Wordsworth the poet can hear music in nature. What effect does this have on him? Discuss this point in relation to "The Solitary Reaper."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In seeing Wordsworth as the speaker in "The Solitary Reaper," it becomes clear that he senses a musical quality regarding being in nature.  Human consciousness, the natural setting, and the music intrinsic to this experience are all convergent aspects of the Romantic notion of identity that Wordsworth articulates.  The opening lines of the poem speak to this:  "Reaping and singing by herself."  In casting the subject of the poem in this light, Wordsworth suggests a natural beauty in the setting that has unfolded in front of him.  Nature's music is evident in the song the reaper sings. Wordsworth makes the argument that there is music in nature in the specific form of the reaper's song because it enables him to be transformed and taken to another world. The expansion of Wordsworth's moral and spiritual imagination is how nature's music changes anyone who partakes in it.  The effect that this song of the natural world has on Wordsworth is to enable the expansion of his imagination, the ability to experience what can be in the face of what is.

The song has more meaning for Wordsworth because it takes place in something very natural.  It is natural for Wordsworth to see the woman in the field, hear her song, and see everything blend into something transformative.  This experience is where nature's music lies for Wordsworth.  This experience is one that "could have no ending."  Even after it dissipates, the resonant echoes of the music that the natural setting provided lingers on for Wordsworth:  "The music in my heart I bore,/ Long after it was heard no more."  For Wordsworth, this is where the natural song in nature continues endlessly. 

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