Man vs Man: An Analysis of “Lines Written in Early Spring”

William Wordsworth’s 1798 poem entitled Lines Written in Early Spring is a short, 24-line, and six-stanza poem that tells the melancholy associated with the dissatisfaction with and disassociation between human nature and Nature [the personified object]. Indicative of the Romantic period, the dichotomy between the two forces lives in the quatrains that Wordsworth has writ, going back and forth between the narrator’s conflicting realizations within each individual quatrain. For instance, the fifth quatrain complicates the dream that the narrator wants to feel by expressing that he must “do all [they] can” to imagine that there was a pleasure in the simplicity of the “budding twigs” catching the “breezy air” (l. 17-20). The other stanzas and the form of ABAB rhyme conduct a similar feel of the dichotomy of man and nature. The rhyme scheme alternating between each quatrain establishes the bouncing of the narrator’s thoughts between man and nature, yet, it’s clear that the pressure lies within the individual; therefore, Wordsworth presents a covert existential crisis within the narrator regarding what man really, truly, is and wonders if they are turning into one of these men that terrorizes nature [the object] with the exasperation of the Industrial Revolution taking place.

The poem thrives upon the speaker’s inner thoughts and monologue, which both end up creating the dissonance between the unnatural beauty of Nature and the horror that is man within the structure of the poem’s lines. In the second stanza, the speaker explains that they feel this “link” to Nature in their “human soul that through [them] ran” and how it “grieved [their] heart to think/What man has made of man” (l. 5-8). I think it might be an interesting interpretation of this final line—which is repeated as the final phrase of the poem—that its impersonal nature is, potentially, a reflection of himself within the current world. The first “man” in the line refers to those partaking in the Industrial Revolution and those that have come before him literarily. He fears that these men, have taken advantage of the beauty and place Nature has, hence why the “thousand blended notes” heard as the speaker hides within the grove in the first stanza is quite powerful (l. 1-2). It resembles both natural sounds and industrial sounds, which spark his dissent into crisis as he recognizes, as seen in the latter half of the stanza, that it mixes both “pleasant” and “sad” thoughts together of what once was and what is now (l. 3-4). “Man” emulates the fault that man has committed against man, not Nature.

The second “man” might be read commonly as the basic noun, having no concrete connection to the speaker; however, I would propose that the second “man” is indeed personal, it’s just hidden within the rest of the poem until the final reiteration. Like the nature imagery, the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my,” repeat extensively within each stanza, but instead of the positive imagery that the natural elements represent, the personal pronouns are shown in a negative light such as “I cannot measure” and “I must think—do all I can” demonstrate the4 speaker’s internal worry that they are losing their unique bond with Nature (l. 14 and 19). The choice of phrasing the narrator in this manner indicates some level of existential worry that they are slowly becoming more aligned with the industrial/capitalistic side of man, rather than an appreciator. The personal conundrums the speaker presents matches the conundrum they feel when thinking of what had happened to man, to themselves, and lament what could have been had man not devolved unto himself.

One thought on “Man vs Man: An Analysis of “Lines Written in Early Spring””

  1. I really enjoyed your analysis of the sounds that are present in this poem. I think reading and analyzing writing in the context of the period it was written is extremely important. I also found your last paragraph super interesting. I like how you write about the worry we might all on occasion feel – are we helping to end the problem or are we contributing? Is there even any way to not contribute in a world that is rapidly industrializing? What is our role as one human in a much larger world? It might be interesting to analyze poems about nature that also come out of this time period and see if you find any connection or answer to these questions – might be a cool paper idea!!

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