Analysis of the poem To a Snowdrop by Willam Wordsworth

 

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was the poet of nature. He was an English poet and one of the best known figures of the Romantic period. He defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and emotions”. His views on poetical style are the most revolutionary. His poems are a reaction to Augustan Poetry which are more political than intellectual.

His poems consist of the values like emotional and imaginative spontaneity. Wordsworth concerned about victims of the society as well as his poems are consisted of religious response to nature. Further, Wordsworth concerned that how people are pre-occupied with their own life and have lost the touch with nature.

This sonnet belongs to the series of sonnets Wordsworth wrote between 1803-1814, like most of his poems, 'To a Snowdrop' also addresses nature - a simple flower insignificantly growing wild in the woods.

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Overview

Title: a person addresses a flower. Snowdrop is a white small flower that blooms at the end of the winter season and wither with the arrival of spring.

Form: Petrarchan Sonnet 

Meter: iambic pentameter

Rhyme scheme: ABBAABBA CDECDE

Tone: Understanding, a bit critical (tone changes after volta, the changing point in the sonnet)

Theme: alluring beauty of nature and the nature of nature, disparity of classes in society, impermanence of life.

Narration: second person, may be poet himself addresses the flower.

Main technique: imagery

 

Deep-end Analysis


Octave:  Octave presents the Snowdrop and its self - invited presence to the nature amid of inclement weather.

 

LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,

Like an unbidden guest… (to be cont…)

 

alliteration: forhead, as if fearful to offend (shows the shyness upon its self-invited presence)

visual imagery: lone flower hemmed in with snow, bend forehead as if fearful (creates an image of a shy person amid of strangers)

personification: flower is addressed to like a person.(it is an implication that it is about people who are ill-treated by the society)

simile: as if fearful, like an unbidden guest

symbols: snow, white (colors of death – shows the harshness of the climate)

 

Flower is seen ill-treated by the harsh weather conditions in end-winte period where the snow starts melting. Flower is introduced as an unwelcomed stranger to the nature as it is struggling to survive in a weather which is not favorable for a flower. Here Wordsworth may be showing the ill treatment to the people who lead a harsh life amid of changing social system. We all know that this is the period of industrial revolution where working class people had to work hard in the factories for hours whereas the factory owners lead a life of luxury.

 

 …. Though day by day,

Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

 

alliteration: storms, sallying (creates a stormy sound effect like gusty weather)

repetition: welcome (shows poets necessity to glorify the hard endeavor committed by the flower)

metaphor: Blue-eyed may (spring: a clear sky like blue eyes)/ personified (cont... in the next part)

military imagery: waylay, sallying (shows the battle of survival on the part of the lonely flower.)

kinesthetic imagery: storms sallying, waylay the rising sun (creates moving pictures in the mind of the reader: the stormy wind and the sudden plunge of burning sunlight on snow etc)

 

Here the poet sympathizes the flower as it tolerates dramatic hardships which is not favorable for a flower in bloom.  ‘Zeal outruns his promise’ shows the enthusiasm of the Snowdrop flower to survive till spring season; however, it has no capacity to survive till spring arrive. With the arrival of the spring, it withers. This shows hardships thrown towards the lower class of the society who struggle hard to rise and shine. Poet stand for them calling them as a friend, knowing the struggle of them to move to the up of the social ladder.

 

Sestet (tone and imagery changes): Here it introduces the jonquils flower with its glorified presence. However, the poet urges to give recognition to the Snowdrop by attributing it virtuous qualities.  

 

Shall soon behold this border thickly set

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,

And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

 

assonance: behold this border (adds glory to the oncoming spring and jonquil flower.)

visual imagery: bright jonquils

olfactory imagery: odours lavishing

tactile imagery: soft west wind (west wind is further softened by adding a pre modifier soft)

inversion: nor will I then thy modest grace forget.

metaphor: frolic peers (may be insects like bees and butterflies), chaste snowdrop (unspoiled, pure: attribution of fidelity to the flower), venturous harbinger of spring (messenger who announces the arrival of spring), pensive monitor of fleeting years (shows the brevity of life)

 

Jonquils is a colorful flower similar to daffodil flower. Thickly set border means the break of winter to spring: we see the dramatic change in nature in the sestet. Unlike to the snowdrop, the jonquils are given a warmly welcome by the nature - showing the positive treatment of the society towards the things or people that possess better outer appearance. However again the poet speaks on behalf of the Snowdrop understanding the qualities of it and attributing them generously. He ends the poem with a deep philosophical message of transitory nature of life: However colorful or colorless, life is passing and reaching to an end: This flower that goes through every season can be compared to life itself, which is full of changes and modifications. 

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2 Comments

  1. The way you have presented the analysis is very impressive and reader friendly. I found it very useful.
    Way to go Sampath. Wishing you all the very best in your future works.

    ReplyDelete