eRomanticism officially began in 1798, when William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge anonymously published Lyrical Ballads. This work marked the official beginning of a literary period which had already begun many years before 1798.
A work is defined to be of a certain period by its characteristics, therefore to be considered a Romantic work, the work must contain aspects which are termed “Romantic. ” A few typical “Romantic” aspects are: love of the past; sympathy to the child’s mind; faith in the inner goodness of man; aspects of nature having religious, mystic, and symbolic significance; and reconciliation of contrasting ideas to make a point. Wordsworth flourished in these ideas in a poem called Independence and Resolution. In this poem Wordsworth shows the reader what he thinks his life is like and what he wants it to be like. In its essence, Resolution and Independence is an open book to what Wordsworth feels his life is like.
It is about the past, present, and future Wordsworth. Wordsworth feels that his life is like a “traveler” on the moors (15). He feels that in the past he has always been like a small “boy,” who never “heard” or “saw” the beauties of nature (18). As a child, Wordsworth never understood life, because he never looked to nature for inspiration or guidance. Presently, Wordsworth feels he that he is “a happy Child of earth,” because he walks “far from the world. .
. far from all care” (31, 33). He begins a search to find a way to live in harmony with himself, God, and nature. During his search, he finds an old man, the leech-gatherer, who is one with himself, God, and nature.
Upon seeing this man, Wordsworth is immediately amazed by the mien of this old man. Wordsworth admires this man’s insight on life, that Wordsworth decides that he wants to become the same way. Thus, in Wordsworth’s search for his place in eternity in nature, he finds an example that he wants to duplicate. Resolution and Independence includes many tenets of Romanticism including a love of the past. Wordsworth loves the storm of the previous night and the “rain-drops” on the moors that it leaves behind (10). Wordsworth loves the old man, because the old man has so much knowledge from his past experiences.
The poet enjoys reminiscing on past experiences:I was a Traveler then upon the moor I saw the hare that raced about with joy;I heard the woods and distant waters roar;Or heard them not, as happy as a boy;The pleasant season did my heart employ;My old remembrances went from me wholly;And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholyA Second major Romantic characteristic is “wind” (1). Wind is symbolic of the vitality of the poetic spirit. When wind is mentioned, the reader can assume that the next bit of the work is going to be lively, because the author feels his poetic spirit has been rejuvenated. Rain, or water, is another Romantic attribute mentioned: “the rain came in heavy floods” (2). Rain is symbolic of life, because water is the source and maintainer of all living things.
Rain is also symbolic of poetic inspiration. The rain of the past evening’s storm inspires Wordsworth to write this poem. The reminders observed in nature and memories stirred in his mind urge him to continue on. The reminders in nature include the “rain-drops” and the “mist” that the hare kicks up (10,13). In Resolution and Independence, the ponds represent the poetic memory, or the poem itself. Wordsworth admires the old man, because he interacts with other poets memories, or poems.
The act of the old man wading through Wordsworth’s pond is symbolic the old man “reading a book,” or one of Wordsworth’s works (81). The old man inspires Wordsworth by stirring the water in Wordsworth’s pond. This action allows Wordsworth’s past inspirations to resurface. Another Romantic tenet is the reconciliation of differences to make a point. Wordsworth wanted to stress his “dejection” by writing:And fears and fancies thick upon me came;Dim sadness-blind thought, I knew not, nor could name.
(25, 27-9)Thought makes a Romantic poet happy (which is another tenet of Romanticism), and a blind man can not distinguish between any two levels of dimness. Hence, the usage of these contrasting points helps convince the reader that Wordsworth is ill at ease. His point is made and well understood, thus making this a good literary technique. In conclusion, the poet is suffering from dejection without a cause.
Wordsworth is strangely not at ease. He searches nature for an answer, but nature does not bring reconciliation to his distraught emotions. The poet has an overwhelming feeling of angst. Upon seeing the old man, Wordsworth is given a new hope for a way to gain the inner peace that he has been looking for. The old man serves as a role model for Wordsworth. Resolution and Independence1There was a roaring in the wind all nightThe rain came in heavy floods;But now the sun is rising calm and bright;The birds are singing in the distant woods;Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;The Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters;And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters2All things that love the sun are out of doors;The sky rejoices in the morning’s birth;The grass is bright with rain-drops; -on the moorsThe hare is running races in her mirth;And with her feet she from the plashy earthRaises a mist; that, glittering in the sun,Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.
3I was a Traveller then upon the moorI saw the hare that raced about with joy;I heard the woods and distant waters roar;Or heard them not, as happy as a boy;The pleasant season did my heart employ;My old remembrances went from me wholly;And all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy4But, as it sometimes chanceth, from the mightOf joy in minds that can no further go,As high as we have mounted in delightIn our dejection do we sink as low;To me that morning did happen so;And fears and fancies thick upon me came;Dim sadness-blind thought, I knew not, nor could name. 5I heard the sky-lark 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. 6My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,As if life’s business were a summer mood;As if all needful things would come unsoughtTo genial faith, still rich in genial good;But how can He expect that others shouldBuild for him, sow for him, and at his callLove him, who for himself will take no heed at all?7I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous Boy,The sleepless Soul that perished in his pride;Of him who walked in glory and in joyFollowing his plough, along the mountain-side;By our own spirits we are deified;We Poets in our youth begin in gladness;But thereof come in the end despondency and madness. 8Now, whether it were by peculiar grace,A leading from above, a something given,Yet it befel, that, in this lonely place,When I with these untoward thoughts had striven,Beside a pool bare to the eye of heavenI saw a Man before me unawares:The oldest man he seemed that ever wore grey hairs. 9As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lieCouched on the bald top of an eminence;Wonder to all who do the same espy,By what means it could thither come, and whence;So that it seems a thing endued with sense:Like a sea-beast crawled forth, that on a shelfOf rock or sand reposeth, there to sun itself;10Such seemed this Man.
Not all alive nor dead,Nor all asleep-in his extreme old age:His body was bent double, feet and headComing together in life’s pilgrimage;As if some dire constraint of pain, or rageOf sickness felt by him in times long past,A more than human weight upon his frame had cast.11Himself he propped, limbs, body, and a pale face,Upon a long gray staff of shaven wood:And, still as I drew near with gentle pace,Upon the margin of that moorish floodMotionless as a cloud the old Man stoodThat heareth not the loud winds when they call;And moveth all together, if it move at all12At length, himself unsettling, he the pondStirred with his staff, and fixedly did lookUpon the muddy water, which he conned,As if he had been reading a book:And now a stranger’s privilege I took;And drawing to his side, to him I did say,”This morning gives us promise of a glorious day.”13A gentle answer did the old Man make,In courteous speech which forth he slowly drew: And him with further words I thus bespake”What occupation do you there pursue?This is a lonesome place for one like you.”Ere he replied, a flash of mild surpriseBroke from the sable orbs of his yet-vivid eyes.14His words came feebly, from a feeble chest,But each in solemn order followed each,With something of a lofty utterance drest-Choice word and measured phrase, above the reachOf ordinary men; a stately speech;Such as grave Livers do in Scotland use,Religious men, who give to God and man their dues.15He told, that to these waters he had comeTo gather leeches, being old and poor;Employment hazardous and wearisome!And he had many hardships to endure:From pond to pond he roamed from moor to moor;Housing with God’s good help, by choice or by chance;And in this way he gained honest maintenance.16The old Man still stood talking by my side;But now his voice to me was like a streamScarce heard; nor word from word could I divide;And the whole body of the man did seemLike 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.17My Former thoughts returned: the fear that kills;And hope that is unwilling to be fed;Cold, pain, and labor, and all fleshy ills;And mighty Poets in their misery dead.Perplexed, and longing to be comforted,My question eagerly did I renew,”How is it that you live,and what is it you do?”18He with a smile did then his words repeat;And said, that, gathering leeches, far and wideHe traveled; stirring thus about his feetThe waters of the pools where they abide.”Once I could meet with them on every side;But they have dwindled long by slow decay;Yet still preserve, and find them where they may.”19While he was talking thus, the lonely place,The old Man’s shape, and speech-all troubled me:In my mind’s eye I seemed to see him paceAbout 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.20And soon with this he other matter blended,Cheerfully uttered, with demeanor kind,But stately in the main; and when he ended,I could have laughed myself to scorn to findIn that decrepit Man so firm a mind.”God,” said I, “be my help and stay secure;I’ll think of the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!”