Describe the setting, the song and the task that the singer was engaged in as she sang in "The Solitary Reaper"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of "The Solitary Reaper" takes place in a field where a rural girl stands alone in a field, cutting grain, and singing a song.  The opening of the poem asks the reader watch her as no one else is present and listen to the song that the speaker compares to that of a nightingale.  Her task is to "cut and bind the grain," which we can also presume is quite a strenuous task as the speaker indicates to us that her song is sung with a "melancholy strain."  We really do not know what song is sung, other than it is something that sparks the imagination of the speaker.  The girl, alone in the natural setting, singing her song makes her a moment where speaker, in true Wordsworthian fashion, experiences "a spontaneous overflow of emotions."  He compares the girl's song to natural elements (the nightingale or the cuckoo bird) and also to a song sung to "Arabian travellers."  The speaker asks if he will ever know the literal meaning of the song (second to last stanza), but also understands that he might never know the exact meaning, but that the melody lingers in his heart "Long after it was heard no more."  This implies tht the meaning of the song is not its literal meaning, but rather what it inspired in the speaker.  In the final analysis, the poem ends up becoming about the speaker's ability to be inspired by the girl's song, as opposed to the girl herself.

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