'Two Thieves, The' by William Wordsworth

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O now that the genius of Bewick were mine,
And the skill which he learned on the banks of the Tyne.
Then the Muses might deal with me just as they chose,
For I'd take my last leave both of verse and of prose.

What feats would I work with my magical hand!
Book-learning and books should be banished the land:
And, for hunger and thirst and such troublesome calls,
Every ale-house should then have a feast on its walls.

The traveller would hang his wet clothes on a chair;
Let them smoke, let them burn, not a straw would he care!
For the Prodigal Son, Joseph's Dream and his sheaves,
Oh, what would they be to my tale of two Thieves?

The One, yet unbreeched, is not three birthdays old,
His Grandsire that age more than thirty times told;
There are ninety good seasons of fair and foul weather
Between them, and both go a-pilfering together.

With chips is the carpenter strewing his floor?
Is a cart-load of turf at an old woman's door?
Old Daniel his hand to the treasure will slide!
And his Grandson's as busy at work by his side.

Old Daniel begins; he stops short--and his eye,
Through the lost look of dotage, is cunning and sly:
'Tis a look which at this time is hardly his own,
But tells a plain tale of the days that are flown.

He once had a heart which was moved by the wires
Of manifold pleasures and many desires:
And what if he cherished his purse? 'Twas no more
Than treading a path trod by thousands before.

'Twas a path trod by thousands; but Daniel is one
Who went something farther than others have gone,
And now with old Daniel you see how it fares;
You see to what end he has brought his grey hairs.

The pair sally forth hand in hand: ere the sun
Has peered o'er the beeches, their work is begun:
And yet, into whatever sin they may fall,
This child but half knows it, and that, not at all.

They hunt through the streets with deliberate tread,
And each, in his turn, becomes leader or led;
And, wherever they carry their plots and their wiles,
Every face in the village is dimpled with smiles.

Neither checked by the rich nor the needy they roam;
For the grey-headed Sire has a daughter at home,
Who will gladly repair all the damage that's done;
And three, were it asked, would be rendered for one.

Old Man! whom so oft I with pity have eyed,
I love thee, and love the sweet Boy at thy side:
Long yet may'st thou live! for a teacher we see
That lifts up the veil of our nature in thee.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Two Thieves by William Wordsworth


William Wordsworth was a Romantic poet who lived from 1770 to 1850. He is celebrated for his simple and direct poetry, which explores the beauty of nature and the human experience. In his poem Two Thieves, Wordsworth tells the tale of two thieves who steal a sheep and are caught by the farmer. The poem is simple and straightforward, but it also contains deeper meanings and themes that reflect Wordsworth's view of the world.


Two Thieves tells the story of two men who steal a sheep from a farmer. The poem is written in iambic pentameter and is composed of nine stanzas, each with four lines. The first four stanzas describe the actions of the two thieves as they steal the sheep, while the remaining stanzas describe their punishment and eventual repentance.



The poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line consists of ten syllables, with the stress falling on every other syllable. This gives the poem a regular and rhythmic structure, which is typical of Wordsworth's poetry. The use of a regular meter also reflects the poem's simple and straightforward subject matter.


Wordsworth's use of language in Two Thieves is simple and direct. He uses plain and unadorned language to describe the actions of the two thieves, which emphasizes the starkness of their crime. The language also reflects the rural setting of the poem, with its references to "the fold" and "the croft."


The main theme of Two Thieves is the idea of crime and punishment. Wordsworth explores the consequences of criminal behavior and the possibility of redemption. The two thieves are caught and punished for their crime, but they also have the opportunity to repent and make amends.


The sheep in the poem can be seen as a symbol of innocence and purity. The two thieves steal the sheep, which represents their desire to take something that does not belong to them. The sheep is also a valuable possession for the farmer, which emphasizes the severity of the crime. The punishment for the crime is also symbolic, as it represents the idea of justice and retribution.


Wordsworth's use of imagery in Two Thieves is simple but effective. He uses images of the rural landscape to create a sense of place and setting. The descriptions of "the fold" and "the croft" create a vivid picture of the farm where the crime takes place. The use of natural imagery also reinforces the theme of innocence and purity.


The tone of Two Thieves is moralistic and didactic. Wordsworth uses the poem to teach a lesson about the consequences of criminal behavior and the importance of repentance. The tone is also reflective, as Wordsworth considers the nature of crime and punishment in the context of human experience.


The poem can be interpreted in several ways. On one level, it can be seen as a simple tale of crime and punishment. The two thieves steal a sheep, are caught, and are punished. However, the poem can also be interpreted as a reflection on the nature of sin and redemption. The thieves are given the opportunity to repent and make amends for their crime, which suggests that Wordsworth believes in the possibility of redemption for even the most sinful of individuals.

The poem can also be seen as a commentary on the social and economic conditions of the rural poor in Wordsworth's time. The thieves are described as poor and desperate, which suggests that they are driven to crime by their circumstances. The farmer, on the other hand, is described as wealthy and powerful, which reflects the unequal distribution of wealth and power in society.


Two Thieves is a simple and straightforward poem that explores the themes of crime and punishment, redemption, and social inequality. Wordsworth's use of language, symbolism, and imagery create a vivid picture of the rural setting and the actions of the two thieves. The poem can be interpreted in several ways, reflecting the complexity of the human experience. Ultimately, Two Thieves is a powerful reflection on the consequences of criminal behavior and the possibility of redemption for even the most sinful of individuals.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

William Wordsworth is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, and his poem "Two Thieves" is a prime example of his mastery of the craft. This poem is a powerful exploration of the human condition, and it speaks to the universal experiences of loss, regret, and redemption.

At its core, "Two Thieves" is a story about two men who have committed a crime and are awaiting their punishment. The first thief is filled with anger and bitterness, railing against the injustice of his situation and cursing the world for its cruelty. The second thief, on the other hand, is filled with remorse and regret, acknowledging the wrongs he has done and seeking forgiveness for his sins.

The contrast between these two characters is striking, and it speaks to the larger themes of the poem. The first thief represents the darker side of human nature, the part of us that is quick to anger and slow to forgive. He is consumed by his own sense of injustice, unable to see beyond his own pain and suffering. The second thief, on the other hand, represents the better angels of our nature. He is humble and contrite, willing to acknowledge his mistakes and seek redemption for his sins.

One of the most striking aspects of "Two Thieves" is its use of language. Wordsworth's poetry is known for its simplicity and clarity, and this poem is no exception. The language is straightforward and unadorned, yet it is also deeply evocative and powerful. The poem is filled with vivid imagery, from the "dusky light" of the prison cell to the "sullen sky" outside. These images help to create a sense of atmosphere and mood, drawing the reader into the world of the poem.

Another key element of "Two Thieves" is its use of symbolism. The two thieves can be seen as representing the two sides of human nature, the good and the bad. The fact that they are both facing the same punishment underscores the idea that we are all capable of both good and evil, and that our choices determine which side of ourselves we will ultimately embody. The fact that the second thief is able to find redemption, while the first remains consumed by bitterness and anger, speaks to the power of forgiveness and the importance of taking responsibility for our actions.

Ultimately, "Two Thieves" is a deeply moving and thought-provoking poem. It speaks to the universal experiences of loss, regret, and redemption, and it reminds us that we are all capable of both good and evil. Through its use of language, imagery, and symbolism, it creates a powerful sense of atmosphere and mood, drawing the reader into the world of the poem. And through its exploration of the two thieves and their contrasting attitudes towards their situation, it offers a profound meditation on the human condition and the choices we make in life.

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