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.

Resolution and Independence

When reading “Resolution and Independence”, my first impression of the poem was that it is a clever poem, that had a good transition. William Wordsworth started the poem talking about the environment and the beauty in the surrounding. Then went to relating to himself and how he was raised around it. Then to the old man that was present in the surrounding. To describe the setting, Wordsworth used descriptive language but did not overdo it. He also helped create a visual setting for the place. An example of that would be when he says,

“The grass is bright with rain-drops”

which can paint a picture of this glossy grass in the readers mind. The tone of the poem is also calming and content. It was an easy read but you definitely would have to reread it to make sure you did not miss any small details.

One interesting passage from the poem that drew me in is when he says,

“My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,

As if life’s business were a summer mood;

As if all needful things would come unsought

To genial faith, still rich in genial good;

But how can He expect that others should

Build for him, sow for him, and at his call

Love him, who for himself will take no heed at all?”

I feel like this passage can be seen as very interesting because he starts off with this positive mood. He compares business to a summer day which most would see that as a happy mood to be in. Then towards the end of the passage he comes to reality that only because he sees the world in this positive light does not mean everyone else does as well. Which can be a sad reality.

Another passage that I admire would be:

“There was a roaring in the wind all night;

The rain came heavily and fell in floods;

But now the sun is rising calm and bright;

The birds are singing in the distant woods;

Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;

The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;

And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.”

I admire this passage because it is as if he is saying that even with the rough conditions of the night before, the environment was not phased with it and is still beautiful. The birds still have songs that they want to sing and the water will still run its course. Which can be a metaphor for how life can be at times. Life may be hard but it still goes on and one day you could wake up and everything be okay.

Some questions I might be wanting to be answered from the poem are who is the old man, where is the place he speaks of and why is it significant to him? I feel like if those questions were to be answered then the poem would have a personal feeling. Which can make the reader relate more to the author.