The Solitary Reaper by William Wordsworth Questions and Answers
Q.1. ‘Behold her, single in the field’.
-Who is single in the field? What is she doing there in the field?
Ans. A Scottish Highland lass is seen alone in the field.
She is busy harvesting the crop. She cuts and binds the grain. She sings a melancholy song as she bends over her sickle.
Q.2. ‘Stop here, or gently pass!’
Who says this and to whom? Why does he say this?
Ans. William Wordsworth says this in his poem The Solitary Reaper. He says this either to his companions or to some chance passer-by.
He is greatly charmed by the Highland girl’s song. He does not want that anybody should disturb the girl while she is singing. This is why he says this.
Q.3. ‘Will no one tell me what she sings?’
Why does the poet ask this question? What, according to the speaker, might be the theme of the girl’s song?
Ans. The English poet is not familiar with the language of the Scottish Highlanders. So he cannot follow the meaning of the Highland girl’s song. That is why he asks this question.
The poet tries to guess what could be the theme of the song. He imagines that the song perhaps tells the tale of some unhappy events of the past or of some battle that had been fought in the distant past. He also thinks that the song may be about some natural sorrow, loss or pain which are part of man’s daily existence.
Q.4. ‘O listen! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.’
What is meant by ‘vale profound’? What sound is referred to here? Why does the poet use the word overflowing?
Ans. “Vale profound’ means a valley lying deep between rows of hills The word ‘sound’ refers to the song sung by the reaper girl.
Music is conceived here as a liquid. Thus, it overflows the valley just as the water of a river overflows its banks.
Q.5. “More welcomes notes to weary bands
What notes are referred to here? Why are they described as “welcome notes”?
Ans. It is the Nightingale’s song in the Arabian deserts that has been described as “welcome notes’.
These sweet notes of the Nightingale are heard by weary travellers in the Arabian deserts, when they stop at some oasis to rest for a while. To these weary travellers, the sweet song of the Nightingale seems to be the most welcome notes they have ever heard.
Q.6. “The music in my heart I bore.
Long after it was heard no more.”
– (i) What music is referred to here? (ii) Who bore it in his heart and why?
Ans. (i) The poet here refers to the sweet, melancholy song of the solitary reaper,
(ii) It was the poet who bore the music in his heart.
The poet had been deeply impressed by the sweet, melancholy music of the Highland girl’s song. It seemed to him that it was the sweetest song that human ears had ever heard. Added to this, the poet had a very sensitive mind. Naturally, he bore the music in his heart long after the voice of the Highland girl could be heard no more.
Q.7. ‘The music in my heart I bore.’
—What was the nature of the music?
Ans. The tune of the Highland girl’s song was thrilling and melancholy at the same time. It reminded the poet of a Nightingale’s song. He compared its sweet notes with the Cuckoo’s call. And yet, at the same time, he thought that the song told the tale of some unhappy events of the past or of some battles fought long ago.
But, whatever the theme of the song might be, its fine music made a deep and lasting impression on the poet’s mind,
Q.8. How does Wordsworth compare the song of the Solitary Reaper with those of the Nightingale and the Cuckoo?
Ans. The poet compares the song of the solitary reaper with the song of the Nightingale as it is heard by tired travellers in the Arabian deserts. He thinks that the song of the Highland girl is sweeter even than the song of a Nightingale.
He again compares her song with the song of the Cuckoo bird as it sings in the Hebrides in spring time. He feels that even the Cuckoo’s song is no more thrilling than the song of the Highland lass.
Q.9. What is the song of the Highland girl compared to and why?
Ans. Wordsworth compares the song of the solitary reaper first with the song of a Nightingale and then with the song of the Cuckoo.
The song of the Nightingale is very sweet. Wordsworth describes the charm of the song of a Nightingale singing in some cool, shady oasis in the Arabian deserts. But, the solitary reaper’s song seems to him sweeter even than the Nightingale’s song.
The solitary reaper’s song also reminds the poet of the song of the Cuckoo, singing in spring time ‘among the farthest Hebrides’. But the poet thinks that the Highland girl’s song is sweeter and more thrilling than the song of the Cuckoo bird.
The poet makes these two comparisons in order to bring out the incomparable charm of the girl’s song.
Q.10. “Behold her, single in the field.
Yon solitary Highland lass!”
-What does the poet say about the ‘Highland lass’? Why does he become interested in her?
Ans. The poet describes how the Highland girl was reaping and singing alone in the field.
The image of the solitary reaper, seen against the wonderful background of the Scottish Highlands, rouses the poet’s romantic imagination. The solitary reaper symbolizes for him the very essence of romantic beauty. Her song transports the poet to the realm of the far-off and the by-gone. Naturally the poet feels deeply interested in the “solitary Highland lass.”
Q.11. How does Wordsworth lay an extra emphasis on the loneliness of the Highland girl?
Ans. The Highland girl is all alone in the field. She is reaping and singing by herself and as the poem is about the lonely reaper girl and her song, the poet has called the poem ‘The Solitary Reaper’.
So, in the very first stanza, the poet has used such words and phrases as ‘single’, ‘solitary’. ‘by herself’ and ‘alone’ in order to lay an extra emphasis on the idea of solitude and loneliness.
Q.12. What does the poet say about the subject of the girl’s song?
Ans. The girl was singing in the Gaelic dialect. The English poet was not familiar with this local dialect of the Scottish Highlands. So he could not make out what the girl’s song was about. He tried to make guesses about the probable theme of the song. He imagined that her song might be about some old, unhappy, far-off things and battles which had been fought long ago. It might also be, he thought, a simple and ordinary song about some common loss or pain that are inseparably bound up with our daily existence.
Q.13. ‘Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.’
a) What is meant by the silence of the seas’? How is the silence broken? (b) What is meant by ‘the farthest Hebrides’?
Ans.(a) The seas here refer to a part of the Atlantic. This part of the ocean is very often stormy and unquiet during winter. But, as the spring sets in, the ocean becomes calm and quiet.
The cuckoo sings in the spring time. And so its merry song seems to break the silence of the calm and quiet seas.
(b) ‘The farthest Hebrides’ refer to a large group of islands, situated west and north-west of Scotland. The word ‘farthest’ is expressive of the poet’s romantic fondness for the far-off and the unknown.
Q.14. “Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow.’
What is meant by plaintive numbers’? What does the word ‘now’ suggest? Is there the same suggestion elsewhere in the poem?
Ans. ‘Plaintive numbers means a melancholy song. The word ‘flow indicates that music is conceived here as a liquid.
The same suggestion is found in the first stanza of the poem where the poet says that the deep valley is ‘overflowing’ with music of the solitary reaper’s song.
Q.15.”…..old, unhappy, far-off things.
And battles long ago.”
-Bring out the meaning of the above lines.
Ans. Since Wordsworth did not know the language of the Scottish Highlanders, he could not understand what the solitary reaper’s song was about. But its mournful tune suggested to him a number of probable themes. The adjectives ‘old’, ‘unhappy and far-off” point to the poet’s romantic bent of mind. ‘Battles long ago’, also expresses his romantic passion for the past.
Q.16. Mention some of the things which the poet sees and the things which he imagines in the poem.
Ans. The poet sees a deep valley in which a Highland girl is reaping and singing all by herself. She bends over the sickle as she cuts and binds the grain.
The poet imagines that neither the Nightingale in the Arabian desert nor the Cuckoo in the Hebrides had ever sung so sweetly. He thinks that the girl’s song might be about some old, unhappy, far off things, or about some battles that had been fought in the distant past. He also imagined that the girl’s song might be about some loss or pain which is an inseparable part of man’s daily life.
Q.17. Why did the poet feel that the solitary reaper’s song ‘could have no ending’?
Ans. The poet was greatly charmed by the fine music of the solitary reaper’s song. To him, this music became the symbol of all that is beautiful in God’s creation. This is why he felt that the girl’s song could have no ending.
Q.18. Explain the meaning of the following phrases:
(a) melancholy strain.
(b) shady haunt.
(c) plaintive numbers.
(d) humble lay.
(e) welcome notes
Ans.(a) ‘Melancholy strain’ means a spell of music having a sorrowful note. The melancholy note of the Highland girl’s song may be explained, partially at least, by the poet’s romantic bent of mind.
(b) ‘Shady haunt’ is a place shaded by trees, where people can rest for a while. In the context of the poem, ‘shady haunt’ refers to some oasis situated among the Arabian deserts.
(c) ‘Plaintive numbers’ means musical notes of a rather sad character. In the poem, the expression refers to the song of the Highland girl who was reaping all alone in a field.
(d) A ‘lay’ means a simple lyric or short narrative meant to be sung. Thus, ‘humble lay’ refers to a song about the simple ordinary things of daily life.
(e) “Welcome notes’ refers to the song of a Nightingale, which gladdens the hearts of tired travellers journeying through Arabian deserts.
Q.19. How does the wonderfully sweet song of the Solitary Reaper affect the poet?
Ans. During his tour of Scotland, Wordsworth saw a Highland girl reaping and singing alone in a field. The sweet, melancholy music of her song immediately transported the poet to the realm of romantic imagination. The magic of the girl’s song held him spellbound. The wonderful music of her song reminded the poet of the song of a Nightingale. He thought that her voice was even sweeter than the sweet notes of the Cuckoo singing in springtime ‘among the farthest Hebrides’. Since the English poet was not familiar with the dialect of the Highlanders, he kept guessing what the theme of the girl’s song might be. And, thought he could not be sure about the subject of the song, its sweet music left a deep and lasting impression on his sensitive soul.
Q.20. How does Wordsworth describe the Reaper’s song?
Ans. Wordsworth saw a Highland girl reaping and singing alone in the field. She was singing a sweet, melancholy song. The deep valley was overflowing with the sweet, melancholy notes of the girl’s song.
The girl’s song, according to the poet, was sweeter and more refreshing than the song of the Nightingale, as it is heard by weary travellers in an oasis in the Arabian desert. The song was sweeter and more excitingly beautiful than the Cuckoo’s song, when it sings during spring among the far-off Hebrides islands.
The poet could not understand the meaning of the song. He thought that the song might be about some old, unhappy, far-off things or about some battles that had been fought long ago. He also thought that it could also be about some familiar matters or about some natural sorrow; loss or pain which are part of man’s daily existence.
The girl continued to sing and it seemed to the poet that her song would never end. The beautiful tune held him spellbound. Even when he could no longer hear that beautiful voice, the sweet music seemed to linger in his memory.
This is how Wordsworth describes the song of the Highland girl in his poem ‘The Solitary Reaper’.
Q.21. “The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”
-What light do these lines throw on the poet’s personality?
Ans. The poet Wordsworth was deeply moved by the Highland girl’s song which left a lasting impression on his mind. The poet listens to the song spellbound. He carries in his heart the memory of that beautiful music long after it was heard no more’. This memory remains with him a permanent source of poetic inspiration.
The above lines clearly show that the poet had an extraordinarily sensitive mind. We ordinary people easily forget a song, however beautiful and sweet, as soon as we cease to hear the singer’s voice. But, the poet’s sensitive soul stores up all the sweet impressions which the girl’s song had evoked in his mind. We know from the poem that the sweet notes of that song had transported him to the realm of fancy and romantic imagination. So, we see that the above lines show the poet to be an extraordinarily sensitive person with a decidedly romantic bent of mind.