How is humanity explored in "The Solitary Reaper?"  

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Highland (Scottish) girl the speaker describes is celebrated as humanity's connection to nature in a sublime, spiritual sense. He notes her song's superiority but also similarity to the nigthingale's and the cuckoo-bird's, indicating that her song is a sound as natural as a bird's or the babbling of a brook. The fact that he doesn't understand her Scottish dialect makes her sound more exotic, again more like birdsong, and also allows his imagination to thrive because he can make up what she might be singing about. He considers that her song may be about "battles long ago." Thus, to the speaker, her song is potentially a link to people and places generations before. This establishes her song (and this poem itself) as a unifying link to other moments human history and/or literature. At the end of the poem, the speaker carries the music in his heart "Long after it was heard no more." The song will continue to conjure thoughts of human nature and humanity in nature. Thus, one of the enduring qualities of humanity is the imaginative ability; how a song or poem can stay with you and continue to spark thoughts of nature and human experience throughout history. 

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem explores humanity when it presents a link between two individuals who do not speak the same language and who do not even interact with one another.  The speaker simply hears a Scots maiden singing a song—a song he cannot understand—while she works in the field.  It has such a tremendous effect on him that he continues to carry the song in his heart.  He describes the song as having an effect on him "long after it was heard no more."  It is not the words of the song that affect him, because he cannot understand them.  Instead, there is something about her manner, something in the "melancholy" mood of the song she sings—coupled with the fact that she is "solitary"—that seem to sway him.  He responds to the emotion that her song and her situation convey; our human emotions are universal and compelling.  This poem really shows that humanity is connected by our shared emotions, a language that we all speak, if you will, even when we have no other way to communicate.