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Maria Glanfield

on 14 April 2015

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A slumber did my spirit seal

A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees
William Wordsworth
"A slumber did my spirit seal" was a lyrical ballad/elegy written by William Wordsworth(1770-1850) in 1798 while on his travels in Germany, during the Romantic Period. It was one of the five famous "Lucy" series Poems
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a romantic writer, wrote of this poem in a letter in April 1799:

"Some months ago Wordsworth transmitted to me a most sublime Epitaph... whether it had any reality, I cannot say. Most probably, in some gloomier moment he had fancied the moment in which his sister might die"
Form and Rhyme Scheme:
The poem is a lyrical ballad comprised of
two, four line stanzas

They have two
different settings
, the first stanza being set in the ethereal existence, and the second being set in the natural and earthly world of realism.
The first stanza is in
past tense
, and the second is in
present tense

Both stanzas have a
rhyming scheme of ABAB CDCD
, similar to Shakespearean sonnets
The first and third lines are in
iambic tetrameter
, while the second and forth lines are in
iambic trimeter.

: “A
lumber did my
eal” The /s/ depicts 'slumber, spirit, and seal' as words associated with the soul/dreaming, and the word 'seal' literally connects to death and the idea of being shut off from reality. There is another alliteration in "
ound in Earths dismal course". This reflects the idea of recycling and the constant cycle of life after death

We are familiar to the meanings of the words used to say she is physically buried:
rock, stone and tree
, but Wordsworth also uses them connotatively where rock and stone are used to signify a cold and inanimate object (a dead body), and the tree suggests the burial of her.
"A slumber d
d my sp
rit seal"

"She seemed a thing". This statement seems stupid because how can you state a living thing is non-living? But, it makes sense because the first stanza is referring to her as an ethereal being that he
didn't have characteristics of a living being

"She seemed a thing that could not feel the touch of earthly years". He is expressing the idea of her bypassing mortality by stating years (an inanimate thing) could not physically touch her. (which also infers it is capable)

Both stanzas maintain a quiet, ethereal, and peaceful tone, regardless of the fact the eternal sense is gone in the second stanza when she dies. This is due to the
of words such as slumber, spirit, touch, course, trees.
It is believed that the origin of the Romanticism period came from England and Germany. Both where William lived and traveled to at the time. Although the growth of the Romantic Movement began around the 1770's, in was truly taken into affect in 1798 when Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge published
"Lyrical Ballads"
.It was influenced by the American and French revolutions, it proclaimed emotions of beings faced with experiences had to endure and reflect upon themselves and the world emotionally.
There are several ideals and great aspects that come across in Romantic literature, however there three that remain dominant in many works of this period, and within this poem.
Symbolism allows the reader to infer on their own meaning of what the author is trying to portray. In this poem, to some it sounds as if this female, a possible lover, is dead thus she has no feeling.

"She seemed a thing that could not feel
The touch of earthly years."

This also allows readers to connect to their own sentimental experiences and may find it relatable. Which is what Romanticism literature is meant to do, bring real emotion and passion to its readers

Dealing with emotions and feelings, logic tends to get left behind, as it is meant to be felt with the heart and not think with your head. The words William use are meant to bring remorse for the woman who has:

"No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees"

Her suffering can be reflected back on its readers for their hard struggles of the American and French revolutions where they as well might have lost a loved one

In the first of the poem's two stanzas, Wordsworth declares that a "slumber" has kept or sealed him from realizing the reality of life. In essence he has been in a dream-like state, devoid of any human fears (such as mortality). To him, "she" seemed like she would never age. "She" can also only refer to "my spirit," and therefore is presented as character that exists in a state between the spiritual and human (the ethereal soul).

In the second stanza “she” who "seemed" immortal to him in an ethereal sense is now dead, and the reality of her death has awakened him from his self-delusive "slumber”.

He also mentions that she is “without motion or force”. This enhances the idea that the woman was once full of life, but that has been taken away by death and its reality.

Since “she” exists on an unconscious level for him, he cannot grasp her until she has died, so he experiences the event like a dream. This is shown in the way he chooses to never say the word death between the stanzas. This could also imply that he is not in pain, but comforted by the ideas she is beyond the touch of time and is now apart of the natural world, no longer a “thing”
Ethereal life to the Reality of Death:
Acknowledgeling the beauty around us is greatly incorporated in many Romantic literature
"Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees."
At the time of suffering it was used to allow others to realize the beauty around them and take them out of a tough atmosphere and admire that one around them. Enjoying what life, and this world, has to offer.
"A slumber did my spirit seal" Song by the band Draconian
The songs lyrics are directly from the famous poem, and the song was featured on their debut album "Where Lovers Mourn" (2003)
Full transcript