'Mother 's Return, The' by William Wordsworth

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A month, sweet Little-ones, is past
Since your dear Mother went away,---
And she tomorrow will return;
Tomorrow is the happy day.

O blessed tidings! thought of joy!
The eldest heard with steady glee;
Silent he stood; then laughed amain,---
And shouted, " Mother, come to me!"

Louder and louder did he shout,
With witless hope to bring her near;
"Nay, patience! patience, little boy!
Your tender mother cannot hear."

I told of hills, and far-off town,
And long, long vale to travel through;---
He listens, puzzled, sore perplexed,
But he submits; what can he do ?

No strife disturbs his sister's breast;
She wars not with the mystery
Of time and distance, night and day;
The bonds of our humanity.

Her joy is like an instinct, joy
Of kitten, bird, or summer fly;
She dances, runs without an aim,
She chatters in her ecstasy.

Her brother now takes up the note,
And echoes back his sister's glee;
They hug the infant in my arms,
As if to force his sympathy.

Then, settling into fond discourse,
We rested in the garden bower;
While sweetly shone the evening sun
In his departing hour.

We told o'er all that we had done,---
Our rambles by the swift brook's side
Far as the willow-skirted pool,
Where two fair swans together glide.

We talked of change, of winter gone,
Of green leaves on the hawthorn spray,
Of birds that build their nests and sing
And all "since Mother went away!"

To her these tales they will repeat,
To her our new-born tribes will show,
The goslings green, the ass's colt,
The lambs that in the meadow go.

---But, see, the evening star comes forth!
To bed the children must depart;
A moment's heaviness they feel,
A sadness at the heart;

'Tis gone---and in a merry fit
They run up stairs in gamesome race;
I, too, infected by their mood,
I could have joined the wanton chase.

Five minutes past---and, O the change!
Asleep upon their beds they lie;
Their buy limbs in perfect rest,
And closed the sparkling eye.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Mother's Return: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

William Wordsworth's poem "Mother's Return" has captured the hearts of readers for over two centuries. This sonnet, which was published in 1807 as part of his Poems in Two Volumes, speaks of a mother's return to her child after a long absence. The theme of separation and reunion is a prevalent one in Wordsworth's poetry, and in "Mother's Return," the poet uses a simple yet powerful language to convey the emotion of the moment. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the poem's structure, language, imagery, and themes in order to understand the depth of Wordsworth's message.

The Structure

"Mother's Return" is a sonnet, a form of poetry that originated in Italy and became popular in English literature during the Renaissance. Sonnets are composed of fourteen lines and typically follow a specific rhyme scheme. In this poem, Wordsworth uses the traditional English sonnet form, with three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a couplet (two-line stanza). The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

The poem's structure is simple and straightforward, much like the language and the message of the poem itself. The sonnet form is often associated with love poetry, and Wordsworth's use of it in a poem about a mother's love for her child is a subtle yet powerful nod to the universality of love and the emotions it evokes.

The Language

Wordsworth's language in "Mother's Return" is simple and direct, yet it is full of emotion and imagery. The poem opens with the line, "How fondly didst thou gaze and long pursue," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The use of the word "fondly" conveys the mother's deep love and affection for her child, while the word "long" emphasizes the length of time the mother has been away.

Throughout the poem, Wordsworth uses words and phrases that evoke strong emotions. For example, he describes the mother's "gladness" upon seeing her child again, and her "rapture" at holding him in her arms. These words not only convey the mother's emotions but also evoke similar feelings in the reader. Wordsworth's language is simple yet powerful, and it reflects the universality of the emotions the poem explores.

The Imagery

Wordsworth's use of imagery in "Mother's Return" is both vivid and powerful. The poem is full of sensory details that evoke the reader's imagination and create a vivid picture of the mother and child. For example, in the second quatrain, Wordsworth describes the child's "joyous glee" and "unconscious smile," and the mother's "soft tears" and "fond delay." These images not only convey the emotions of the moment but also create a sense of intimacy between the mother and child.

In the third quatrain, Wordsworth uses a metaphor to describe the mother's love for her child. He writes, "And oh! may never toy or trivial fray / Be reckoned dearer to thy heart than they." The metaphor of a toy or trivial fray represents the distractions and temptations of the world, while the mother's love is represented by her "fond delay" and "soft tears." The use of metaphor adds depth and complexity to the poem, and it invites the reader to interpret the poem on multiple levels.

The Themes

The theme of separation and reunion is a prevalent one in Wordsworth's poetry, and in "Mother's Return," the poet explores this theme through the lens of a mother's love for her child. The poem speaks of the joy and emotion that come with reunion after a long absence, but it also speaks to the universality of love and the deep emotional bonds that exist between parents and children.

Another theme that is present in the poem is the theme of the natural world. The poem is set in a natural landscape, with references to "the woods" and "the sky." Wordsworth was known for his love of nature, and he often used the natural world as a metaphor for human emotions and experiences. In "Mother's Return," the natural world serves as a backdrop for the mother and child, emphasizing the simplicity and beauty of their love.


"Mother's Return" is a beautiful and powerful poem that speaks to the universality of love and the depth of emotion that exists between parents and children. Wordsworth's use of language, imagery, and form creates a vivid picture of the mother and child and evokes strong emotions in the reader. The theme of separation and reunion is explored through the lens of a mother's love, and the natural world serves as a backdrop for the simplicity and beauty of their relationship. Overall, "Mother's Return" is a timeless poem that continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Wordsworth is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, and his poem "Mother's Return, The" is a beautiful example of his lyrical style and his ability to capture the essence of human emotion. This poem is a touching tribute to the bond between a mother and her child, and it explores themes of love, loss, and the power of memory.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the return of his mother after a long absence. He describes her as "a stranger, yet my own," highlighting the complex emotions that arise when someone we love returns to us after a period of separation. The speaker is both familiar with his mother and yet feels a sense of distance from her, as if she has been transformed by her time away.

As the poem progresses, the speaker reflects on the memories he has of his mother, and how they have sustained him during her absence. He describes how he has "fed on dreams" of her, and how her image has been a constant presence in his mind. This emphasis on memory is a key theme in the poem, as it highlights the power of the past to shape our present experiences.

The speaker also reflects on the changes that have occurred in his life during his mother's absence. He describes how he has grown and changed, and how his mother's return has made him feel both nostalgic for the past and excited for the future. This sense of nostalgia is a common theme in Wordsworth's poetry, as he often explores the tension between the desire to hold onto the past and the need to move forward into the future.

One of the most striking aspects of "Mother's Return, The" is the way in which Wordsworth uses language to create a sense of intimacy and emotional depth. The poem is full of vivid, sensory details that bring the mother and son to life on the page. For example, the speaker describes how his mother's "voice, her dress, her form, / And all the features of her face" are etched into his memory, creating a powerful sense of connection between them.

Wordsworth also uses imagery to convey the emotional landscape of the poem. For example, he describes how the mother's return is like "the first mild day of spring," suggesting a sense of renewal and rebirth. This image is particularly poignant given the theme of memory in the poem, as it suggests that even the most painful experiences can be transformed into something beautiful and life-giving.

Another key aspect of the poem is the way in which Wordsworth explores the relationship between the mother and son. He describes how the mother "clasps me round the neck," creating a sense of physical closeness that is both tender and powerful. This image is a reminder of the importance of physical touch and human connection, and it highlights the way in which our relationships with others can sustain us during difficult times.

Overall, "Mother's Return, The" is a beautiful and moving poem that explores the complex emotions that arise when someone we love returns to us after a period of absence. Through vivid imagery and lyrical language, Wordsworth captures the essence of human emotion and reminds us of the power of memory and human connection. This poem is a testament to the enduring bond between a mother and her child, and it is a timeless tribute to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit.

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