Summary and Analysis of The Solitary Reaper

Text of the Poem | The Solitary Reaper by Wordsworth

Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland Lass!

Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass!

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,

And sings a melancholy strain;

O listen! for the Vale profound

Is overflowing with the sound.


No Nightingale did ever chaunt

More welcome notes to weary bands

Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands:

A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard

In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,

Breaking the silence of the seas

Among the farthest Hebrides.


Will no one tell me what she sings?—

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow

For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago:

Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matter of to-day?

Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,

That has been, and may be again?


Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang

As if her song could have no ending;

I saw her singing at her work,

And o’er the sickle bending;—

I listened, motionless and still;

And, as I mounted up the hill,

The music in my heart I bore,

Long after it was heard no more.


About the poet William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a romantic poet. He wrote poetry with full of imagery, usually based around the natural world. His poetry is mostly subjective like other romantic poets.  He lived during the era of French Revolution which he supported at start but became against later on. Some scholars advocate that relationship of Wordsworth with his sister, Dorothy was far from plutonic love. But Wordsworth did marry and lived with both his sister and wife. Samuel Coleridge, a best friend of Wordsworth, was a great poet of the romantic era. He was contemporary poet who accelerated his romantic vision. Both were true lovers of nature and they were active members of Romanticism Movement.

Summary of First Stanza : Solitary Reaper

The poem opens with beautiful scene with full of imagery. First stanza of the poem reveals true dipiction of a [astoral/rustic setting. Being a omantic poet of nature, Wordsworth depicts a beautiful picture of nature where a Highland girl is singing in and reaping in the field that shocks the poet and made him to stop for a while to ponder on hidden beauty of the nature. The girl is reaping the crop and singing a malencholy song. The poet’s heart throbs with a feelings of joy by this beautiful scene and music of the song sung by Highland girl. He do not like to disturb the girl and do not let her know that someone is passing by her or observing her so that’s why he says to the passers-by either to stop there  for a while or to pass gently from there without making noise.

The word solitary clearly explains that gil is alone in the field and there is no one to disturb her. The highland girl is cutting and binding the crop keeping herself busy in singing a song. This beautiful song is like a malencholy but the poet ius unable to understand it clearly. Though poet like it very much and wants everybody to listen to it. The sweet music of the song is echoing in the whole valley.

Summary of Second Stanza : Solitary Reaper

The song of the Solitary reaper was really very sweet and charming. In second stanza, poet compares the singing of the girl with nightingale and cuckoo. In poet’s openion, the nightingale is famous for its singing specially when tired travellers are taking rest in the Arabian desert at an Oasis, and enjoy the music of nightingale. Here poet wants to vclear that the music of girl’s singing is much soothing than the nightingale. The song of the gilr is giving much comfort than that of nightingale. Poet clearly states that no nightingale could have sung so nicely as the Highland  reaper sang.

After makin it clear that the song of the girl is sweet than that of nightingale, poets also make s another comparison that the song ofcockoo is also not sweet than the song oif solitary reaper. The  poet says that singing of the girl is more thrilling than the Cuckoo-bird which breaks the silence of the seas among the faraway Hebrides by its sweet songs. The cuckoos sing welcome songs to welcome the sailorts in the Hebrides islands in the north-east. Their songs are also very sweet like the music of the nightingale. But, according to the experience of the poet, the song of the solitary reaper seemed sweeter than the songs of the cuckoo-birds.

Summary of Third Stanza : Solitary Reaper

In third stanza, poet tries to explain the song sung by the solitary reaper. The poet is enjoying the music of the song but he is unable to comprehend the meaning the song. Th language in which the girl is singing is uncomprehensible for the poet but he likes it very much. The poet does not knoe the exact theme of the song but he can guess it. The poet is also curious to know the meaning of the song and wants somebody to tell him about the theme of the song. He thinks that the song is about unhappy incident of the past or of some battles in the past.

The poet also guess that this song may be about some familiar matter related to the life of the Highland girl. The poet also speculate that the song may also be about some loss, pain, or natural sorrow which has happened to the girl.

Summary of Last Stanza : Solitary Reaper

The poet couldn’t understand too much about the theme of the song what she was singing. But whatever was the theme of the song, it affected poet’s heart deeply and he enjoyed the song heartily. The poet thinks that like her work, her song seemed endless and there is no end to the Highland girl’s singing. The poet watches her singing and using the sickle to do her work at the same time in the field. The poet says that he listened to her  song standing quietly for a long time without making any kind of movement and noise. When the poet climbed up the hill he says that, he still remembered the sweet music of the girl’s song. The poet also says that he will always remember her singing and will keep it in his heart though he could no longer hear it.

Analysis   and Critical Appreciation

Williarn Wordsworth through his unmatchable expressions and beautiful ideas has made The solitary Reaper a real figure. The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings arising from emotions recollected in tranquillity makes us feel that we have all met William Wordsworth’s solitary reaper somewhere in our life, or are waiting to meet her.

In the poem ‘The Solitary Reaper‘ the poet describes the melodious and mellifluous voice of a highland lass who is cutting and binding the grain all by herself. The poet finds her song to be sweeter than the song of the nightingale. The song of the nightingale and the cuckoo is the sweetest, most pleasant, and most refreshing. By comparing it, the poet wants to establish a fact that the song of the solitary reaper is simply incomparable in its music melody and sweetness.

The poet cannot understand the words but can feel them. Its plaintive tone and melancholy sound touches him deeply. The fascination of the unfamiliar prompts him to let his imagination roan freely. He imagines all possible matters – romantic ancient occurrences to dull, everyday incidents- as the subject of the song. Perhaps it is about a disaster or calamity in the past or it is of loved one or it is any common routine event.

The incident described in the poem is quite simple. The poet comes across a highland lass reaping and singling all alone in her field. There is nothing unusual or extraordinary as it is a common practice among hilly girls. It is the description of the impact of her song on the poet’s mind and heart that makes the incident a memorable one. It leaves him spellbound. He stands still, motionless listening to her song and carries it in his heart. The song stays with him as a pleasant memory and can be heard after it is heard no more. It is a source of joy for him for ever.

Literary/ Poetic Devices Used in the Poem

‘The Solitary Reaper’ by William Wordsworth uses a straightforward language and meter as well as natural theme and imagery. Once again Wordsworth reflected his belief in the importance of the natural world.  The poem highlights his definition of poetry to be ‘a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ from the poet and the readers’ part.

 Structure and Rhyme scheme of Solitary Reaper

The poem’s 32 lines are equally distributed among the four stanzas. Each stanza follows the rhyme scheme: ABABCCDD. Use of end rhymes, such as “profound/sound”, “still/hill”, “lay/day” and “grain/strain” makes the poem melodious.


The imagery used in a literary work enables the readers to perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Reaping and singing by herself”, “I saw her singing at her work” and “More welcome notes to weary bands” gives a pictorial description of the young woman at work. He makes the readers visualize what he has seen and how he felt.

Rhetorical questions

The rhetorical question helps to make the point clear. For example, Wordsworth used “Will no one tell me what she sings?”, “That has been, and may be again?” and “Familiar matter of to-day?” it to express his curiosity over the theme and meaning of the song, the girl sang.

Major Themes in Solitary reaper

Throughout Wordsworth’s work, nature provides the ultimate good influence on the human mind.

Wordsworth repeatedly emphasizes the importance of nature to an individual’s intellectual and spiritual development. A good relationship with nature helps individuals connect to both the spiritual and the social worlds.

Wordsworth praised the power of the human mind. Using memory and imagination, individuals could overcome difficulty and pain. For instance, the Speaker in “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” (1798) relieves his loneliness with memories of nature, while the leech gatherer in “Resolution and Independence” (1807) perseveres cheerfully in the face of poverty by the exertion of his own will. The transformative powers of the mind are available to all, regardless of an individual’s class or background.

William Wordsworth