A REVIEW OF WILLIAM WORDSWORTH’S “LINES WRITTEN IN EARLY SPRING”

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Critical Review

by Okoye Chukwudi Charles Ezeamalukwuo

The rise of Modernism, of science and technology has dealt a severe blow to the ideas of Romanticism; to the idea of man’s nature being intrinsically good, to the sublimity of the untamed Nature. Nature has almost been tamed by Civilisation, Industrial growth and Urbanisation, which have driven people (and poets too) far from the company of nature. The 20th century witnessed two world wars, the rise in weapon of mass destruction and unprecedented level of innovation in areas of torture, mass-killing, genocides, terrorism etc, all combining to make the idea of “man’s nature being of good” explicitly theoretical.

Nevertheless, the ideas of Romanticism still hold value among contemporary writers. The song of the Nightingale, the beauty of a flower, the rising and falling of waves, the company of nature (both tamed and wild) still inspire a lot of artists, philosophers, thinkers, writers etc as it did in that moment when William Wordsworth penned one of his great poems; “Lines Written in Early Spring.”

Spring, the season immediately following Winter is one of awakening. The Spring season is usually seen as a period of rebirth, of resurrection, of reincarnation from the death that the harsh realities of winter had brought. Wordsworth by picking this title did not just want to put a time-line on his creation but also wished to draw the reader to the significance of the moment; the newness, freshness, youthfulness of that very hour that only Spring, early spring can offer.

The poem begins with the poet persona sitting, perhaps after a tiresome labour (which is his winter), silently observing the happenings before him…for what is the work of the poet, if not to observe and to honestly report and respond to his observations.

“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.”

—Lines 1-4

The paradox in lines 3 and 4 is one that brings to mind the idea that life is an oxymoron…bitter-sweet, equal and opposite both intertwined. I feel that these lines set the tone for what the poem is all about. The poet persona was relishing the pleasure of the moment but the pleasure of seeing Nature beautifully at work before him brings to mind his own loneliness, the insatiable desires of man, the injustice, the wickedness, the cruelty and curse of man on his fellow man.

“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.”

—Lines 5-8

Nature according to the poet persona had made everything fair, right and equal. The rule of Nature is clear and it is fair to all, but it is man that disobeyed the rules of Nature. It is man that is responsible for the unpleasantness of thoughts.
In order not to sound ambiguous, and not to be misunderstood, the poet persona used the next 3 verses to outline the fair works of Nature and his take on them.

It must be noted that in all his examples of Nature’s fair work, the poet persona used only little things that we see daily, things that we will take as being of inconsequential value. He chose them to show us that even in the lowest of the low, Nature’s fair work is still very much at work…be it in the Primose tufts or the Periwinkle, it is his “Faith that every flower/ Enjoys the air it breathes” …(Lines 11 & 12).
Even the small birds were taken into account, birds whose thought he can not measure, still he believes that even the very “Least motion which they made/ it seems a thrill of pleasure.” …(Lines 15 & 16).

These lines do not just lend credence to the sublime essence of Nature but also to the preciousness of life, of every life. This poem is more of a sermon, a call for tolerance, of love and peace. The fact that we do not understand certain things does not mean that they should not exist in the first place. The poet persona believes that all of Nature are significant, and nothing is out of place or a mistake. These lines serve as a sort of reproach to the Darwinists, racists, exceptionalists, religious bigots etc. He believes that all the diversity of life are part and parcel of Nature’s fair work, and if this is how Nature has ordained it to be from genesis then something, somehow, somewhere is very very wrong with man, hence the unpleasant thoughts. I believe that anyone who honestly observes the world will surely reach similar conclusion with the poet persona, which is; that man needs saving from himself and his fellow man. Yes! If Nature has ordained that all forms of life should live peacefully on Earth, then…

“Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?”

—line 23-24.

Lines Written in Early Spring is a poem written by William Wordworth, the greatest of the Romantic poet. This is a typical Romantic poem with all the features of Romanticism. The poem extols Nature, and focuses on the actions of man in contrast to that Nature. A very emotional poem that slowly but steadily draws the reader in like a web of fine silvery thread. The poem is written in quatrain form, haven 6 quatrains of 24 lines. The rhyme scheme is a-b-a-b, but syllable is not regular, haven a syllable count of 8-8-8-6 per quatrain for the first 3 verses but broke off from this rule in verses 4 and 5 where the syllable counts are 8-7-8-7 and 8-6-8-6 respectively, and ending with 8-8-8-6 in verse 6.
The language is very simple, and the setting is rural. The poem is written in first person like it usually is in the Romantic poem.

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;
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.

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?

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No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the written permission of the publishers.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

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Comments
  1. Bro, I don’t understand anything here. Not that you weren’t on point, far from it, You made this a masterpiece. The only nag here is that I’m struggling to cope with Poetry Courses.

    But I end this by opining here (though controversial) that God created man to influence and re-shape the nature of his would-be habitat (earth).
    In as much as we (man) live on earth, the sovereignty of nature on creatures must be usurped by man, either for Good or for bad.

  2. Anene Francis says:

    Wonderful review this is, mr Solar. You dissolved the poem to enable even toddlers like me to drink in its richness. It was as if you entered the mind of the poet. From analyses of the setting, choice of title, message, pattern of rhymes and syllables, you did excellently well. The syllable thing is new to me sha… (@mr Lion, maybe you read it under the scorching sun as before lol. Read it again bro).
    The message of the poem is very lovely, drawing our attention to man’s negative influence on nature and fellow man.

    Nature is in a balance (long and short term). In man’s quest to change things to suit him (selfish interest or not) he upsets that balance. Man must find ways to maintain that balance while carrying out his activities, else consequences will follow. E.g cutting down trees for furniture and planting new ones as replacements to prevent desertification and so on. According to the poem, different aspects of nature has a chain of mutual support to one another and interdependency. Man is not keeping to that rule thus negatively affecting nature and his fellow man. Sad but true.
    Good work mr Solar

  3. LegendaryCJN says:

    Nice work my good man, but inasmuch as I agree with you, I must however disagree with your notion that the poem is “all about” something. Poems are usually not ‘about’ anything…rather, a poem should be able to be interpreted differently and from many points from which multiple meanings can be derived. (This, however is a very sensitive and age-long topic amongst scholars and schools of thought, and I don’t intend to delve into it really), but I must say that the idea of ‘all about’ narrows the poem and its analysis or critique down to the particular. I mean that it does not allow for streams of thought, which informs your idea that the ‘poem extols nature and focuses on the actions of man in contrast to that of nature’. But while this could be part of the derived aspect of the poem, it could also be seen from the aspect of lamentation, loss, tragedy and or comedy, depending on the reader’s perspective.
    We should try as much as possible to abhor using ‘all about’ when making a critique of works of art, it makes a mockery of the sacredness of art.
    Art is sacred!

    • Ezeamalukwuo says:

      I agree with you on that. Art means several things to different people, and hence should not be rigorious defined or constrained. I should henceforth desist from making should statement in future. Thanks Mr Chime.

  4. Anene Francis says:

    ???? testing

  5. Anene Francis says:

    Bia! Na mr Austin click that dislike? lol… na wao

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