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Last of The Flock, The Analysis

Author: Poetry of William Wordsworth Type: Poetry Views: 731

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In distant countries have I been,

And yet I have not often seen

A healthy man, a man full grown,

Weep in the public roads, alone.

But such a one, on English ground,

And in the broad highway, I met;

Along the broad highway he came,

His cheeks with tears were wet:

Sturdy he seemed, though he was sad;

And in his arms a Lamb he had.


He saw me, and he turned aside,

As if he wished himself to hide:

And with his coat did then essay

To wipe those briny tears away.

I followed him, and said, "My friend,

What ails you? wherefore weep you so?"

--"Shame on me, Sir! this lusty Lamb,

He makes my tears to flow.

To-day I fetched him from the rock;

He is the last of all my flock,


"When I was young, a single man,

And after youthful follies ran,

Though little given to care and thought,

Yet, so it was, an ewe I bought;

And other sheep from her I raised,

As healthy sheep as you might see;

And then I married, and was rich

As I could wish to be;

Of sheep I numbered a full score,

And every year increased my store.


"Year after year my stock it grew;

And from this one, this single ewe,

Full fifty comely sheep I raised,

As fine a flock as ever grazed!

Upon the Quantock hills they fed;

They throve, and we at home did thrive:

--This lusty Lamb of all my store

Is all that is alive;

And now I care not if we die,

And perish all of poverty.


"Six Children, Sir! had I to feed;

Hard labour in a time of need!

My pride was tamed, and in our grief

I of the Parish asked relief.

They said, I was a wealthy man;

My sheep upon the uplands fed,

And it was fit that thence I took

Whereof to buy us bread.

'Do this: how can we give to you,'

They cried, 'what to the poor is due?'


"I sold a sheep, as they had said,

And bought my little children bread,

And they were healthy with their food

For me--it never did me good.

A woeful time it was for me,

To see the end of all my gains,

The pretty flock which I had reared

With all my care and pains,

To see it melt like snow away--

For me it was a woeful day.


"Another still! and still another!

A little lamb, and then its mother!

It was a vein that never stopped--

Like blood-drops from my heart they dropped.

'Till thirty were not left alive

They dwindled, dwindled, one by one

And I may say, that many a time

I wished they all were gone--

Reckless of what might come at last

Were but the bitter struggle past.


"To wicked deeds I was inclined,

And wicked fancies crossed my mind;

And every man I chanced to see,

I thought he knew some ill of me:

No peace, no comfort could I find,

No ease, within doors or without;

And, crazily and wearily

I went my work about;

And oft was moved to flee from home,

And hide my head where wild beasts roam.


"Sir! 'twas a precious flock to me,

As dear as my own children be;

For daily with my growing store

I loved my children more and more.

Alas! it was an evil time;

God cursed me in my sore distress;

I prayed, yet every day I thought

I loved my children less;

And every week, and every day,

My flock it seemed to melt away.


"They dwindled, Sir, sad sight to see!

From ten to five, from five to three,

A lamb, a wether, and a ewe;--

And then at last from three to two;

And, of my fifty, yesterday

I had but only one:

And here it lies upon my arm,

Alas! and I have none;--

To-day I fetched it from the rock;

It is the last of all my flock."


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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The poem is constructed to begin and end at relatively the same point, thus meaning that it is a cyclic poem. This, in itself, have a variety of different meanings. Firstly it could be attributed to the Fatalistic view that fate is inevitable and cannot be escaped. Secondly, and more plausibly, is that it represents the difficulty of breaking away from traditional human attributes, which is a key point in values and attitudes of the Romantic Era, of which Wordsworth was a part of. The poem is constructed so that stanzas 1-5 show the farmer gaining his flock of sheep and stanzas 6-10 show the farmer losing the afore mentioned sheep, thus creating a sense of balance within the poem which is symbolized perfectly by the ancient Taoist symbol of the the Ying Yang, created by Laozi. Although this symbol was created in Ancient China, it shows that the Romantic period was not the first to create such ideas of balance and that parts of it\'s key values were already established in prior thinkings and cultures. But I digress.
The sheep in the poem represent both nature and innocence, ideas that humans associate with the word \'pure\'. In the Romantic Era, God and Nature were the two key ideas that thinking revolved around. According to the Christian faith, God created the world, and by extension, nature, all of which are said to be pure. Although God also created the first human, it was thought, during this period, that humans and everything touched or created by humanity was tainted and impure. Thus, the sheep represent purity at its most potent. The gaining of sheep represents the farmer gaining purity and it is shown in the poem that it results in lighter, more care-free feelings, \"And now I care not if we die, And perish all of poverty.\"
The loss of sheep has the exact reverse effect. Far from being care-free, the loss of nature and purity drives the farmer to a state of near madness, \"To wicked deeds I was inclined,
And wicked fancies crossed my mind;
And every man I chanced to see,
I thought he knew some ill of me:\"
Even though, ostensibly, the poem describes a farmer gaining then losing his sheep, below the surface, the message is much clearer. Life without nature and purity can be both more difficult and more serious, traditional Romantic ideas written in a poem by a traditional Romantic poet.

| Posted on 2011-09-22 | by a guest

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Celebrates ordinary rural people and the power of love. The Love in this poem is between the farmer and his sheep and the farmer and his family. He loves his family so much that he is willing to part with his sheep whom he also loves "as dear as my own children be." It is a woeful day - as in Wordsworth's "The Thorn" where Martha Ray has also lost somebody she loves and expresses this through, "Oh Misery! Oh Misery! Oh Woe is me! Oh Misery!" - Notice the word "woe" is used in both poems.

| Posted on 2009-01-20 | by a guest

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