The Solitary Reaper Theme

What's the main theme of the poem "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth?

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I would like to second the original post about art being what connects us as human beings. It is aptly noted that the speaker cannot understand the reaper, as she sings in Scottish and the speaker is English. I would argue that this is also true of the bird song's...

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I would like to second the original post about art being what connects us as human beings. It is aptly noted that the speaker cannot understand the reaper, as she sings in Scottish and the speaker is English. I would argue that this is also true of the bird song's the speaker admires; naturally, we do not know the "words" or meaning of their singing but we are moved by the beauty  of the songs just the same.

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The overall theme of the poem seems to be one that reveres the idea of nature and the individual's place within it. The ability of the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, to be able to hear the song of the solitary reaper and project the meaning of it in his own mind allows for an expansion of moral imagination that could have only been possible with the individual's assertion into the natural setting and the reverence of that setting.  The theme being advanced at the conclusion of the poem is that the "spontaneous overflow of emotions" that Wordsworth says defines poetry can also have application to the natural setting and we have to be mindful of this potential that exists and revere it.

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A strong theme in the poem "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth is that of regret. Although neither we, nor the poet, can understand the poignant words the solitary woman is singing, her song is sad and sorrowful enough to make us curious as to it's subject. Is she regretting the passing of happier times in her youth, or childhood? perhaps she is thinking of a deceased sweetheart whom she will never see again. Wordsworth is both transfixed by the haunting melody of the song, and intrigued by its singer. Because she sings in Scots Gaelic we will never know, and so may feel a pang of regret, like the poet as he treads unwillingly away with the melody still tinkling in his memory.

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Wordsworth's "The Solitary Reaper" is indicative of the Romantic view of the imagination.  The poem's theme is the power of human imagination to see the transcendent in the everyday.  The enotes Study Guide on the poem says:

“The Solitary Reaper” is about the power of the imagination to transform common, everyday events into representations of a larger reality. To the Romantic poets, imagination was not a synonym for fantasy. Instead they saw it as closely allied with intuition and emotion. This faculty enabled the poet to see familiar things in a radically different way....The aim of the Romantics was to express an abstract idea using concrete images that were usually drawn from nature.

The poem is an example of the commonplace pointing the sensitive observer toward an ideal of unity or completeness of being. Although the reaper is a flesh-and-blood person, she becomes a spiritual gateway for the speaker of the poem. The natural environment that surrounds her only heightens her mystery. Her simple song is an expression of her own heritage and background, yet the speaker imagines it to be an articulation of the eternal, the boundless, the ultimate reality. This intuitive impression of the infinite leaves the speaker a different person than when he first encountered the girl. The wonder of her song permeates his intellect and lingers in his heart long after he hears the last notes.

In the poem, then, the everyday scene ignites the emotions and intuition of the speaker, leading him to the transcendent, to a state beyond human understanding.  The reaper's song sparks his imagination leading him to the sublime, an effect created when a writer encounters power or mystery or awe in nature that is beyond human understanding.   

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To me, what Wordsworth is doing in this poem is thinking about the nature of art and poetry.

In this poem, he hears the girl singing and he thinks that the song is really beautiful.  However, he does not understand her song.  Probably this is because she is not singing in English (she's Scottish).  Even though he does not understand her, he is struck by how beautiful her song is and he says he heard it in his heart long after he couldn't actually hear it anymore.

I think this represents his idea that art and poetry are things of pure emotion like that song, and not things for understanding with your brain.

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