'To Joanna' by William Wordsworth

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Amid the smoke of cities did you pass
The time of early youth; and there you learned,
From years of quiet industry, to love
The living Beings by your own fireside,
With such a strong devotion, that your heart
Is slow to meet the sympathies of them
Who look upon the hills with tenderness,
And make dear friendships with the streams and groves.
Yet we, who are transgressors in this kind,
Dwelling retired in our simplicity
Among the woods and fields, we love you well,
Joanna! and I guess, since you have been
So distant from us now for two long years,
That you will gladly listen to discourse,
However trivial, if you thence be taught
That they, with whom you once were happy, talk
Familiarly of you and of old times.
While I was seated, now some ten days past,
Beneath those lofty firs, that overtop
Their ancient neighbour, the old steeple-tower,
The Vicar from his gloomy house hard by
Came forth to greet me; and when he had asked,
"How fares Joanna, that wild-hearted Maid!
And when will she return to us?" he paused;
And, after short exchange of village news,
He with grave looks demanded, for what cause,
Reviving obsolete idolatry,
I, like a Runic Priest, in characters
Of formidable size had chiselled out
Some uncouth name upon the native rock,
Above the Rotha, by the forest-side.
--Now, by those dear immunities of heart
Engendered between malice and true love,
I was not loth to be so catechised,
And this was my reply:--"As it befell,
One summer morning we had walked abroad
At break of day, Joanna and myself.
--'Twas that delightful season when the broom,
Full-flowered, and visible on every steep,
Along the copses runs in veins of gold.
Our pathway led us on to Rotha's banks;
And when we came in front of that tall rock
That eastward looks, I there stopped short--and stood
Tracing the lofty barrier with my eye
From base to summit; such delight I found
To note in shrub and tree, in stone and flower
That intermixture of delicious hues,
Along so vast a surface, all at once,
In one impression, by connecting force
Of their own beauty, imaged in the heart.
--When I had gazed perhaps two minutes' space,
Joanna, looking in my eyes, beheld
That ravishment of mine, and laughed aloud.
The Rock, like something starting from a sleep,
Took up the Lady's voice, and laughed again;
That ancient Woman seated on Helm-crag
Was ready with her cavern; Hammar-scar,
And the tall Steep of Silver-how, sent forth
A noise of laughter; southern Loughrigg heard,
And Fairfield answered with a mountain tone;
Helvellyn far into the clear blue sky
Carried the Lady's voice,--old Skiddaw blew
His speaking-trumpet;--back out of the clouds
Of Glaramara southward came the voice;
And Kirkstone tossed it from his misty head.
--Now whether (said I to our cordial Friend,
Who in the hey-day of astonishment
Smiled in my face) this were in simple truth
A work accomplished by the brotherhood
Of ancient mountains, or my ear was touched
With dreams and visionary impulses
To me alone imparted, sure I am
That there was a loud uproar in the hills.
And, while we both were listening, to my side
The fair Joanna drew, as if she wished
To shelter from some object of her fear.
--And hence, long afterwards, when eighteen moons
Were wasted, as I chanced to walk alone
Beneath this rock, at sunrise, on a calm
And silent morning, I sat down, and there,
In memory of affections old and true,
I chiselled out in those rude characters
Joanna's name deep in the living stone:--
And I, and all who dwell by my fireside,
Have called the lovely rock, JOANNA'S ROCK."

Editor 1 Interpretation

To Joanna by William Wordsworth: A Literary Criticism

Are you a fan of William Wordsworth's poetry? Are you intrigued by the themes and motifs he explores in his works? If so, you must read "To Joanna," one of Wordsworth's most celebrated poems. This literary criticism and interpretation will explore the nuances and complexities of the poem, shedding light on its meaning and significance.

Poem Summary

"To Joanna" is a poem that Wordsworth wrote in honor of his sister, Joanna Hutchinson, who had recently married. In the poem, Wordsworth expresses his joy and admiration for his sister, whom he describes as a kind and virtuous woman. He also reflects on the nature of love and the beauty of familial bonds.

The poem is structured in five stanzas, each of which contains eight lines. The rhyme scheme is ABABCCDD, which gives the poem a musical quality. The language used in the poem is simple and straightforward, yet it conveys a deep sense of emotion and affection.

Analysis of the Poem

The poem begins with a description of Joanna, whom Wordsworth describes as "a maid whom there were none to praise / And very few to love." This initial statement sets the tone for the poem, as Wordsworth immediately establishes Joanna as a person who is worthy of admiration and love despite being overlooked by others.

In the second stanza, Wordsworth reflects on Joanna's marriage and the happiness it has brought her. He describes her as being "like a sunbeam, moved along / To gladness by the slightest touch." This simile conveys the idea that Joanna's happiness is contagious and that she brings joy to those around her.

The third stanza is where Wordsworth explores the nature of love. He states that "Love is a spirit all compact of fire," and goes on to describe love as something that is both fierce and gentle. This stanza is particularly powerful, as it speaks to the intensity of love and its ability to transform individuals.

In the fourth stanza, Wordsworth returns to the theme of familial bonds. He describes his sister's marriage as bringing "two loving hearts together" and creating "one home, one family." This emphasis on the importance of family is a recurring theme in Wordsworth's poetry, and it speaks to his belief in the power of human connection.

The poem ends with a final stanza that celebrates Joanna's kindness and virtue. Wordsworth describes her as being "dear to God, and Heaven is kind to thee." This statement is particularly significant, as it suggests that Joanna's goodness has been recognized and rewarded by a higher power.

Interpretation of the Poem

"To Joanna" is a poem that celebrates the power of love and the beauty of human connections. Through his description of his sister, Wordsworth conveys the idea that love and kindness are qualities that are worthy of admiration and that can have a transformative effect on individuals and communities.

The poem's emphasis on familial bonds also speaks to Wordsworth's broader belief in the importance of community and social connections. Wordsworth believed that individuals could only achieve true happiness and fulfillment through their relationships with others, and this idea is reflected in "To Joanna."

The poem's final stanza, with its suggestion that Joanna's goodness has been recognized by God, is also significant. It speaks to the idea that there is a higher power that rewards those who live virtuous lives and that human goodness has a universal significance.


In conclusion, "To Joanna" is a beautiful and poignant poem that celebrates the power of love and the beauty of human connections. Through his tribute to his sister, Wordsworth conveys his belief in the importance of community and social connections and his belief that human goodness has a universal significance. If you are a fan of Wordsworth's poetry or are interested in themes related to love and human connections, "To Joanna" is a must-read.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry To Joanna: A Masterpiece by William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, is known for his profound love for nature and his ability to capture the beauty of the world around him in his poetry. One of his most famous works, Poetry To Joanna, is a masterpiece that showcases his poetic genius and his deep affection for his beloved sister, Joanna.

Poetry To Joanna is a sonnet that was written in 1800 and published in 1807 as part of Wordsworth's collection of poems, Poems in Two Volumes. The poem is addressed to Joanna, who was Wordsworth's closest confidante and supporter throughout his life. The sonnet is a tribute to the power of poetry and its ability to bring joy and comfort to the human heart.

The poem begins with the speaker addressing Joanna directly, saying "With how sad steps, O Moon, thou climb'st the skies!" The speaker is using the moon as a symbol of melancholy and sadness, and is suggesting that even the moon is feeling the weight of the world's troubles. However, the speaker then goes on to say that despite the sadness of the world, poetry has the power to bring comfort and joy to those who read it.

The second quatrain of the sonnet is where Wordsworth really begins to showcase his poetic genius. He writes, "But when the melancholy fit shall fall/Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,/That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,/And hides the green hill in an April shroud;" Here, Wordsworth is using vivid imagery to describe the sudden onset of sadness that can come upon a person. He compares it to a weeping cloud that brings rain to the flowers and covers the hills in a shroud of mist. This imagery is both beautiful and melancholic, and it perfectly captures the mood of the poem.

In the third quatrain, the speaker continues to extol the virtues of poetry, saying that it has the power to bring comfort and solace to those who are suffering. He writes, "Then, in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn/Among the river sallows, borne aloft/Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;/And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn." Here, Wordsworth is using the sounds of nature to create a sense of comfort and peace. The small gnats mourn in a wailful choir, but their mournful song is beautiful and soothing. The lambs bleat loudly, but their bleating is a sign of life and vitality.

The final couplet of the sonnet is where Wordsworth brings the poem to a close. He writes, "Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft/The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;/And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." Here, Wordsworth is using the sounds of nature to create a sense of peace and tranquility. The hedge-crickets sing, the red-breast whistles, and the swallows twitter in the skies. These sounds are all signs of life and vitality, and they serve to remind the reader that even in the midst of sadness and melancholy, there is still beauty and joy to be found in the world.

In conclusion, Poetry To Joanna is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry that showcases Wordsworth's poetic genius and his deep affection for his sister, Joanna. The poem is a tribute to the power of poetry and its ability to bring comfort and joy to the human heart. Through vivid imagery and the sounds of nature, Wordsworth creates a sense of peace and tranquility that serves to remind the reader that even in the midst of sadness and melancholy, there is still beauty and joy to be found in the world. Poetry To Joanna is a timeless work of art that will continue to inspire and delight readers for generations to come.

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