Critical Appreciation of William Wordsworth's The Solitary Reaper

"He spoke, and loos'd our heart in tears.
He laid us as we lay at birth
On the cool flowery lap of earth."

Matthew Arnold (1822 - 1888)

In Wordsworthian poetry the temple of Mother Nature is a constitution of three guiding principles: Solitude, Silence and Loneliness, and his The Solitary Reaper is typically characterized by them which results in a perfect ballad with its simplicity, suggestiveness, pathos and verbal music. Inspired by Wilkinson’s Tour in Scotland the poem is a sweet -melancholic memoirs of tour de Scotland. While poet Wordsworth was touring Scottish highland along with his dear sister Dorothy, he met a reaper girl in her spontaneous moods. Such of this sweet piece of memory of the highland reaper girl is beautifully exhibited through this poem.

The poet has seen a highland girl working alone in the cornfield. Here is piece of ordinary human life and Wordsworth’s choice of the subject illustrates his theory of poetry where there is elevation of common and humble theme with the glory of simple lyrical grace relinquishing the doggerel verse of Neo-classical poetry. Wordsworth thus describes how she is reaping and musing a folk song rapturously which at once arrests his mind and he gently asks passers-by not to disturb her .Because such a melody and passion should not be intruded by any artificial care and anxiety of ours:

“Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass!”

The sweet but melancholic tune of the girl’s song in this secluded and solitary atmosphere is magical and spellbound the mystic nature poet Wordsworth. While the deep valley was filled with this sonorous voice, the poet can not but asks everyone to take a notice of her. In fact, it is a call for us to search for the perfect voice amid nature; an appeal to introspection:

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

The poet is so enthralled by the reaper’s song that he finds it prettier than the nightingale or cuckoo. Soothing nightingale that the walk-weary travelers in Arabian Deserts while resting in an oasis might listen or cuckoo’s silence breaking clarions in Hebrides islands – both can not surpass the present melody of reaper girl.

“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.”
However, as the reaper girl is singing a Gaelic dialect the poet can not follow the theme of the song. He only guesses that the girl might be singing 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 it seems to be unending and the poet listens to them “motionless and still”. The rapturous poet, however, reluctantly leaves the place. But the song of the girl leaves an abiding influence in him and as he traveled up the hill, he carries her song with him in the core of his heart as a source of joy for ever:

The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”

The poet William Wordsworth carries the song of the reaper girl in his heart because such a sweet- sad enchanted song is spontaneous and is identified with nature. The reaper for a moment becomes the soul of the solitary valley; her song becomes the sad music of humanity. In the romantic heart of the poet such a sight and sound will never sink into oblivion and perhaps, when recollected, they will give him endless joy and inspirations. Again, here Wordsworth implicitly means to say that he has drunk the elixir of the music and assimilates it in his existence. Thus the music he bears becomes his personae.