'Complaint Of a Forsaken Indian Woman, The' by William Wordsworth

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Before I see another day,
Oh let my body die away!
In sleep I heard the northern gleams;
The stars, they were among my dreams;
In rustling conflict through the skies,
I heard, I saw the flashes drive,
And yet they are upon my eyes,
And yet I am alive;
Before I see another day,
Oh let my body die away!

My fire is dead: it knew no pain;
Yet is it dead, and I remain:
All stiff with ice the ashes lie;
And they are dead, and I will die.
When I was well, I wished to live,
For clothes, for warmth, for food, and fire;
But they to me no joy can give,
No pleasure now, and no desire.
Then here contented will I lie
Alone, I cannot fear to die.

Alas! ye might have dragged me on
Another day, a single one!
Too soon I yielded to despair;
Why did ye listen to my prayer
When ye were gone my limb were stronger;
And oh, how grievously I rue,
That, afterward, a little longer,
My friends, I did not follow you!
For strong and without pain I lay,
Dear friends, when ye were gone away.

My Child! they gave thee to another,
A woman who was not thy mother.
When from my arms my Babe they took,
On me how strangely did he look !
Through his whole body something ran,
A most strange working did I see;
---As if he strove to be a man,
That he might pull the sledge for me:
And then he stretched his arm, how wild!
Oh mercy! like a helpless child.

My little joy! my little pride!
In two day more I must have died.
Then do not weep and grieve for me;
I feel I must have died with thee.
O wind, that o'er my head art flying
The way my friends their course did bend,
I should not feel the pain of dying,
Could I with thee a message end;
Too soon, my friend, ye went away;
For I had many thing to say.

I'll follow you across the snow;
Ye travel heavily and slow;
In spite of all my weary pain
I'll look upon your tent again.
---My fire is dead, and snowy white
The water which beside it stood:
The wolf has come to me to-night,
And he has stolen away my food.
Forever left alone am I;
Then wherefore should I fear to die ?

Young as I am, my course is run,
I shall not see another sun;
I cannot lift my limb to know
If they have any life or no.
My poor forsaken child, if I
For once could have thee close to me,
With happy heart I then would die,
And my last thought would happy be;
But thou, dear Babe, art far away,
Nor shall I see another day.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Heart-Wrenching Lament of a Forsaken Indian Woman


Have you ever come across a poem that left you feeling as if you had been sucker-punched right in the gut? William Wordsworth's "Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" is such a piece. This poem is a hauntingly beautiful lament that exposes the depth of pain and suffering endured by an Indian woman who has been abandoned by her lover. It is a powerful representation of the plight of women who have been marginalized and oppressed in society. In this paper, I will examine the key themes, symbols, and literary devices used in the poem, and offer my interpretation of their meanings.

Historical Background

Before delving into the poem, it is essential to provide some historical context. The poem was written in 1799, during the height of Britain's colonization of India. During this period, the British East India Company had established trade relations with India, and British dominance was expanding. However, this expansion came at a high cost. The British subjugated the Indian people, exploited their resources, and imposed their values and culture on them. Women, in particular, suffered the consequences of colonialism as they were relegated to inferior roles and subjected to harsh treatment. It is against this backdrop that the poem was written.


The poem is written in the first person, and the speaker is an Indian woman who has been abandoned by her lover. The poem is divided into four stanzas, with each stanza containing six lines. The tone of the poem is one of sadness, despair, and bitterness. The poem opens with the speaker lamenting her situation;

Before I see another day,
Oh let my body die away!
In sleep I heard the northern gleams;
The stars they were among my dreams;
In rustling conflict through the skies,
I heard, I saw the flashes drive;

The speaker is expressing her desire to die rather than endure the pain of being abandoned. She has lost all hope and sees death as the only respite. The imagery of the stars, conflict, and flashes in the sky is a symbol of the chaos and confusion that the speaker is experiencing. The use of the word "rustling" creates a sense of movement and agitation, suggesting that the speaker is in a state of turmoil.

The second stanza continues with the speaker describing the beauty of her homeland;

'The pomp of day was gone; the night
Was come, as it were to invite
The Indian stars to come, and see
Their queen prepare her throne to be
In the east; 'tis as if the skies
Had stoop'd their lamps to Indian eyes.'

Here, the speaker is describing the magnificence of the night sky and how it has the power to evoke a sense of wonder and awe in her. She describes herself as the queen of the Indian stars, suggesting her regal status in her homeland. However, the use of the word "prepare" implies that her reign is coming to an end, and she is preparing to relinquish her throne.

The third stanza is where the speaker's bitterness and anger are most evident;

'I'll let thee go; yet, Indian-like,
But ah! I thought it was a dream;
What shall I do? where go?--a few
Are lonely like me--I'll renew
A sadness laid aside, I knew
Before,--a deadlier calm succeed!

The speaker is torn between letting her lover go and holding on to him. She is conflicted, unsure of what to do, and feels isolated in her suffering. The use of the phrase "Indian-like" suggests that the speaker is conforming to the stereotypes associated with her race and culture. However, she resents this and wishes to break free from these limitations. The phrase "a few are lonely like me" also implies that the speaker is not alone in her plight.

The final stanza concludes the poem with the speaker expressing her desire to be free from her pain;

'Ah! wretch,' said I, 'thy Indian page,
That quenched the maiden's fearful rage,
Disperse the burning rays that play,
And charm the feverish pulse to stay;
Nay, all that thou hast ever seen,
Renounce--my soul is not in the scene:'

The speaker is addressing her lover and asking him to disperse the "burning rays" of pain that she feels. She is renouncing all that she has ever seen or experienced, suggesting that she wishes to be free from her past and start anew. The use of the word "wretch" reveals the speaker's bitterness and resentment towards her lover, who has abandoned her.


The "Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" is a powerful commentary on the effects of colonialism on women, particularly Indian women. The speaker's sense of isolation and lack of agency is a reflection of the position of women in patriarchal societies. Her struggle to reconcile her desire for freedom with her cultural and societal expectations highlights the complexity of identity formation in a postcolonial world. The poem also reveals the psychological toll of abandonment and the devastating effects of loss on the human psyche.

The use of Indian imagery and symbolism is significant as it highlights the speaker's cultural identity and reinforces the themes of colonialism and oppression. The poem's tone is one of melancholy and despair, which is a reflection of the speaker's emotional state. The rhythmic structure of the poem, with its repetition of six-line stanzas, creates a sense of urgency and desperation, emphasizing the speaker's plea for release from her pain.


In conclusion, the "Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman" is a deeply moving poem that explores themes of abandonment, loss, and oppression. The speaker's powerful voice exposes the harsh realities of colonialism and the toll it has taken on women. Through her lament, the speaker reveals the psychological effects of abandonment and the struggle to reconcile cultural and societal expectations with the desire for freedom. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the human experience and give voice to the voiceless.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman is a poem written by William Wordsworth, one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era. This poem is a powerful and moving portrayal of the plight of a Native American woman who has been abandoned by her lover. It is a poem that speaks to the universal human experience of love and loss, and the pain that comes with it.

The poem is structured in the form of a monologue, with the woman speaking directly to her absent lover. She begins by describing the beauty of the natural world around her, and how it reminds her of the love she once shared with her lover. She then goes on to express her deep sadness and despair at being abandoned, and her longing for her lover to return to her.

One of the most striking features of this poem is its use of imagery. Wordsworth paints a vivid picture of the natural world, using words like "crimson," "azure," and "verdant" to describe the colors of the sky, the sea, and the land. This imagery serves to create a sense of beauty and wonder, but also of sadness and loss. The woman's description of the natural world is tinged with the pain of her own experience, as she sees in it a reflection of her own broken heart.

Another important aspect of this poem is its use of language. Wordsworth's writing is characterized by its simplicity and directness, and this is evident in the way he portrays the woman's emotions. Her words are raw and unfiltered, expressing the depth of her pain and longing in a way that is both powerful and poignant. This simplicity of language serves to make the poem more accessible to readers, allowing them to connect with the woman's experience on a deeper level.

The theme of abandonment is central to this poem, and it is one that is explored in a number of different ways. The woman's lover has left her, and she is left to face the world alone. She is abandoned not only by her lover, but by her community as well. She is a Native American woman living in a world that is hostile to her, and she is forced to bear the burden of her pain and suffering alone.

Despite the bleakness of the woman's situation, there is a sense of hope that runs throughout the poem. She speaks of her love for her absent lover, and her hope that he will return to her. She also speaks of the beauty of the natural world, and the sense of wonder and awe that it inspires in her. This hope and wonder serve to counterbalance the pain and despair that she feels, and to remind us that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility of hope and renewal.

In conclusion, The Complaint of a Forsaken Indian Woman is a powerful and moving poem that speaks to the universal human experience of love and loss. It is a poem that is characterized by its vivid imagery, its simplicity of language, and its exploration of the theme of abandonment. Through the voice of the woman, Wordsworth invites us to share in her pain and her longing, and to connect with the beauty and wonder of the natural world that surrounds us. It is a poem that reminds us of the power of hope and the resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of the most difficult of circumstances.

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