“Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth



         ” I HEARD a thousand blended notes,

          While in a grove I sate reclined,

          In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts

          Bring sad thoughts to the mind.


          To her fair works did Nature link

          The human soul that through me ran;

          And much it grieved my heart to think

          What man has made of man.


          Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,

          The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;                         10

          And ’tis my faith that every flower

          Enjoys the air it breathes.


          The birds around me hopped and played,

          Their thoughts I cannot measure:–

          But the least motion which they made

          It seemed a thrill of pleasure.


          The budding twigs spread out their fan,

          To catch the breezy air;

          And I must think, do all I can,

          That there was pleasure there.                              20


          If this belief from heaven be sent,

          If such be Nature’s holy plan,

          Have I not reason to lament

          What man has made of man?”

                                                            William Wordsworth,  1798.


This poem describes William Wordsworth outside on a day in early spring. Everything is so alive and seems to be enjoying the world so greatly, its contrast against the human reaction to things is rather depressing. All the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. The author wonders why such a pleasant atmosphere brings such sad thoughts to mind.

Spring has always represented a period of rebirth and renewal, both in nature and in literature. It is the beginning of a new cycle, a new beginning. Why is Wordsworth so sad?

One possiblility could be a natural resistance to change. I know personally I am not a huge fan of change and large changes seem very difficult to me.

This poem may also discuss the isolated position of man in the world. Man is stuck in between everything; not quite a man and not quite a beast. He has the capacity to look at the world around him and comprehend and mentally process it to a level that is far beyond still being a beast, and yet he is not capable of communicating fully with the bestial world or completely understanding the essence of human instinct. Man, however, is not God. There are circumstances that are so far above him that he can do nothing about. Man is a mortal being, subject to the elements and his own decisions. It leaves man in the middle ground. He cannot be fully satisfied with such a pleasant day as nature is because he is able to think and understand things to a new level that takes away a certain level of bestial innocence. However, he is not able to fix these things and must simply deal with them. For instance, he may listen to the birds chatting away merrily to each other, but he cannot comprehend what they are saying. He is excluded from the world of the beasts. The last stanza talks about whether these beliefs are heaven send, acknowledging that man is not god. Man is what man makes of himself. Because he is between the lines, it is up to him to decide what direction he will move in. Wordsworth seems to lament that man has not stayed more simplistic.


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