Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
Appropriately set in late spring or early summer, “The Wild Common” is an effusion of life, which explodes everywhere in its vivid imagery—light “leaping” from the bushes, birds “sweeping” above the “turf” while water “gushes” from the gorse. The overflowing of life approaches resurrective proportions. Rabbits quiescent as “handfuls of brown earth” on the “mournful turf” come to dramatic life when the speaker lifts his arms in blessing and “the hill bursts and heaves under their spurting kick!”
All that fecund life stirs the urgent question: “What ifI were gone?” Behind that poetic pondering on death lies the deeper question of how to be sure that one exists in the first place. Amid the teeming life of the common the speaker sees his own “white shadow.” It is that uncertain “quivering” reflection of himself in the waters of life that makes him aware “how splendid it is to be substance.” Outer reflections can be key to inner identity.
Burgeoning life becomes in the poem a kind of revelation of personal being: “You are here! You are here! We have found you!” shout the peewits and the rabbits and the “seven larks singing at once.” The “naked lad” dives into the fertile water and merges with that oxymoronic white shadow which is his own soul, finding himself, body and soul, in nature. He is integrated, whole, “No longer shadow!” The poem’s ultimate affirmation—“All that is right, all that is good, all that is God takes substance”—is not only the central theme of this poem but also the underlying theme of Lawrence’s Collected Poems as a whole.