'Ruth' by William Wordsworth

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When Ruth was left half desolate,
Her Father took another Mate;
And Ruth, not seven years old,
A slighted child, at her own will
Went wandering over dale and hill,
In thoughtless freedom, bold.

And she had made a pipe of straw,
And music from that pipe could draw
Like sounds of winds and floods;
Had built a bower upon the green,
As if she from her birth had been
An infant of the woods.

Beneath her father's roof, alone
She seemed to live; her thoughts her own;
Herself her own delight;
Pleased with herself, nor sad, nor gay;
And, passing thus the live-long day,
She grew to woman's height.

There came a Youth from Georgia's shore--
A military casque he wore,
With splendid feathers drest;
He brought them from the Cherokees;
The feathers nodded in the breeze,
And made a gallant crest.

From Indian blood you deem him sprung:
But no! he spake the English tongue,
And bore a soldier's name;
And, when America was free
From battle and from jeopardy,
He 'cross the ocean came.

With hues of genius on his cheek
In finest tones the Youth could speak:
--While he was yet a boy,
The moon, the glory of the sun,
And streams that murmur as they run,
Had been his dearest joy.

He was a lovely Youth! I guess
The panther in the wilderness
Was not so fair as he;
And, when he chose to sport and play,
No dolphin ever was so gay
Upon the tropic sea.

Among the Indians he had fought,
And with him many tales he brought
Of pleasure and of fear;
Such tales as told to any maid
By such a Youth, in the green shade,
Were perilous to hear.

He told of girls--a happy rout!
Who quit their fold with dance and shout,
Their pleasant Indian town,
To gather strawberries all day long;
Returning with a choral song
When daylight is gone down.

He spake of plants that hourly change
Their blossoms, through a boundless range
Of intermingling hues;
With budding, fading, faded flowers
They stand the wonder of the bowers
From morn to evening dews.

He told of the magnolia, spread
High as a cloud, high over head!
The cypress and her spire;
--Of flowers that with one scarlet gleam
Cover a hundred leagues, and seem
To set the hills on fire.

The Youth of green savannahs spake,
And many an endless, endless lake,
With all its fairy crowds
Of islands, that together lie
As quietly as spots of sky
Among the evening clouds.

"How pleasant," then he said, "it were
A fisher or a hunter there,
In sunshine or in shade
To wander with an easy mind;
And build a household fire, and find
A home in every glade!

"What days and what bright years! Ah me!
Our life were life indeed, with thee
So passed in quiet bliss,
And all the while," said he, "to know
That we were in a world of woe,
On such an earth as this!"

And then he sometimes interwove
Fond thoughts about a father's love
"For there," said he, "are spun
Around the heart such tender ties,
That our own children to our eyes
Are dearer than the sun.

"Sweet Ruth! and could you go with me
My helpmate in the woods to be,
Our shed at night to rear;
Or run, my own adopted bride,
A sylvan huntress at my side,
And drive the flying deer!

"Beloved Ruth!"--No more he said,
The wakeful Ruth at midnight shed
A solitary tear:
She thought again--and did agree 0
With him to sail across the sea,
And drive the flying deer.

"And now, as fitting is and right,
We in the church our faith will plight,
A husband and a wife."
Even so they did; and I may say
That to sweet Ruth that happy day
Was more than human life.

Through dream and vision did she sink,
Delighted all the while to think
That on those lonesome floods,
And green savannahs, she should share
His board with lawful joy, and bear
His name in the wild woods.

But, as you have before been told,
This Stripling, sportive, gay, and bold,
And, with his dancing crest,
So beautiful, through savage lands
Had roamed about, with vagrant bands
Of Indians in the West.

The wind, the tempest roaring high,
The tumult of a tropic sky,
Might well be dangerous food
For him, a Youth to whom was given
So much of earth--so much of heaven,
And such impetuous blood.

Whatever in those climes he found
Irregular in sight or sound
Did to his mind impart
A kindred impulse, seemed allied
To his own powers, and justified
The workings of his heart.

Nor less, to feed voluptuous thought,
The beauteous forms of nature wrought,
Fair trees and gorgeous flowers;
The breezes their own languor lent;
The stars had feelings, which they sent
Into those favoured bowers.

Yet, in his worst pursuits, I ween
That sometimes there did intervene
Pure hopes of high intent:
For passions linked to forms so fair
And stately, needs must have their share
Of noble sentiment.

But ill he lived, much evil saw,
With men to whom no better law
Nor better life was known;
Deliberately, and undeceived,
Those wild men's vices he received,
And gave them back his own.

His genius and his moral frame
Were thus impaired, and he became
The slave of low desires:
A Man who without self-control
Would seek what the degraded soul
Unworthily admires.

And yet he with no feigned delight
Had wooed the Maiden, day and night
Had loved her, night and morn:
What could he less than love a Maid
Whose heart with so much nature played?
So kind and so forlorn!

Sometimes, most earnestly, he said,
"O Ruth! I have been worse than dead;
False thoughts, thoughts bold and vain,
Encompassed me on every side
When I, in confidence and pride,
Had crossed the Atlantic main.

"Before me shone a glorious world--
Fresh as a banner bright, unfurled
To music suddenly:
I looked upon those hills and plains,
And seemed as if let loose from chains,
To live at liberty.

"No more of this; for now, by thee
Dear Ruth! more happily set free
With nobler zeal I burn;
My soul from darkness is released,
Like the whole sky when to the east
The morning doth return."

Full soon that better mind was gone;
No hope, no wish remained, not one,--
They stirred him now no more;
New objects did new pleasure give,
And once again he wished to live
As lawless as before.

Meanwhile, as thus with him it fared,
They for the voyage were prepared,
And went to the sea-shore,
But, when they thither came the Youth
Deserted his poor Bride, and Ruth
Could never find him more.

God help thee, Ruth!--Such pains she had,
That she in half a year was mad,
And in a prison housed;
And there, with many a doleful song
Made of wild words, her cup of wrong
She fearfully caroused.

Yet sometimes milder hours she knew,
Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew, 0
Nor pastimes of the May;
--They all were with her in her cell;
And a clear brook with cheerful knell
Did o'er the pebbles play.

When Ruth three seasons thus had lain,
There came a respite to her pain;
She from her prison fled;
But of the Vagrant none took thought;
And where it liked her best she sought
Her shelter and her bread.

Among the fields she breathed again:
The master-current of her brain
Ran permanent and free;
And, coming to the Banks of Tone,
There did she rest; and dwell alone
Under the greenwood tree.

The engines of her pain, the tools
That shaped her sorrow, rocks and pools,
And airs that gently stir
The vernal leaves--she loved them still;
Nor ever taxed them with the ill
Which had been done to her.

A Barn her 'winter' bed supplies;
But, till the warmth of summer skies
And summer days is gone,
(And all do in this tale agree)
She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree,
And other home hath none.

An innocent life, yet far astray!
And Ruth will, long before her day,
Be broken down and old:
Sore aches she needs must have! but less
Of mind, than body's wretchedness,
From damp, and rain, and cold.

If she is prest by want of food,
She from her dwelling in the wood
Repairs to a road-side;
And there she begs at one steep place
Where up and down with easy pace
The horsemen-travellers ride.

That oaten pipe of hers is mute,
Or thrown away; but with a flute
Her loneliness she cheers:
This flute, made of a hemlock stalk,
At evening in his homeward walk
The Quantock woodman hears.

I, too, have passed her on the hills
Setting her little water-mills
By spouts and fountains wild--
Such small machinery as she turned
Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned,
A young and happy Child!

Farewell! and when thy days are told,
Ill-fated Ruth, in hallowed mould
Thy corpse shall buried be,
For thee a funeral bell shall ring,
And all the congregation sing
A Christian psalm for thee.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Beauty of Nature in Wordsworth's "Ruth"

As someone who has always been drawn to the beauty of nature, I was immediately captivated by William Wordsworth's poem "Ruth." Through his rich and vivid descriptions, the poet portrays the power of the natural world to inspire, heal, and transform human experience.

The Power of the Landscape

One of the most striking features of "Ruth" is the way Wordsworth uses the natural landscape as a central metaphor for the inner lives of his characters. From the opening lines, we are plunged into a world of hills, valleys, and streams that seem to embody the emotions and conflicts of the human heart.

Consider, for example, the description of the "deep and silent dell" where Ruth and her family live. Wordsworth writes:

The cottage, battered by the wind's rude shock, Was here protected by the circling rock; In ancient times, when stormy winds did blow, This dwelling was the brave aërial's foe, Who, while the winds round every cranny blew, Safe in their subterranean shelter grew.

This passage is full of rich imagery and sensory detail, but it also serves a deeper purpose: to show how the natural world can offer shelter and protection to those in need. Just as the cottage is protected by the circling rock, so too can people find refuge in the soothing rhythms of the landscape.

The Transformation of Ruth

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of "Ruth" is the way it traces the transformation of its eponymous heroine from a lost and unhappy young woman to one who is at peace with herself and the world around her. Through her encounters with the natural world, Ruth is able to find a sense of purpose and belonging that had eluded her before.

At first, Ruth is presented as a figure of pathos and despair. She has lost her parents and her way in life, and is struggling to make sense of the world around her. As Wordsworth writes:

She had a rustic, woodland air, And she was wildly clad; Her eyes were fair, and very fair; —Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little Maid, How many may you be?" "How many? Seven in all," she said, And wondering looked at me.

This passage is remarkable for its sense of intimacy and immediacy. We are drawn into Ruth's world, and can feel her pain and confusion as if it were our own. But as the poem progresses, we see how Ruth is slowly able to find her way back to herself through her connection to the natural world.

For example, consider the scene where Ruth watches the "sweet May-day" come to life around her:

And, as I paused, the Dove, methought, whose sound Was buried in the hollows of the hills, Forth from a cleft between two rocks, did glide, And, like a soothed being, by him side Did gently nestle: while the Leaves that hung Tremulous, and had chattered in the wind, Felt the mute influence of the breath that fanned, Their life-blood, when the Dove had ceased to stir.

Here, Ruth is able to see the world around her with new eyes, and to appreciate the beauty and complexity of even the smallest details. By witnessing the interaction between the dove and the leaves, she is able to feel a sense of connection and oneness with the natural world.

The Significance of the Poem

Overall, "Ruth" is a powerful testament to the enduring power of nature to heal and transform the human spirit. Through his rich and evocative language, Wordsworth is able to create a world that is both deeply sensual and deeply spiritual, inviting us to see the world around us with new eyes and to appreciate the beauty and wonder that surrounds us every day.

As someone who has always been drawn to the beauty of nature, I find "Ruth" to be an inspiring and uplifting work that speaks directly to the human heart. Whether you are a lover of poetry, a student of literature, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of the natural world, I highly recommend this remarkable work by one of the greatest poets of all time.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Ruth: A Poem by William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era, and his poem "Ruth" is a testament to his mastery of the craft. The poem is a beautiful and poignant exploration of love, loss, and the power of nature to heal and renew.

At its heart, "Ruth" is a story of a young woman who falls in love with a man from a different social class. The poem begins with Ruth, a poor orphan girl, working in the fields. She catches the eye of a wealthy landowner named Harry, and the two fall deeply in love. However, their love is not meant to be, as Harry's family disapproves of the match and he is forced to leave Ruth behind.

The poem then takes a turn, as Ruth falls into a deep depression and eventually dies. However, Wordsworth does not leave us with a sense of despair. Instead, he shows us the power of nature to heal and renew, as Ruth's body is buried in a beautiful spot by the river, and the natural world continues on around her.

One of the most striking aspects of "Ruth" is its use of imagery. Wordsworth paints a vivid picture of the natural world, from the "green hill" where Ruth and Harry first meet, to the "deep and silent dell" where Ruth is buried. The imagery is both beautiful and haunting, and it serves to underscore the themes of love, loss, and renewal that run throughout the poem.

Another key element of "Ruth" is its use of language. Wordsworth's writing is lyrical and poetic, with a rhythm and flow that draws the reader in. He uses simple, everyday language to convey complex emotions and ideas, and the result is a poem that is both accessible and profound.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of "Ruth" is its exploration of the human heart. Wordsworth shows us the depth of Ruth's love for Harry, and the pain she feels when they are separated. He also shows us the grief and despair that consume her when Harry leaves, and the sense of peace and renewal that comes with her death.

In many ways, "Ruth" is a meditation on the power of love to transform and heal. It is a reminder that even in the face of loss and despair, there is always hope for renewal and growth. And it is a testament to the enduring power of nature to soothe and comfort us in our darkest moments.

In conclusion, "Ruth" is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry, and a testament to William Wordsworth's skill as a writer. It is a beautiful and haunting exploration of love, loss, and the power of nature to heal and renew. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply appreciate great writing, "Ruth" is a must-read.

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