Resolution and Independence by William Wordsworth


Portrait of William Wordsworth

The title of this poem reflects the resolution and independence of an old man encountered by the narrator as well as the subsequent resolution of the narrator himself.  The poem contains a variety of different moods from the wonderful idyllic imagery in the first three stanzas, to the sinking into melancholy in the fourth and fifth stanzas, on to border-line despair in the seventh stanza, and finally through investigation to a hopeful resolution at the end.

I must admit, it took me a bit to digest this poem as the use of septets (7 line stanzas) and the royal rhyme pattern (ababbcc) made the first reading difficult for me.  Perhaps I was focusing too much on form rather than the story or messages being conveyed.

Upon my second reading, I found that I enjoyed the poem to a large degree.  My favorite parts were those that uplifted me.  First, the beautiful imagery in the first three stanzas:  I could hear the birds singing and feel the brightness of the sun.  The moist grass, the seemingly playful hares all set me in a light and joyful frame of mind.

I also particularly enjoyed stanzas fourteen, fifteen, eighteen, and nineteen where the old man is speaking and telling a portion of his tale.  For though he is old, of no fixed home, and toils at maintaining a meager subsistence he has a dignity and cheerfulness about him.  His words lead the narrator to the final stanza in which he resolves to remember the positive spirit of the old man when he himself sinks into melancholy thoughts.

The seventh stanza was poignant in pointing out how we can be in a positive setting yet become obsessed with ills that may befall us as Wordsworth discusses Chatterton, a promising English poet who died at 17.  (Sources conflict as to whether his death was due to arsenic poisoning as a suicide or an accident of self-medication for a venereal disease.  Yet another source indicates he may have died of self-starvation.)  At this point it seems the narrator fears his own demise into “despondency and madness.”

There were two specific references that I had trouble interpreting.  The first was the use of “He” in the sixth stanza.  I leaned toward interpreting it as a reference to God however following words in the stanza “him” and “himself” were not capitalized leading me to think that the reference is to someone other than God.  The second reference that eluded me was “grave Livers” in the fourteenth stanza.  After researching the term on the Internet I was no clearer on my understanding than at the start other than I perceive it to be used as a derogatory term.

Overall, once I adjusted to the rhythm of the poem and paid closer attention to the content I was struck by the wonderful descriptions in each verse, I could see the natural surroundings, visualize and hear the old man, and connect with the narrator’s thoughts.  It is a poem well worth reading and I recommend it for your enjoyment and reflection.

Reading Response: Resolution and Independence by William Wordsworth

As I read William Wordworth’s poem “Resolution and Independence” I first began to take notice of the poem’s length, structure and rhythm. The poem is written in stanzas (20) composed of seven lines each (iambic pentameter, where the last line contains one extra iamb), and a rhyme scheme of ababbcc. I personally enjoy listening to poetry because I feel that poetry is composed of feeling and emotion that is best communicated when recited aloud. After reading the poem once, I searched YouTube to find a recitation to assist in helping clarify tone and rhythm and found a fair recitation:

Recitation of William Wordworth’s “Resolution and Independence” 1802

As we read the beginning of this poem we come to understand that the narrator/speaker is a traveller who feels at one with nature and who is reflecting on events occurred sometime ago. Wordsworth’s use of nature as a means of description continues throughout the poem while also using elements of imagery and tone. Throughout the poem theme becomes that of a reflection the traveler is communicating. We learn that through this journey sometime ago he had an encounter with an old man. A very old man as he’s thoroughly and vividly described. It is very soon learned that this old man is a leech-gatherer, and though he is old, he still perseveres in his task. In the final stanza the Leech-gatherer becomes an the perfect example of Resolution and Independence for the narrator. It is here that we learn that Wordsworth’s choice of vocabulary is apparent. Resolution here takes the meaning of determination to succeed.

I felt the last stanzas, 17 – 20, were most interesting because they created a vision of concern to the reader of the narrator. We learn to understand his feelings of fear, fear that kills (line 113) the fear of poets in their misery dead (line 116). As we become engaged with the narrator through his conversation with the leech- gatherer we can feel the tone become calm as the leech-gatherer tells how he gathers leeches, through perseverance he finds them where he may (line 126). Through his meeting with the Leech-gatherer, he learns that through perseverance he can too be successful.

Resolution and Independence: First Impressions

The poem Resolution and Independence by William Wordsworth is written from the perspective of the poet. Wordsworth tells how he is wandering in the moors during sunrise, enjoying the beauty of nature. One might describe his attitude in these first three stanzas as carefree. Then, he is saddened by thoughts of his future (Line 35 – “solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty”), which he later ascribes to the fate of poets in general (Line 48). In the next stanza, Wordsworth tells of his chance encounter with an old man who is gathering leeches. The old man acts as an inspiration for Wordsworth because he “persevere[s], and find[s] them [leeches] where [he] may” (Line 126). The poem ends with Wordsworth resolving to “stay secure” and presumably, to remain a poet, even though he faces difficulties in the future.

Resolution and Independence deals with both of the topics mentioned in the title, but starts with independence. The first thing I noticed about this part of the poem was the rhyme scheme, which begins with a typical ABAB pattern, but instead of having four lines per stanza, the poem has seven. The rhyme scheme is ABABBCC, which creates a sing-song type rhyme at the end when reading the poem aloud. The rhyme scheme continues throughout the poem, but the effects on the poem’s sound are especially noticeable when Wordsworth describes the natural beauty of the moor at sunrise.

Also noticeable is the poem’s focus on imagery that uses figures of speech to accomplish vivid mental images in the mind of the reader. A good example of this can be found on lines 11 through 14. “The hare is running races in her mirth; / And with her feet she from the plashy earth / Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun, / Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run”. Wordsworth uses onomatopoeia in “plashy” and even “glittering”. The reader knows from line 11 that the hare is running races in joy. In line 12, Wordsworth provides the reader the sensory image of sound (or feeling, depending upon the listener). Plashy sounds much like splashy or marshy, which can both be considered synonyms, but Wordsworth uses plashy because it imitates the sound that the hare’s feet make as she runs through the wet grass. The next line, line 13, is visual. The listener can almost see the droplets of water sparkling as they are exposed to the rising sun. Line 14 provides the listener with the broader picture (almost like a movie’s wide shot) of the hare’s misty trail following her around the moors. 

The imagery in this poem is very visual, but it relies on quite a few sound devices as well. Alliteration (“choice or chance”, “moor to moor”), rhyme (as discussed earlier), and onomatopoeia (“roar”, “raced”, “warbling”). Thus, the impression that I am left with after reading this poem just a few times is that Wordsworth’s Resolution and Independence is one best read aloud. This type of reading provides the listener with more appreciation for Wordsworth’s sensory details and vivid imagery.