William Wordsworth’s poems defined Naturalism and Romanticism since the author was known to be the poet of nature. The poet was a key figure of the Romantic Movement, especially considering his early poems. The life of the author was closely connected to nature, which is why his art was as a fresh breeze to European literature. Moreover, he believed wholeheartedly that the environment could evoke the kindness and loving nature of a human being, especially if that person exists in harmony with nature. This essay will review several poems of William Wordsworth to determine the role of nature in each of them.
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“Lines Written in Early Spring” vs ‘Stolen Boat’ Critical Analysis
‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ showcases nature as an earthly spirit, which gives life to every creature and unites them in one entity. However, within this poem, the reader can catch the grim notes since the speaker laments humanity. Moreover, the reader can feel how the speaker deems humanity unworthy of nature’s grace because instead of living in harmony, people engage in warfare and bloodshed, running the environment in the process. Within this poem, nature has its own mind and consciousness, and in the grove, the speaker experiences euphoria from harmonizing with the spirit (Sharma 17). The contradiction and contrast between humanity, which is cruel, treacherous, and unable to uphold ‘Nature’s holy plan’, and the nature, which is joyful, calm, and beautiful, is the central theme of the poem.
The poem ‘Stolen Boat’ can be interpreted in two ways: literal and figurative. On a literal level, the poem is about a boat that is stolen and how one boy has problems because of this occurrence. However, the deeper version of the poem reflects on the huge mountain, a part of nature, the silent observer of the crime, which judges the thief. The boy is chased by nature’s wrath for his sin, day and night, and he could not escape. The figure of the mountain can be interpreted as the self-awareness of the wrong deed, an awakened consciousness for an undue act. Therefore, the poet showcases the different sides of the nature. Instead of the beautiful, spiritual, and harmonizing form, the nature’s spirit is represented as an avenger of unfairness. In this poem, in contrast with the first one, the author finds revelation and atonement in nature. Therefore, these poems reflect two contrasting and contradicting sides of the environment – loving and caring spirit and the soul of an avenger.
Both poems use literary devices that are common for poetry, such as metaphors, epithets, and repetitions. However, at the same time, both poems have unique literary devices, which loom between the lines. Considering ‘Lines Written in Early Spring,’ it has extraordinary usage of alliteration, which in some parts of the poem gives it almost musical sounding:
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes (Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads” 9-12).
Moreover, within the poem, the author presents assonance, for example, green-wreaths; least-seemed; heaven-sent (Wordsworth, “Preface and Appendix to Lyrical Ballads” 78). In combination with personification, which can be observed almost in every line of the poem, it creates a magical effect of enlivening nature. The words of William Wordsworth sound as an echo or a song, the spectator feels as a part of that nature, as one of the spirits presented. The rhetorical question at the end of the poem leaves the reader wondering whether humanity took the correct path when they decided to go against nature:
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? (Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads” 21-24)
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As with the previous poem, ‘Stolen Boat’ also uses personification as the main device of furthering the plot. Within this poem, the inanimate object such as the mountain became ‘alive,’ and the poet gave it human-like qualities. The mountain is given a voice, feelings, fair and vengeful personality, which later haunts the author in his dreams. The poem often uses similes: My boat went heaving through the water like a swan (Wordsworth, “Lyrical Ballads” 20). The usage of this literary device compares boat to the living creature such as swan, again enclosing the reader to nature and its immense value. Furthermore, this poem also uses metaphors (‘There hung a darkness’), where the curtain is compared to the void, the endless darkness (Wordsworth, “William Wordsworth: Poems” 38). It indicates how hard it is for the main character to live with the guilt that he stole the boat, and he sees the guilt through nature.
Tones of the Poems
The tones of the two poems are also contradicting and contrasting each other. While ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ is calm, cheerful, joyful, and full of life, the tone of ‘Stolen Boat’ varies as the mood of the poet. The first poem showcases the beauty of nature, while expressing its dramatic concerns of humanity destroying all magnificent and pleasing things in life (Zhang 6). However, the second poem is harder mood-wise, since, at the beginning, the reader can feel a slight glimpse of joy from the act of stealing. Nevertheless, this glimpse quickly changes to the darker tones as the writer uncovers his consciousness. The tone darkens, it becomes more fearful, anxious, but excited at the same time. The tone of the poem captures the mood of the author and the mood of the reader and showcases it on the paper.
Form, Meter, and Rhyme Scheme
The poem ‘Lines Written in Early Spring’ is divided into six stanzas, each having four lines. The rhyme scheme is similar to the ballads and follows the ABAB pattern. Moreover, the author had created the poems to resemble chant because this composition is a lyrical ballad, which means that the tone has to reflect the speaker’s emotions. Most of the stanzas use iambic trimester, which is not written perfectly to resemble the wild nature of the environment. The rhythm is strong within this poem, which is why it is perfect for singing.
The ‘Stolen Boat,’ on the other hand, appears to be a narrative poem, which does not possess the traditional form. It is written in blank verse, which is completely different from the ‘Lines Written in Early Spring.’ It has no rhyme or melody within the poem, which perfectly reflects the messy and rather hard plot (Engell 120). Furthermore, with no rhyme, the poem closely resembles the flow of thought, which aids more in understanding the plot and the feelings of the author.
As a naturalist, William Wordsworth strived in his poems to showcase nature from different perspectives: as a calming and harmonizing creature and as an upholder of justice. Two poems, although contrasting in the plot, use similar literary devices, which include metaphor, repetition, and personification of nature. By doing this, the author creates his unique style, which is easy to recognize among all of the naturalists’ works.
Engell, James. “Wordsworth’s Earth, Nature, Strength.” The Wordsworth Circle, vol. 50, no. 2, 2019, pp. 166–179.
Sharma, Lok Raj. “Nature: A Recurrent Theme in Wordsworth’s Poetry”. Scholar International Journal of Linguistics and Literature, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021, pp. 14-20,
Wordsworth, William, and Seamus Heaney. William Wordsworth: Poems. Faber & Faber, 2016.
Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. Blurb, 2019.
Wordsworth, William. “Preface and Appendix to Lyrical Ballads.” Wordsworth’s Literary Criticism, 2016, pp. 68–95.
Zhang, Xiuzhi. “Ecological Consciousness in William Wordsworth’s Poetry.” Proceedings of the 2017 7th International Conference on Social Science and Education Research (SSER2017), 2018.