Weary Bands Meaning

Who were "the weary bands" in "The Solitary Reaper" by William Wordsworth?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In August of 1803 William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth, and Samuel Coleridge embarked on a six-week, 663-mile journey through the Scottish countryside. William Wordsworth was inspired by his arduous journey and wrote a collection of poems relating to his experiences in Scotland, which were published in 1807. The poem "The Solitary Reaper" was written in 1805, and it was inspired by both his journey and a passage from Thomas Wilkinson's manuscript, which recounted a woman singing as she reaped alone. Throughout the poem, the speaker recounts a memorable scene of a woman reaping and singing by herself. The speaker describes the woman's song as a "melancholy strain," which has a profound influence on the speaker. At the beginning of the second stanza, the speaker notes that nightingales could never chant more welcoming notes to "weary bands...Of travelers in some shady haunt." The "weary bands" refers to those individuals who have embarked on arduous journeys through the Scottish countryside. The "weary bands" also alludes to the difficult 663-mile journey Wordsworth, Dorothy, and Coleridge traveled through Scotland.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whenever you are trying to establish the meaning in a particular phrase of group of words in a poem or text, it is vital to read both before and after the given section to see what contextual clues are offered to help us understand what is being talked about. The "weary bands" that your question refers to actually appear in the second stanza and refer to a comparison that the speaker is making between the sound of the reaper's song and how welcome it is and how welcome the song of a nightingale would be for a group of travellers voyaging through the desert. Note what the second stanza says:

No nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands...

Thus the precise identity of the "weary bands" is unimportant. Their importance lies in the comparison that the speaker is creating, which reinforces the beauty and comfort that the song that the reaper is singing brings him.