Resolution and Independence

by William Wordsworth
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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 611

"Resolution and Independence" by William Wordsworth is a lyrical poem by an unnamed man, most likely the poet, wandering thoughtfully through the moors. He states that weather during the night had been horrible, but now

The sky rejoices in the morning's birth;
The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors
The hare is running races in her mirth;
Though he begins his walk buoyed by the happy go lucky hares and the chattering magpies and jays, he soon starts to feel dejected. As he states, we can only go so high before we have to come down again.
Of joys in minds that can no further go,
As high as we have mounted in delight
In our dejection do we sink as low;
To me that morning did it happen so;
And fears and fancies thick upon me came;
Dim sadness—and blind thoughts, I knew not, nor could name.
He somehow feels that despite his happiness
there may come another day to me—
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.
The main object of his melancholy is that he knows that while "We Poets in our youth begin in gladness," they are often prone to depression and madness. He uses the 18th century poet Thomas Chatterton as an example. Chatterton killed himself at the age of 17.
I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,
The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;
Of Him who walked in glory and in joy
Following his plough, along the mountain-side:
By our own spirits are we deified:
We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.
The speaker is brought out of his melancholy by a man sitting by a pool of water who he describes as the "The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs." Yet despite his age and the hardships brought on by his age, the man still has the dignity and presence of mind to say "this morning gives us the promise of a glorious day."
The old man then talks to the speaker so openly about his life and the hardship he has suffered that the speaker begins to think that the man has been brought to him by an ethereal force.
The old Man still stood talking by my side;
But now his voice to me was like a stream
Scarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;
And the whole body of the Man did seem
Like one whom I had met with in a dream;
Or like a man from some far region sent,
To give me human strength, by apt admonishment.
Then the reader gets to understand what seems to be the point of the poem. As soon as the speaker stops being mindful of his surroundings, he becomes melancholic.
My former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;
And hope that is unwilling to be fed;
Cold, pain, and labour, and all fleshly ills;
And mighty Poets in their misery dead.
In this respect, the man becomes a comfort to him, albeit in a guilty way. Why should he have such depressing thoughts when the old man appears so alone?
In my mind's eye I seemed to see him pace
About the weary moors continually,
Wandering about alone and silently.
While I these thoughts within myself pursued,
He, having made a pause, the same discourse renewed.
The more he listens to the man, the better he feels. At the end, he states that he will think back to the old man whenever he feels depressed.
God, said I, be my help and stay secure;
I'll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!

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