William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” Explained – How does the Old Man help the poet overcome his fears?

“Resolution and Independence” is a beautiful poem based on Wordsworth’s extraordinary experience during a walk through the Lake District.

Wordsworth has a knack for drawing inspiration from ordinary things in life. This poem is an example of that as an old man helps Wordsworth realize the importance of accepting all that is around him.

With this explainer here, we take a dive into “Resolution and Independence” and try to read between the lines. Enjoy the poet’s journey from an uneasy mind to mental ‘Independence’. As usual, you can drop your thoughts and questions in the comments below:

How does the poem start?

Wordsworth starts the poem by giving readers a glimpse into his surroundings as he takes a stroll through the Lake District at Dove Cottage. After stormy weather, the sun is shining again, and every creature that loves the sun is out.

“The grass is bright with rain-drops;—on the moors The hare is running races in her mirth.”

However, the poet suddenly slumps in deep dejection with a fear of uncertainty.

What is Wordsworth worried about?

Wordsworth’s anguish is caused by his fear of the future. He expresses concern for young poets like him and thinks about those who passed away rather young.

The poet mentions Thomas Chatterton and Robert Burns, and how their destiny unfolded. According to Wordsworth, poets start their lives in happiness but that is destined to end in “despondency and madness.”

Thinking of the “mighty Poets in their misery dead”, Wordsworth questions himself, “How is it that you live, and what is it you do?”.

Who does Wordsworth meet during his walk?

Wordsworth’s line of melancholic thoughts is abruptly interrupted by the sight of an old man who, to the poet, looks like a stone on the top of a mountain. This extremely old man immediately grips all of the poet’s attention. He doesn’t seem “all alive nor dead”.

The poet observes in his weak body years of pain, suffering, and tough experiences. His body is “bent double” looking as though his head and feet are close together. The poet takes slow steps towards the old man to speak with him.

What does the old man tell Wordsworth?

The old man is looking into the lake water as though he is reading a book. Wordsworth tries to start a conversation with a comment on the recent weather. The old man responds with a feeble yet ‘courteous’ speech.

Wordsworth observes the old man’s speech is polite beyond the grasp of an ordinary man. He tells Wordsworth that he is a leech gatherer. The employment, though hazardous, is his only source of hope and livelihood. He describes his job as a tough one requiring him to go from “pond to pond” and “moor to moor”.

How does the old man help Wordsworth overcome his fears?

Wordsworth draws inspiration from the old man’s firm manners in the face of adversity. Despite extreme hardships, the old man is strong and resolute. His unswerving demeanour makes the poet “scorn” himself for complaining.

The poet decides to continue with a determined mind and stave off gloominess. He realizes God has been by his side all the while and wishes God’s presence and support in his life for good. 

What do you think about this incredible poem? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:

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