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An analysis of William Wordsworth's 'Nutting'
Transcript of An analysis of William Wordsworth's 'Nutting'
by Eleanor C
William Wordsworth (7th April 1770 - 23rd April 1850) was one of the major English Romantic poets during this period and was considered to be one of the most important figures involved in launching the Romantic Age in England.
This poem, titled 'Nutting', describes the journey of the narrator through the woods whilst aiming to gather nuts and berries.
The poem was written during the period between 1798 and 1799. At this time, Wordsworth was staying in Germany and drew inspiration from his past stay by Esthwaite Lake (in the Lake District of Northern England).
It explores common Romantic themes, such as remembering childhood, and the connections between man and nature.
Structure/rhythm and rhyme
Sense of unreality, detachment from 'normal' life.
Has a rigid structure with 10 or 11 syllables per line.
This sets a regular pace within the poem, mimicking the pace of the narrator walking through the woods.
In the form of one long stanza.
It can be separated into 4 sections marked by the use of full stops (or in one case an exclamation mark).
Written in unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Link to unpredictability of nature, or perhaps the beauty still evident despite its fragmentation (reflected in the lack of rhyme in the poem)
This is also used within Edward Thomas' 'As The Team's Head Brass', but in
The contrast between the regular structure of the lines and the lack of rhyme scheme in the poem could be used to illustrate the difference between the preconceived notions that many people hold in regards to nature (gentle, controlled) and how nature actually behaves (threatening, unpredictable).
This can be linked to Sylvia Plath's 'Mushrooms', as
the idea of the
hidden force of nature
the mushrooms/the woods
The full stops mark changes in tone within the poem.
The poem takes on an appreciative and reverent tone. It details the beauty of nature through the narrator's eyes.
It may also reflect how Wordsworth views the scene as so far removed from reality that it is pointless to try and write a 'poem' about it; ie one that has a regular rhyme scheme, which is the first point that many people latch on to when they think of a 'poem'.
The poem takes on an edge of unreality due to the truly engulfing way in which the surroundings are described, like an attack on the senses.
"---------------------It seems a day
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavy days that cannot die;
When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth
With a huge wallet o'er my shoulders slung,
A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps
Tow'rd some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint,
Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds
Which for that service had been husbanded,
By exhortation of my frugal Dame—
Motley accoutrement, of power to smile
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles,—and, in truth,
More ragged than need was!"
Poem begins with a series of hyphens; emerges from silence. Almost sinister. Similar to use of hyphens at end of poem; idea that humans are only temporary in the face of nature.
Reminiscent, remembering fondly.
Created a lasting impression upon him; use of 'heavy' perhaps shows how the memory has remained and changed him as a person.
Sibilance of 's' sounds; long, drawn out sounds, sense of excitement OR muted sounds as narrator sneaks off to the woods.
Referred to as a lone 'Figure' and described as 'quaint' - perhaps shows how narrator seems oddly placed on the landscape, doesn't belong there?
Assonance of 'br' sounds; harsh, abrupt. Reflects tangled nature of the vegetation in the woods.
Fallen into disrepair; untouched by humans. Shows how humans always need to change and alter the natural world to fit their ideas of beauty. Ignorance.
The assembled disguise is his equipment and gives him the 'power' to view the uglier parts of nature as something to be appreciated. In typical childish cheer 'smile's at thorns etc.
'disguise' - needs to hide from something/someone? sense of mystery and excitement.
O'er pathless rocks,
Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets,
Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation; but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung,
A virgin scene!—A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and, with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet;—or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blest
With sudden happiness beyond all hope.
Link to Robert Frost's 'Desert Places' - hyphens used similarly to
in the text, highlight the
total silence of the landscape
Link to Robert Frost's 'Birches' -
of sides of nature yet
the hazels rose, ragged
' & 'they seem not to break'/'thorns, and brakes, and brambles')
'matted' - unwelcoming to humans, hostility of nature.
'Drooped' 'withered' - signs of decay, displeasing to the eyes. Idea that this part of the woods is beyond the realms of ordinary nature as it is yet untouched by death. Flourishing.
Innocent, untouched - dissimilar to the destruction that humans wreak upon landscapes.
Link to Gerard Manley Hopkin's 'Binsey Poplars' - idea of the
purity of nature
left to its own devices
('her being so slender'/'A virgin scene!')
His heart couldn't beat properly due to him being taken aback at the beauty of the scene; again the idea of this scene being beyond what nature can ordinarily achieve.
A feast for the senses, vivid visual imagery.
Similar to 'Alice in Wonderland'; giddy with wonder, in a world that is not quite his own.
(has had an exhausting time recently and was looking forward to this)
Sense of euphoria upon coming across this scene. Cannot adequately describe this with words. Idea that this scene has revitalised more than anything else could possibly have - has healed him in a way that nature may not ordinarily do.
The landscape is beckoning him closer and he accepts its invitation.
This idea is also explored in Sylvia Plath's 'Crossing The Water' in contrasting ways. ('Their leaves do not wish us to hurry/'tempting clusters'). In CTW the narrator ignores their calls and continues on their journey. Here, the narrator remains amongst the beauties of the scene, perhaps due to their overwhelming qualities.
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons re-appear
And fade, unseen by any human eye;
Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on
For ever; and I saw the sparkling foam,
And—with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees,
Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep—
I heard the murmur, and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones,
And on the vacant air.
Magical, unknown, eery - appear and disappear without humans noticing. Fragility of nature, time slipping past quickly.
Again, magical and ethereal sense. Something beyond the realm of humans - perhaps the narrator is a trespasser upon the landscape?
Reflecting light - concealing something beneath the bright exterior?
Simile - harmless yet a definite presence surrounding him.
Personification of the surroundings, the trees are speaking. Assonance of 'mu' sounds is soothing and calm, almost has a lullaby-like quality.
End of the ethereal and magical scene. Claim that it's pointless to love something that isn't there; change in tone in the poem as it takes on a much harsher viewpoint.
Similar to Norman Maccaig's 'Interruption to a Journey' - nature is
always surrounding humans
ever watchful of their actions
, which is also explored in the final section of this poem ('cornfields breathed in the darkness'/'Lay round me').
Humans lavish love upon the natural world, rarely saving it for others. Only do this when they feel safe.
Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth both branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage: and the shady nook
Of hazels, and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being: and, unless I now
Confound my present feelings with the past;
Ere from the mutilated bower I turned
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky.—
Pulled the tree (branch) to the ground - ridding the tree of its treasure in a moment of selfish greed.
Clipped way to start this section, places emphasis upon the suddenness upon which this act took place. No reason given - none needed. Human instinct.
Assonance of 'b' sounds; harsh, abrupt. Displays the brutality of the destruction that took place. Sound of branches breaking and snapping?
Onomatopoeia for shock factor, almost gleeful in its tone. Again, childish delight as children are often destructive beings.
Permanently ruined and damaged by the power of one human. Almost looking down upon the ease with which one could alter the landscape with no resistance from the natural world.
Idea that power gives a greater rush than money; can't be bought. Nobody else can experience what he had.
Also can be seen as a childish view of the world; the hazelnuts that he gathered meant so much to him as he went to such great lengths to get them.
Almost like divine intervention ('merciless ravage'), the idea of being all-powerful over your surroundings.
This shows a
between this notion in this poem and its use in others such as 'In The Times of "The Breaking Of Nations" Analysis', as here it is used to show how this power can be used in a
to bring about the
downfall of something
(the beautiful surroundings), whereas within TBON it is used to show how this power can be used to
(ie a damaged nation).
This can be used to show a
between this poem and Edward Thomas' 'As the Team's Head Brass'. Within this poem the destruction of this tree marks a
permanent change to the landscape
, whereas within ATTHB the felling of the tree
affects the people of the area
Personification; the trees are shocked into silence by the violence of this action. Disapproving of this. Awakens terrible sense of guilt over his simple action.
First mention of the sky, emphasised with a pause. Omnipresent, almost a warning to those watching.
Ends in silence, same as beginning. Finality. Leaves an impression on the reader, sense of a lesson being taught calmly and gently.
Links back to virginal description of the scene in the woods. Personification of this? Imagining a silent listener in place, may it be a lesson to you all.
Themes; A fairy-tale
The poem begins with a quest
Dressed in a 'disguise' of sorts
Magical qualities assigned to the landscape, e.g. 'dear nook unvisited'
Finds the treasure he is seeking (the unvisited nook) after going through hardships to get there (difficult terrain)
Twist; the hero of this tale is also the monster (young boy going off on an adventure/destroys the beauty of the woods)
Perhaps referring to Ann Tyson, the woman he rented his rooms from.
Who is the listener?
Dorothy, Wordsworth's sister, who was said to be his companion on the German trip.
Lucy, a beloved friend, who reminded Wordsworth of himself as a child.
The poem 'She Dwelt Amongst the Untrodden Ways' is said to be about the Lucy individual.
In this poem, the maid is compared to 'a violet by a mossy stone' - this imagery is also found within Nutting, in the form of hidden violets ('The violets of five seasons re-appear And fade') and the stones 'fleeced with moss'.
The poem can be interpreted in a sexual way.
Reference to 'virgin' and 'Maiden' multiple times within the poem - purity and innocence.
As soon as the nuts are taken from the trees, the scene loses its perfection (ie what made it appealing in the first place, the promise of a treasure to be gained from it). One could say that this perfection is lost forever. To enjoy something pure is to destroy it.
Symbolism of white (purity, virginity, etc.) used initially - 'milk-white clusters' of the flowers, 'sparkling foam' of the stream which would presumably be white. However, once the scene has been altered, white is not mentioned again.
Line break and comma/dash punctuation allows the single word to almost drip into the conscience. A delicate balance, it returns the readers from a sense of shame to one of wise restraint, with the poet and his listeners finally understanding the respect required of them when dealing with nature.
Compressed drama into a section 14 lines long. Rushed, frantic pace, culminating in a stately tercet leaving a lasting impression on the reader.
This lesson is emphasised by the use of 'spirit', marks a turn in enchantment. Presence of a spirt; silence is not only magical but also sacred.
Then, dearest Maiden, move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand
Touch, - for there is a spirit in the woods.
Pathless - childish joy at discovering something that was completely new, never seen by anyone else. Spirit of the adventure.
separation of this nook by referring to it as the 'one'; declaration of his kingdom?!
Nature has a life-force (if you will) that cannot be ignored; a very Romantic idea.
Quite brutal vocabulary - 'forced', 'ravages', 'sullies'. The poem has also been linked more disturbingly to the idea of rape, as this secluded and rare beauty is ripped apart by a greedy boy. There was also an earlier version of the poem that was longer, which followed the story of a girl called Lucy who was faced with rape.
However, the subtle message in this poem seems to be one of 'do not harm nature' so this interpretation may not necessarily be true.