Lines Written in Early Spring is a landscape poem that is largely concerned with nature. In it, the poet lounges underneath a tree in the wilderness, and contemplates the changes that society has undergone around him. As the poet sits there and muses on nature, its beauty, and its seamless existence, his thoughts turn briefly to the misery of man, and to the miseries that men have wrought on one another.
Stunned by the cruelty and the callousness of the French Revolution, Wordsworth and other Romantic Poets wrote primarily to try and take back the world from the brink that it had been pushed to during the so-called age of enlightenment. Lines Written in Early Spring was one such poem.
I heard a thousand blended
notes, While in a grove I sate reclined, In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
Wordsworth has a renowned reputation as the poet of nature. In
his body of work, Nature assumes a personality, an almost divine spirit that
permeates all objects. To be close to nature, Wordsworth philosophized, was to
be close to God; and while there were other poems of nature that were prevalent
throughout the Romantic era, it is Wordsworth whom springs most readily to
In the first quatrain, the divinity of Nature occurs in the
phrase ‘a thousand blended notes’, implying an almost-pervasive presence of the
natural, something that is akin to the omnipotence shown by God.
To her fair works did Nature
link The human soul that through me ran; And much it grieved my heart to think What man has made of man.
The second quatrain moves briefly away from Nature to reminisce
on the misery that other humans have caused each other since time immemorial.
The poet, however, takes a moment to state that Nature is linked to humanity
through the very idea of a soul; that Nature’s soul is not that different from
humanity, and that, although it has been forgotten by the rest of the world, it
is man’s natural state to be close to Nature. This was one of Wordsworth’s
principle philosophies: that it was man’s innate state to be close to nature.
Through primrose tufts, in that
green bower, The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; And ’tis my faith that every flower Enjoys the air it breathes.
In this quatrain, the
presence of nature as a living thing strikes again, this time in the movement
verbs used – ‘trailed’, for the periwinkle; ‘breathes’ for the flowers.
Throughout Lines Written in Early Spring,
Wordsworth does his best to create the idea of a living, breathing world that
is only a fraction removed from humanity.
The birds around me hopped and
played, Their thoughts I cannot measure:— But the least motion which they made It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
Once more, the presence of movement draws stark contrast with
the immobile poet – it is nature that draws the reader’s attention, so much has
been said about it that it renders the speaker-poet nearly a non-entity. He has
no presence in the poem; no thoughts, no personality, no ideas. His world is
subsumed by the stronger one of nature.
The budding twigs spread out
their fan, To catch the breezy air; And I must think, do all I can, That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be
sent, If such be Nature’s holy plan, Have I not reason to lament What man has made of man?
Wordsworth ends the poem with the same lament: Have I not reason to lament what man has made of man?’ Throughout the
poem, there was the attempt by Nature to heal the injured soul of the
poet-speaker; near the end, despite the best efforts of Nature herself, the
poet-speaker’s spirits are still melancholy and low thus negating the healing
effect that Wordsworth claimed nature possessed. It ends on a somber;
the world of nature, untouched by the miseries of humanity, continues on while
the human soul, bound in its rigid cage of mortality and reason, is left behind
to experience the misery of the human world.