Monday, September 12, 2005
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
William Wordsworth and his sister had visited the Scottish Highlands in 1803. It was harvest time, and the fields were quiet. They passed a female who was reaping the fields alone: she sung in Erse(Goidelic language of Scotland) as she bended over her sickle. Wordsworth describes in his work that this was the sweetest human voice he had ever heard, the song sung in deep melancholy until it was heard no more. Thus was born the "Solitary Reaper". The poetry describes a nameless listener's delight in a young woman's melancholy song in an unknown language. The woman is working by herself in a Scottish valley, swinging the sickle and reaping the grain. What transfixes the listener in song is not its content, but its emotionally expressive music. The listener does not understand why she sings in melancholy but the songs leaves him with what the emotion itself is. The last few lines need a definitive mention:
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
Despite its sadness, the song helps the speaker to mount up the hill. On a slightly philosophical note, the capacity to feel emotion and link it to goals makes life possible. The listener’s heart, can go on bearing her music. "The Solitary Reaper" relates an ecstatic moment in which a passer-by transcends the limitations of mortality. Both the song and he go on together.