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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282

The speaker in this poem by William Wordsworth is walking out onto the moor following a very dramatic storm, in which "the rain came heavily" and the wind roared. Now, the day is very bright and pleasant. The speaker listens to the sounds of birdsong and watches hares running and playing. The speaker describes himself as "a Traveller...upon the moor," and remembers pleasant days as a boy when he was similarly enjoying nature.

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The speaker however also remembers times when he has been smitten by "fears and fancies" and has felt "sadness" for no real reason. He envies the "blissful" hare, and thinks that many poets—like himself, and like Thomas Chatterton—may be vivified by nature but can end their lives in "despondency and madness."

As the speaker is thinking this, he comes across a very old man leaning on a staff, almost bent double. Asking the man why he is there, he is told that the man is a leech gatherer. Something about the old man's bearing makes the poet feel strengthened, as if the old man has been sent to him by God for that purpose.

The old man says it is now more difficult to find leeches than it once was; but he perseveres. His demeanor is very cheerful, despite this, and the speaker marvels that such an old man, in such an arduous occupation, should be so upbeat, while he, the poet, should allow himself to be stricken with sadness for no real reason. He resolves that, in the future, he will ask God to give him strength when he has despondent moments, and will think about the leech-gatherer as an example of how to behave.

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Themes