“Resolution and Independence,” known in manuscript as “The Leech Gatherer,” is a poem of 140 lines divided into twenty stanzas. The published title suggests the thematic moral learned by the speaker from an encounter with the leech gatherer, who supplies the manuscript title.
The poem is written in the first person, the speaker probably being the poet himself (when he was about to be married), who describes a strange experience he had one spring morning when he met an old man while walking across an English moor. The first two stanzas set the scene of an animated landscape filled with sounds of birds and rushing water, sights of bright sunshine reflected from wet grass, and a rabbit kicking up a mist as it runs away. The poet says, in the third stanza, that he was as happy as the scene he surveyed.
Yet unexpectedly, and suddenly, he fell into a deep melancholy, which he describes in the fourth and fifth stanzas. He is perplexed about his strange sorrow, which contrasts so strongly with the scene about him and his former happiness. In stanzas 6 and 7, he considers the plight of persons (perhaps like himself) who have spent their lives without much consideration for anything except their own happiness; two great poets, Thomas Chatterton and Robert Burns, illustrate the fate of those who begin in joy and end in great sadness.
In this meditative mood, the poet sees with surprise, in stanza 8, a very old man. The old man seems...
(The entire section is 523 words.)