The Solitary Reaper Summary and Analysis

About the poem The Solitary Reaper

  • The Solitary Reaper is a popular lyric poem written by William Wordsworth who was the pioneer of English Poetry
  • This poem was originally composed on 5th November 1805 and first published in the year 1807
  • In fact, William Wordsworth’s trip to Scotland in 1803 with his sister Dorothy inspired the lyrical poem The Solitary Reaper
  • Here, in this short poetic work, the speaker tries (but, he fails) to describe a song he had heard a Highland girl singing as well as cropping in a Scottish field
  • He can not understand that young woman’s song; that is why he is not able to describe what it was about
  • Moreover, the speaker of the poem The Solitary Reaper also can not find the appropriate/suitable language to describe the beauty of this song. According to him the traditional metaphors for this glorious song fail him 
  • In this way, this pure pastoral poem, The Solitary Reaper calls implicitly for a new kind of poetry – one that is capable of approximating as well as describing the pure, pretentious beauty of the reader’s 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.

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.

  The Solitary Reaper Summary 

The speaker of the poem The Solitary Reaper is wandering aimlessly on his way. All of a sudden he sees a Highland girl alone in the field who is reaping the crop as well as singing a  song to herself.

The speaker says to the passers-by either to stop there in order to listen to her song or walk on without making a noise/quietly. The girl sings a sad/melancholic song while cutting as well as gathering the grain/crop. He further says to listen to her song; according to him, the deep valley is overflowing with her music.

The song of The Solitary Reaper girl is special for the speaker. He says though the nightingale is known/popular for its singing to the tired group(s) of travelers in the Arabian desert when they rest at an Oasis, the nightingale can not sing better than the Highland girl.

Moreover, the cuckoo-bird also never sings with such an affecting voice in the spring, breaking the silence of the ocean around the Scottish Isles.

The speaker of The Solitary Reaper completely fails in his effort to understand the language of the girl in which she is singing. That is why he can not know the theme of her song. So, he wants/desires any person to tell him what her song is about.

It may be that she is singing so sadly for old tragedies as well as ancient battles. Or her song may be humbler as well; about things of every day – the sufferings as well as sorrows that everyone endures.

In the last stanza of the poem The Solitary Reaper the speaker says he is not too much concerned about the song of the Highland girl. No matter whatever she is singing about, she sings as if her song would never end.

The speaker says that he sees the girl singing while she works, bending over in order to cut the wheat with a sickle. He listens to her attentively even without moving. After that, as he walks on up a hill, he carries her music in his heart. The speaker says that he still does it long after he stopped hearing it.

Literary or poetic devices used by William Wordsworth in his poem The Solitary Reaper 

  • The poet, in this poem, uses simple language as well as meter
  • The poem The Solitary Reaper uses a natural theme with a rustic setting
  • The poem is also equipped with imagery as well as symbols. As far as Imagery in The Solitary Reaper is concerned; it enables a reader of this poem to perceive things involving his five senses, such as: (I) “reaping and singing by herself” and (II) “I her singing at her work” (III) “More welcome notes to weary bands”. The aforementioned images offer a pictorial description of the Highland girl at the work. In this way, it can be said that the poet makes the readers of this pastoral poem visualize what he sees as well as how he feels
  •  Wordsworth reflects his belief in the natural beauty of the universe
  • Finally, The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth can be said to highlight the poet’s definition of poetry to be ” a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” not only on the part of the poet but on the readers as well

How many stanzas are there in the poem The Solitary Reaper?

William Wordsworth’s poem Solitary Reaper comprises four stanzas of eight lines each.

What is the rhyme scheme of the poem The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth?

What is the rhyme scheme of the poem The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth?

 What is the major theme(s) of The Solitary Reaper ?

(I) Everlasting Beauty, as well as sorrow, (II) Nature & the Poet (III) Art as well as Communication, and (IV) The Limits of Poetry, are the main themes of The Solitary Reaper.

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