Wordsworth’s Poetry

by: William Wordsworth

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Light

Light often symbolizes truth and knowledge. In “The Tables Turned” (1798), Wordsworth contrasts the barren light of reason available in books with the “sweet” (11) and “freshening” (6) light of the knowledge nature brings. Sunlight literally helps people see, and sunlight also helps speakers and characters begin to glimpse the wonders of the world. In “Expostulation and Reply” (1798), the presence of light, or knowledge, within an individual prevents dullness and helps the individual to see, or experience. Generally, the light in Wordsworth’s poems represents immortal truths that can’t be entirely grasped by human reason. In “Ode: Imitations of Immortality,” the speaker remembers looking at a meadow as a child and imagining it gleaming in “celestial light” (4). As the speaker grows and matures, the light of his youth fades into the “light of common day” (78) of adulthood. But the speaker also imagines his remembrances of the past as a kind of light, which illuminate his soul and give him the strength to live.

The Leech Gatherer

In “Resolution and Independence,” the ancient leech gatherer who spends his days wandering the moors looking for leeches represents the strong-minded poet who perseveres in the face of poverty, obscurity, and solitude. As the poem begins, a wanderer travels along a moor, feeling elated and taking great pleasure in the sights of nature around him but also remembering that despair is the twin of happiness. Eventually he comes upon an old man looking for leeches, even though the work is dangerous and the leeches have become increasingly hard to find. As the speaker chats with the old man, he realizes the similarities between leech gathering and writing poetry. Like a leech gather, a poet continues to search his or her mind and the landscape of the natural world for poems, even though such intense emotions can damage one’s psyche, the work pays poorly and poverty is dangerous to one’s health, and inspiration sometimes seems increasingly hard to find. The speaker resolves to think of the leech gatherer whenever his enthusiasm for poetry or belief in himself begins to wane.

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