of the last line here shows the little girl having the real sense of power in the conversation, it is a final solid reply which puts an end to this thought proving and poignant poem.

In "We are Seven" it is difficult not to feel a strong sense of emotion, but this is not the real objective of it. The real point of the poem is that it captures the importance of innocence, of looking at the world with child-like eyes. It is a gentle and beautiful reminder to look at the world afresh each and everyday.

William Wordsworth was a great English poet. He is known for his contribution in romantic English literature. "We are Seven" is a poem which was published in 1798 in his "Lyrical Ballads". This poem is the best example of Wordsworth's great interest in nature.

The subject of this poem is a conversation between a man and a girl. The man plays the role of narrator who asks questions to a girl who serves as a maid in a cottage about her family and she tells him about her siblings. The poem begins with the introduction of that little girl and the question that what a child can know about the death.

Narrator describes about the girl with whom he met few years back. She was eight year old and her hair was curly and thick. Her eyes were very bright and her simple beauty made him delighted. He asks her about her siblings and she answers that there are seven brothers and sisters including her in the family.

The man asks her where her brothers and sisters are and she says that two are in Conway (a town), two are at sea and two are dead and resting in churchyard. She lives near the graveyard with her mother. The man gets confused with the answer of the little girl and asks her that if two of them are dead than how she can have seven siblings. He tells her that if two are resting in churchyard, then she has only five siblings.

But the little girl replies to him that the graves of her two siblings are green and can be seen from her house. Both of them are resting in their graves side by side. She often sings a song for them while she knit her stockings or sews a handkerchief. Sometimes she eats her supper besides the graves of her siblings.

She further tells him that how her sister Jane died because of sickness. After her death, she and her brother John used to play around her grave. During the winter, her brother John also dies and he is now resting next to her sister Jane.

But man asks her again that how many are siblings are you then and little girl quickly replies to him that we are seven. The man again tries to convince her that if the two of them are dead than how there can be seven brothers and sisters in the family. But little girl sticks to her answer and says that they are seven brothers and sisters. The narrator finally gives up his efforts to convince her that after the death of two siblings, there are only five siblings left in the family.

This poem exhibits the innocence of children who know nothing about the death. For the little girl, her two dead siblings are still with her as she continued playing with them. Wordsworth explained in this poem that children understand more about life and death than the grown-ups as we don't want to accept the death of our loved ones and mourn for them, while innocent children accept the changes after the death of their loved ones and continue their lives in best possible way like that little girl

The Seventeen four line stanzas of "We are Seven" by William Wordsworth is a delightful soul searching type of poem that makes one think of innocence and the purity of children. At least at the first reading. Then we begin to question the Poet's reasons for writing the poem. This is not a classroom work in that there will be no interpretation of the structure of the poem, the words and their meaning stand alone. I understand the words were written by Wordsworth and that the proper way of analyzing a poem is to get inside the mind of the poet and tell of the poem's structure. William Wordsworth may have written his poem for other poets, but the words stand alone. They go where they want to go. Far more interesting to me is trying to figure out why a poet would choose such a topic.The method he uses is of small consequence to me.

I don't care about the mechanics of poetry. What I care about are the words and how they go about telling their story and allowing each reader to interpret their meaning. In this little girl's way of thinking, her family is still intact although two siblings are buried out back in the family cemetery. Right off, in stanza one, the poets alerts us to the subject of the poem, what children know of death. This adamant child who knows her own mind was eight.

Wanting to know how many was in her family, he asks, and she says seven. He asks her where they are. She tells him: two of us at Conway dwell, / and two are gone to sea. // Two of us in the church yard lie, / my sister and my brother; / And in the churchyard cottage, I / I dwell near them with my mother.//

He then poetically tells her this is not adding up right. There are actually five living children if two are already buried. Yet she insists her story is right. You run about, my little maid, / Your limbs they are alive; / If two are in the church-yard laid, / Then there are only five. No, she tells him, they graves are grown over with green grass and you can see where they are. Not only that, she tells him, often I go sit with them and knit and sing to them.

Never did the poet get the little girl to admit her family only know counted up to five. And of course since he was talking to himself and using this means to get across to readers that death is a beginning and not an ending, he slyly introduced the idea of life after death. Grow up minds often cannot grasp the complexity of this, but children, he wants to show, have no trouble with this concept. In a way, Wordsworth is a child's poet. In some of his ways to get across meanings he makes more impact with youthful untrained minds than he does with older, more adult minds.

It is possible that youth have yet to look beyond his ploys and think him profound when adults will clearly have figured out his motives. It is okay to write poetry in any way one feels like writing poetry, and Wordsworth did just that. Yet, the more one reads his kind of poetry the more one much prefers his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge's style over his. The two were good friends at one time and then they drifted apart. As far as talent goes, Coleridge is by the more talented, I suggest.

That thought is slightly off topic from We are Seven, but not far. What I want to say is that it probably would never have occurred to is friend to write such a poem. It would have been too superficial. He would have been deep down in the sod in the churchyard sending tales of the other world back to the eight year old child to comfort her! The words that are repeated over and again when questioned , "Sir, we are seven", tells me his thoughts at the time and allows me to guess and to ponder and to think upon the ideas he opened up with this poem




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