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The Orientation of Wordsworthian Theme-Choice in the Solitary Reaper

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[Abstract] People live in a materialistic world, so preoccupied with seeking fame and fortune that they may ignore the sacredness in nature. It is necessary to emphasize the interaction between the mind and the nature, and make spiritual discovery while experiencing the complexity of materialistic pursuit. People need time and space to reflect upon the role human beings play in the nature, settle into the contemplation about the beauty and divinity of nature and recover the lost divinity which is bestowed by nature so as to prevent from losing themselves in striving for the physical gains because nature leads people to find all the trueness and beauty. More than 200 years ago, William Wordsworth, the famous romanticist poet in British romanticism period, was dissatisfied with the social reality under capitalism, in which the relationship between mankind and nature was disconnected; the value crisis within the soul occurred; man was confined into the endless materialistic pursuit, and the human society and even mankind itself were treated merely materialistically, which completely deviated from the right humanity. He sought to find expression in a revolt against the prosaic and sordid life and did realize that nature was the spiritual presence and could offer the antidote to modern ills the industrialization entailed, and alleged that returning to nature for the lost divinity was the only way to tune the dissimilated relationship between nature and human beings caused by the coming of modern civilization. The Solitary Reaper is an exemplary poem reflecting the poet's meditation in this respect. The essay attempts an exploration into the orientation of the theme-choice with a view to stressing that Wordsworth is the representative of the early romanticism concerned with the human conditions as well as the nature.

[Key Words] nature; mechanized; divinity; country; town; solitude; individuality; pathos

1. Introduction

At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, romanticism arose in England as new trend in literature amid the social conflicts of the industrial revolution and French revolution. ''The forty years in great Britain from 1785 to 1825, the period generally construed as the age of romanticism, saw a crucial transition between enlightenment world view and the values of modern, industrial society''(Curren, 2001: xiii). They might stand as well as a metaphor for the age of discontent of social revolution, in political and economic terms. But the romanticism tends to present the ideal world which does not harmonize with the social reality; the literature creators rely on their ideals to arrange the plots and mould the characters. Therefore, the ideological consciousness dominates their dealing with the themes. it has been found that romanticism in this period has three characteristics. First, it criticizes the negative effects of the commercial civilization and technology development, which are thought of as against the human nature. But aesthetic power can remove the defects of the capitalism. Second, it stresses on the self and self-experience, which are regarded as infinite, by applying the passion and imagination of the poets to exploring the fantastic and preternatural, and balancing the sense and sensibility. Third, it encourages the individually aesthetic style by removing the constraint of the classical school of the English poetries (Zhang Hong, 2004:308). In a word, the three traits indicate the introspection of and the rejection to the tendency of social commercialization. Besides, romanticism's focus on depicting man's elementary feelings is the antidote of social ills, and the base of recovering the whole soul of the entire human beings. It has been argued that the romantic principles lead to exaltation of the primitive over the civilized, the emotional over the rational, and of what is spontaneous over what is contrived or inhabited.

William Wordsworth, the representative of the early romanticism, influenced by the social revolution, reflected his dissatisfaction with the bourgeois society and disappointment about the French revolution by returning to nature, he is called as an escapist romanticist because he found expression in an escape from the gutless and filthy daily life, "the prison of the actual under capitalism" (Liu Bingshan, ed, 2006:200). However, he was not merely an escapist romanticist, he transferred his enthusiasm about social reform and revolution to that about concern with human living conditions because for the whole life of William Wordsworth, he was of low status. After disappointment about the social transformation, he turned to write poems about the ordinary people and the living condition of them. What is more, the poet was versed on searching and revealing the feelings of the ordinary people by using simplicity and purity of his language and with a color of imagination and contemplation. Wordsworth was sensitive enough to capture the perfectly undistinguished combination between the divinity of nature and the simplicity of ordinary people's life in the landscape, which well demonstrated Wordsworthian romanticism. It maybe true that the principle object, proposed in his poems, was the chosen incidents and situations from common life and the poem was an epitaph to an experience which had extinguished (Conard, 1987:398). The Solitary Reaper is a good example to demonstrate Wordsworth's romanticism, especially in his choices of subject matter. In this poem, Wordsworth succeeded in depicting pathetic pictures of the laboring people. Wordsworth was deeply impressed by the starkly brumal but pure view in the highland, humble life and the very combination of the two so that it was hard for the poet to distinguish them from each other because Wordsworth saw that the reaper had some qualities, sacred and individual, different from the town people.

The poet changed an ordinary lass reaper in the highland into the object of contemplation and aesthetic experience. In spite of the vivid description, the poet was not founded on the poet's own experience. The structure of the poem, made up of four eight-line stanzas, is simple. The first stanza sets the scene of the highland lass reaper who is the protagonist, in the rustic background; the second stanza praises the infectious beauty of the song by two novel comparisons; the third is about the poet's guesses about the content of the song; the fourth describes the effects of the song upon the poet. However the poem is deceptively simple, as a nature poet, Wordsworth doesn't sing praise of the nature directly. It is seen in the second stanza that the nightingale and the cuckoo-birds, which are recognized as symbols of the artistic ideology and imagoes of nature in British romanticism (Zou Jianjun, 2005: 60-63), recede behind human



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