Lines Written in Early Spring

by William Wordsworth

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What sadness does the poet express in the second stanza of “Lines Written in Early Spring”?

Quick answer:

The sadness in the poet's heart in the second stanza of “Lines Written in Early Spring” comes from his reflections on “what man has made of man.” In other words, what humanity has done to itself.

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In the first stanza of the poem, we are introduced to the speaker as he reclines in a peaceful grove, listening to birdsong. Unfortunately, the speaker's reverie is disturbed by sad thoughts, which, as he reflects, are often brought to mind by pleasant thoughts.

In time-honored Romantic fashion, “Nature”—note the capital letter showing personification—connects the poet's soul to all her “fair works,” the many beautiful things she has created.

But as we saw earlier, pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to the speaker, and so, despite the extraordinary natural beauty that surrounds him, he cannot help but grieve over “what man has made of man.” In other words, what humanity has done to itself.

One cursory glance at the pages of history gives us plenty of evidence in support of Wordsworth's contention. There, we are given a truly terrifying insight into the evils that men do. Instead of living together in peace and harmony with our natural surroundings, we are all often at each other's throats, fighting and killing each other.

For Wordsworth the Romantic, a man who keenly perceives the harmony of Nature, this is a great tragedy. We are a part of Nature, and yet we act as if we're not, as if we're somehow apart from it, set over against it.

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