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What is a good summary of the poem "The Solitary Reaper."

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siva1989 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 24, 2008 at 10:20 AM via web

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What is a good summary of the poem "The Solitary Reaper."

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted July 24, 2008 at 3:49 PM (Answer #1)

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The poem begins with a young girl who is harvesting a field alone.  She is singing a beautiful, melancholy song, and the speaker is entranced by it.  The speaker (or narrator) of the poem comments on the beauty of her song.  Because she is alone in the field, she is at one with nature.  She is unmistakably connected to nature. The speaker then drifts off in thought about "long ago times and far-off places" (eNotes).  At the end of the poem, the speaker comes back to reality and walks away from the field, but is left with the beautiful vision of the young girl and her memorable singing. 


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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted July 24, 2008 at 11:02 PM (Answer #2)

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The poem is made up of four stanzas. In the first stanza, Wordsworth sets the scene for the readers. He asks us to observe the Highland girl busily reaping the ripe grain  and singing to herself. He asks us to pause and listen to the song which fills the entire valley,or quietly leave the place without disturbing her.

In the second stanza, Wordsworth tells us that  her beautiful song was more  refreshing than  the meldious song of the nightingale which welcomed the weary travellers as soon as they arrived at an oasis and that her song was more pleasing than the cuckoo's song which signalled the end of the harsh winter season and the beginning of spring.

Since Wordsworth could not understand Gaelic, the language of the reaper, he impatiently asks whether someone could tell him what she was singing about. By doing so he sparks our imagination as to what she could be singing about.

Soon,Wordsworth leaves the scene concluding  that although he could not understand what she was singing about nevertheless he could always remember the melodious tune of her song:"The music in my heart I bore/Long after it was heard no more." 

The words 'single' 'solitary' and 'alone' have been foregrounded. 'Single' implies that she is the only person in the valley; 'solitary' hints at the melancholy mood of the poem and 'alone' refers to the fact that there is no one to assist her in her labours.

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