What are examples of hyperbole and alliteration in the poem "The Solitary Reaper"?

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wordsworth's poem is about the intense feelings caused by hearing a farm woman singing as she works. His verse, then, needs to capture some of the musicality of her song, and explain why this event was so significant for him.

Wordsworth's use of alliteration in the poem helps a great deal in making his poem more musical. Some examples that stand out are the repetition of the "S" sound, particularly in the first stanza, or the repetition of the "A" and "W" sounds in the second stanza:

More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:

Hyperbole is used to compare this simple song to more grandiose examples. The reaper's song is sweeter than a nightingale's heard on remote "Arabian sands," or more "thrilling" than the lonely song of the cuckoo heard among remote northern islands. These comparisons are meant, in part, to set up a chain of Romantic associations—to say that hearing this woman singing in a field is like hearing the song of a nightingale in a remote desert is to suggest that there is an equivalent poetic sensibility in each; neither is "more" poetic than the other. We find out in the third stanza that the poet cannot understand what the songs are about, and instead imagines that they are about events of the remote past, or old battles, or, perhaps, "some natural sorrow, loss, or pain." Hyperbolic comparisons aside, the song of the reaper will endure since the poet will long remember the feelings hearing her song caused.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first stanza, the speaker describes the reaper's song. Alliteration is certainly effective in communicating a musical quality, so the speaker's words sound more musical here, and this is meant to mirror the reaper's singing. Note the repetition of "S" and "L" sounds in the first line. The repetition of "s" and "w" in the final line gives the song a flowing quality:

And sings a melancholy strain; 
O listen! for the Vale profound 
Is overflowing with the sound. 
The speaker gets hyperbolic in the second stanza. Here, Wordsworth takes an ordinary experience and, using his imagination, interprets it as something extraordinary. The speaker welcomes the reaper's song and supposes that he is more grateful to hear it than weary travelers who hear a bird's song signaling that they are close to their destination.
Since the speaker does not understand the girl's dialect, he can only imagine what she must be singing about. In the third stanza, he supposes it might be about some dramatic battle, long ago. But then he comes down from that hyperbolic notion and adds that it might be a more "humble lay." In the last stanza, he adds that she sang "as if her song could have no ending." In a sense, for him, her song indeed has no ending because it stays with him "Long after it was heard no more."