Identify form and structure used by William Wordsworth in his poem, "Nutting."

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In William Wordsworth's poem, "The Nutting," the form and structure are not as obvious as in other poems.

Form present in poems deals with organizational aspects of the piece, concentrating on number of lines, meter for those lines, and rhyme (if any). Structure is defined as organization or design in a literary work, and may refer to divisions, such as acts, scenes, etc.

In form, "Nutting" is a poem written in blank verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter (ten syllables per line, with stress on every other syllable). It is a simple and unpretentious poem, something that may have been dismissed by some poets of Wordsworth's day. Similar to a pastoral poem, it concentrates on the wonders of nature as the young man travels through the woods to find hazelnuts. Poetry of the pastoral form (dealing with nature) is defined as:

...a poem that depicts rural life in a peaceful, idealized way for example of shepherds or country life.

Wordsworth created a new form of poetry with his writing of "Nutting." It was also "revolutionary" in that it was a "conscious challenge to classical norms of literature." Traditionalists may well have discounted the "intimacy" of Wordsworth's experience as too ordinary to have been taken seriously based on the poetic norms of the day. As one of the two first-generation Romantic poets (Coleridge being the second), Wordsworth would open the acceptable range of subject matter for poets, as well as using "a vernacular speaking voice." His words are presented much like common speech—which could not have been achieved with rhyme because the writing would have sounded too contrived. "Nutting" is delivered in an unpretentious manner, very different from the more sophisticated form consisting of obvious "literary" manipulations by the writer, typical of the more classical poets.

For structure, there are no obvious or specific breaks, however the action of the young boy in the poem (Wordsworth as a child) creates "natural" segments. Based on the poem's text, there appear to be three major parts to the young man's excursion into the forest.

We notice the first part when the lad sets out, dressed appropriately and equipped with the necessary tools, much like a young knight on a noble quest. As yet untried, the boy will do battle with nature to achieve the prize he searches for:

...of power to smile

At thorns, and brakes, and brambles, and, in truth,

More ragged than need was. Among the woods,

And o'er the pathless rocks, I forc'd my way...

At this point in the poem, the young man arrives at the place he has hoped to find, a "virgin scene" with clusters of hazelnuts, untouched. He does not disturb anything, but rests and relishes the magical moment.

A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet, or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I play'd;

The magic cannot last; as with leaving childhood behind—like a rite of passage—the boy becomes a warrior and "attacks" that which had seemed so "worthy" only moments before.

Then up I rose,
And dragg'd to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage...
Of hazels...Even then, when, from the bower I turn'd away,
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings
I felt a sense of pain...

These are the three segments: the journey, finding and worshipping the prize, and then, sadly, the harvest. This is the structure of "Nutting."

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