Resolution and Independence

by William Wordsworth
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"A Happy Child Of Earth"

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Last Updated on October 18, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 351

Context: After 1800 a note of disillusionment began to appear in Wordsworth's poetry, and this note is quite obvious in "Resolution and Independence," the sentimentality of which made it fair game for the parodists Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. The poem had its origin in an experience encountered by the poet and his sister in one of their walks in the Lake District: a meeting with an old leech-gatherer, badly crippled by an accident yet eking out a living at his difficult trade. The poet's conversation with the old man–which occupies the second half of the poem–is the sentimental part that became the butt of the parodists. But from this conversation with a man whom Wordsworth described as "carrying with him his own fortitude, and the necessities which our unjust state of society has laid upon him," the poet derived both inspiration and comfort. In the earlier and more cheerful section of the poem, Wordsworth describes a heavy storm at night that ended in a beautiful morning. The poet, in his familiar vein, then tells of his identification with nature and his happiness in it. Yet he is keenly aware that after such moments of joy comes a corresponding dejection of mind, during which the sensitive man is conscious of the tragedies that life will inevitably bring to him. It is in this realization that he writes, in the early part of the poem:

But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the might
Of joy 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 know not, nor could name.
I heard the skylark warbling in the sky;
And I bethought me of the playful hare:
Even such a happy child of earth am I;
Even as these blissful creatures do I fare;
Far from the world I walk, and from all care;
But there may come another day to me–
Solitude, pain of heart, distress, and poverty.

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