Lines Written in Early Spring

by William Wordsworth

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Who is the speaker in William Wordsworth's "Lines Written in Early Spring"?

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The speaker in the poem "Lines Written in Early Spring" by William Wordsworth is a person very much like Wordsworth who expresses the poet's deeply held ideas about nature and society. Most readers identify the speaker as Wordsworth himself.

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We might not be able to supply you with the specific name of the speaker in "Lines Written in Early Spring." We can't tell you that the speaker is Tom Beverly (someone we just made up) or Rachel O'Connor (another person we just made up), but we can find evidence about who this person might be.

Think about where this person is. They’re in a "grove" or an orchard. They’re with nature. What does nature do to their mood? It puts them in a "sweet mood." We could say that our speaker is a person who likes nature.

As the poem moves along, we come across further evidence that our speaker has a passion for nature. The speaker tells us how they enjoy the "pleasure" of the "budding twigs" and "breezy air."

What doesn't the speaker seem to enjoy? The current state of human beings. The joy of nature makes our speaker "grieved" about "what man has made of man." Perhaps our speaker is a bit misanthropic. Juxtaposing humans—or "man"—with nature makes us think that our speaker is someone who believes that humans in general have become too separated from nature. These humans don’t appreciate it enough.

Unlike the unnamed human who narrates this poem, we get the idea that general humans don't tend to sit in a grove and gaze on the "fair works" of nature. We could probably safely conclude that one of those general humans is not our speaker.

Of course, William Wordsworth, the author of the poem, was a noted Romantic. He adored nature and was anxious about the increasing separation between humans and nature. Perhaps our narrator is not as nameless as we've made them out to be. Perhaps our narrator is William Wordsworth himself.

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Technically speaking, there is no evidence at all in this poem to indicate who the speaker is. Wordsworth does not give any indication as to whether the speaker is a man or a woman, how old they are, what they do, or anything else about them. What he does tell us is that this is a person who has a great appreciation for nature, and that the speaker is moved into a mood both "sweet" and rather melancholic by the beauty of nature.

At the end of the poem, the speaker explicitly states that by watching the natural world and seeing how much "pleasure" the birds seem to take in it, he is actually inclined to "lament" the fact that human beings do not simply enjoy the world they have been given in the same way. On the contrary, human beings fight with and degrade each other, which seems impossible and terrible to the speaker when seated in a place like this, observing the beauty of the natural world around him.

This said, it is not very often that a poem is read completely without context. In context, we know that these beliefs and preoccupations are in accord with those of the poet himself, Wordsworth, who wrote many poems on similar subjects. Therefore, we can assume that the speaker is probably synonymous with the poet himself.

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The speaker of this poem is usually identified as Wordsworth himself, but as poetry almost always makes a distinction between speaker and poet, we can most accurately define the speaker as a person who expresses Wordsworth's sentiments about nature and human society.

In the poem, the speaker is a person sitting in a grove in springtime, letting his thoughts wander. He finds that his sweet thoughts about nature lead to sad thoughts, the two moods intertwining.

His happy thoughts include how beautiful his natural surroundings are. He watches the primrose and periwinkle blooming and sees the birds hopping and playing. The budding leaves on the trees catch the gentle breeze. All around him, nature seems to be existing in the beautiful harmony that God designed.

Contemplating how beautiful and happy nature seems to be leads the speaker to sadly ponder "what man has made of man." The cruelties and miseries humans inflict on each other are a sharp contrast to the peace and harmony the speaker sees all around him in the natural world.

We can confidently identify the poem's speaker with Wordsworth because this speaker so closely expresses the Romantic beliefs that Wordsworth spent his lifetime trying to convey: that God's spirit can be found infusing the natural world and that human society will improve if it rediscovers its link with nature and lives in harmony with it.

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Since the sentiments and the themes suit Wordsworth's perspectives on nature and human interaction, we can say that the speaker is Wordsworth himself. But beyond the biographical context, a reader can also claim that the speaker of the poem is anyone who appreciates nature while critiquing society. 

He (Wordsworth/speaker) notes how the naturally blending sounds of nature ("grove") have put him in a sweet mood. He adds that this natural peace makes him consider "sad thoughts" and this has to do with humanity. 

In the second stanza, he says that Nature linked her (Nature's) good works to each human soul. In other words, as humans, we are spiritually and naturally connected to the beauty, peace, and joy that we see in the natural world. Again, at the end of the stanza, Wordsworth then wonders why there is so much suffering, hate, and disorder in the social world of humans. 

For Wordsworth, nature and all of its component parts seem to take pleasure in every moment. This is in stark contrast to the potential corruption that he sees in man (humanity). This pessimism stems from Wordsworth's disappointment with the outcome of the French Revolution. This poem also reflects Wordsworth's admiration for nature and contains his message that each individual should acknowledge this connection to nature and perhaps adapt his metaphoric notion that, like the primrose tufts, birds, and budding branches, each breath, motion, and reaction should be filled with pleasure and appreciation. 

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