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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445

Like many of Wordsworth's poems, this one takes the wildness of nature as its backdrop, expressing the Romantic viewpoint that nature can offer sustenance to the mind and soul. However, its primary message is, rather, that although nature can fill us with joy, there are times when the "blissful" temperament of more innocent creatures, such as the hare, seems very far away from us, and at times such as this, it can be a struggle to remain "secure" of mind and heart.

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The speaker, writing in the voice of the poet himself, even notes that, although as a boy he always took joy in nature, he worries that many a poet has begun life joyfully, but has ended his days in "madness" and despair. He alludes to Thomas Chatterton, a boy poet who famously died young, and seems to be concerned that a similar fate might greet him.

However, it is at this point that the "Traveller" on the moors meets a fellow human, a man so old that he is bent double and leaning on a staff. The language used to describe this man gives the impression that he is somehow not quite of this world. Instead, he is "like a cloud," carrying a "more than human weight," and his bent body is coming together "in life's pilgrimage." His speech is "above the reach / of ordinary men." The imagery here suggests a connection between this man and God, not least the image of him as an old man with a staff, alone on the moors. Indeed, the poet muses that it is as if the man, as in a "dream," has been sent to him "from some far region...To give me human strength."

The story the old man tells clearly makes the poet feel as if he has no reason to complain. This man, so old and bent, spends his days in the arduous task of collecting leeches, and yet remains "firm" and "secure," speaking "cheerfully" in a way which seems like "admonishment" from God. The poet muses that he can imagine the old man wandering the moors continually. Altogether, the language seems to imply that the man is not human at all, but an admonishment sent to remind the speaker to take joy in what is around him, and to dispel "sadness" which creeps upon him unexpectedly, because others deal with far worse lives and yet remain cheerful.

The message of the poem, in the end, seems to be that God sends to each man what he needs, whether that be nature's bounty, inspiration, or simply good cheer. The speaker vows to think of the leech-gatherer when he has need of sustenance.

The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523

“Resolution and Independence,” known in manuscript as “The Leech Gatherer,” is a poem of 140 lines divided into twenty stanzas. The published title suggests the thematic moral learned by the speaker from an encounter with the leech gatherer, who supplies the manuscript title.

The poem is written in the first person, the speaker probably being the poet himself (when he was about to be married), who describes a strange experience he had one spring morning when he met an old man while walking across an English moor. The first two stanzas set the scene of an animated landscape filled with sounds of birds and rushing water, sights of bright sunshine reflected from wet grass, and a rabbit kicking up a mist as it runs away. The poet says, in the third stanza, that he was as happy as the scene he surveyed.

Yet unexpectedly, and suddenly, he fell into a deep melancholy, which he describes in the fourth and fifth stanzas. He is perplexed about his strange sorrow, which contrasts so strongly with the scene about him and his former happiness. In stanzas 6 and 7, he considers the plight of persons (perhaps like himself) who have spent their lives without much consideration for anything except their own happiness; two great poets, Thomas Chatterton and Robert Burns, illustrate the...

(The entire section contains 1468 words.)

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