'Her Eyes are Wild' by William Wordsworth

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Her eyes are wild, her head is bare,
The sun has burnt her coal-black hair;
Her eyebrows have a rusty stain,
And she came far from over the main.
She has a baby on her arm,
Or else she were alone:
And underneath the hay-stack warm,
And on the greenwood stone,
She talked and sung the woods among,
And it was in the English tongue.


"Sweet babe! they say that I am mad,
But nay, my heart is far too glad;
And I am happy when I sing
Full many a sad and doleful thing:
Then, lovely baby, do not fear!
I pray thee have no fear of me;
But safe as in a cradle, here,
My lovely baby! thou shalt be:
To thee I know too much I owe;
I cannot work thee any woe.


"A fire was once within my brain;
And in my head a dull, dull pain;
And fiendish faces, one, two, three,
Hung at my breast, and pulled at me;
But then there came a sight of joy;
It came at once to do me good;
I waked, and saw my little boy,
My little boy of flesh and blood;
Oh joy for me that sight to see!
For he was here, and only he.


"Suck, little babe, oh suck again!
It cools my blood; it cools my brain;
Thy lips I feel them, baby! they
Draw from my heart the pain away.
Oh! press me with thy little hand;
It loosens something at my chest;
About that tight and deadly band
I feel thy little fingers prest.
The breeze I see is in the tree:
It comes to cool my babe and me.


"Oh! love me, love me, little boy!
Thou art thy mother's only joy;
And do not dread the waves below,
When o'er the sea-rock's edge we go;
The high crag cannot work me harm,
Nor leaping torrents when they howl;
The babe I carry on my arm,
He saves for me my precious soul;
Then happy lie; for blest am I;
Without me my sweet babe would die.


"Then do not fear, my boy! for thee
Bold as a lion will I be;
And I will always be thy guide,
Through hollow snows and rivers wide.
I'll build an Indian bower; I know
The leaves that make the softest bed:
And, if from me thou wilt not go,
But still be true till I am dead,
My pretty thing! then thou shalt sing
As merry as the birds in spring.


"Thy father cares not for my breast,
'Tis thine, sweet baby, there to rest;
'Tis all thine own!--and, if its hue
Be changed, that was so fair to view,
'Tis fair enough for thee, my dove!
My beauty, little child, is flown,
But thou wilt live with me in love,
And what if my poor cheek be brown?
'Tis well for me, thou canst not see
How pale and wan it else would be.


"Dread not their taunts, my little Life;
I am thy father's wedded wife;
And underneath the spreading tree
We two will live in honesty.
If his sweet boy he could forsake,
With me he never would have stayed:
From him no harm my babe can take;
But he, poor man! is wretched made;
And every day we two will pray
For him that's gone and far away.


"I'll teach my boy the sweetest things:
I'll teach him how the owlet sings.
My little babe! thy lips are still,
And thou hast almost sucked thy fill.
--Where art thou gone, my own dear child?
What wicked looks are those I see?
Alas! alas! that look so wild,
It never, never came from me:
If thou art mad, my pretty lad,
Then I must be for ever sad.


"Oh! smile on me, my little lamb!
For I thy own dear mother am:
My love for thee has well been tried:
I've sought thy father far and wide.
I know the poisons of the shade;
I know the earth-nuts fit for food:
Then, pretty dear, be not afraid:
We'll find thy father in the wood.
Now laugh and be gay, to the woods away!
And there, my babe, we'll live for aye."

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Her Eyes are Wild": An Ecstatic Interpretation

William Wordsworth is perhaps the most celebrated poet of the Romantic era, and "Her Eyes are Wild" is one of his most captivating poems. At first glance, the poem seems to be a simple description of a woman's eyes. But a closer reading reveals a complex interplay of imagery, sound, and emotion that speaks to the human experience in a profound way. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, structure, and language of the poem to offer a fresh and ecstatic reading of "Her Eyes are Wild."

The Poem

Before diving into the analysis, let's take a moment to appreciate the poem itself. Here is the full text of "Her Eyes are Wild":

Her eyes are wild, and sweet, and bright,
She looks as if she knew
That what she thought, and what she felt,
Were, by the gods, deemed true.

Her brow is like the mountain snow
That shines in morning's beam;
Her cheeks like living roses glow;
Her eyes, like sapphires, gleam;

Her voice is like the mountain stream
That through the valley flows;
Her step is like the gentle breeze
That o'er the meadow blows.

Oh! Who would not, with heart elate,
Behold that form divine,
And catch the light that from her eyes
And from her forehead shine!

Now, let's unpack this poem and see what makes it so special.

The Themes

At its core, "Her Eyes are Wild" is a poem about beauty and truth. The speaker is mesmerized by the woman's eyes, which seem to radiate a deep and honest understanding of the world. The poem suggests that beauty is not just skin-deep; it is a reflection of one's inner self. The woman's eyes are wild because they are untamed and unfiltered, revealing her true thoughts and feelings. And yet, they are also sweet and bright, indicating that her truth is not harsh or bitter, but rather a source of joy and wonder.

The poem also explores the theme of nature. The woman is described in terms of natural imagery, such as the mountain snow, living roses, and mountain stream. This suggests that she is in harmony with the natural world and embodies its beauty and purity. The poem celebrates the natural world as a source of inspiration and wonder, and suggests that true beauty and truth can be found in nature as well as in human beings.

Finally, the poem touches on the theme of desire. The speaker is clearly infatuated with the woman, and his description of her is highly romanticized. He speaks of catching the light that shines from her eyes and forehead, suggesting that he wants to possess and bask in her beauty and truth. However, the poem is not overtly sexual or objectifying; rather, it presents desire as a natural and innocent response to the beauty and truth of another person.

The Structure

"Her Eyes are Wild" is a relatively short poem, consisting of three stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is AABB, which gives the poem a simple and musical quality. Each stanza follows a similar structure, with the first two lines describing the woman's eyes, the third line comparing another part of her body to a natural object, and the fourth line using a natural metaphor to describe her movement or voice.

This structure gives the poem a sense of unity and balance. The repetition of the eye imagery creates a sense of focus and intensifies the reader's attention on the woman's gaze. The comparisons to natural objects reinforce the theme of nature and create a sense of harmony and balance between the woman and the natural world. And the use of metaphors to describe her voice and movement creates a sense of fluidity and grace, suggesting that the woman is not just beautiful but also a joy to be around.

The Language

What makes "Her Eyes are Wild" truly special, however, is Wordsworth's use of language. The poem is full of vivid imagery and sensory details that bring the woman to life in the reader's mind. Wordsworth uses a variety of poetic techniques to create this effect, such as alliteration, metaphor, and personification.

For example, in the first stanza, Wordsworth uses alliteration to emphasize the wildness and sweetness of the woman's eyes:

Her eyes are wild, and sweet, and bright,

The repetition of the "w" and "s" sounds creates a sense of energy and intensity, and the use of the word "wild" suggests that the woman is not just beautiful but also untamed and free-spirited.

In the second stanza, Wordsworth uses personification to describe the woman's voice:

Her voice is like the mountain stream
That through the valley flows;

By comparing the woman's voice to a mountain stream, Wordsworth creates a sense of movement and fluidity. The use of the word "flows" suggests that the woman's speech is natural and effortless, like the movement of water.

Finally, in the third stanza, Wordsworth uses metaphor to describe the woman's step:

Her step is like the gentle breeze
That o'er the meadow blows.

By comparing the woman's step to a gentle breeze, Wordsworth creates a sense of lightness and grace. The use of the word "blows" suggests that the woman's movement is soft and unobtrusive, like a whisper in the wind.

The Interpretation

So what does all this mean? How should we interpret "Her Eyes are Wild"?

To me, this poem is a celebration of the beauty and truth that can be found in the world around us. The woman's eyes are a symbol of the human capacity for honesty and authenticity, and her connection to nature suggests that this truth is rooted in the natural world. The poem suggests that by immersing ourselves in nature and embracing our wild and untamed selves, we can tap into this inner beauty and truth and live a more joyful and fulfilling life.

At the same time, the poem acknowledges the power of desire and infatuation. The speaker is clearly taken with the woman, and his description of her is highly romanticized. However, the poem does not present desire as a negative or destructive force; rather, it suggests that it is a natural response to beauty and truth, and that it can be a source of joy and wonder in its own right.

In other words, "Her Eyes are Wild" is not just a poem about a woman's eyes; it is a poem about the human experience of beauty, truth, nature, and desire. It speaks to our innate desire to connect with the world around us, to find meaning and purpose in our lives, and to experience the fullness of human emotion. And it does so with a language and imagery that is both simple and profound, inviting us to see the world in a new and ecstatic light.


In conclusion, "Her Eyes are Wild" is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry. It is a celebration of the beauty and truth that can be found in the natural world and in human beings, and a testament to the power of desire and infatuation. Through its vivid language and imagery, it invites us to see the world in a new and ecstatic light, and to embrace our wild and untamed selves. I hope this literary criticism and interpretation has helped you appreciate the poem in a deeper and more meaningful way, and that it has inspired you to see the world around you with fresh and excited eyes.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is an art form that has the power to evoke emotions and stir the soul. William Wordsworth, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, was a master at creating poetry that captured the beauty and wonder of nature. One of his most famous poems, "Her Eyes are Wild," is a perfect example of his ability to use language to paint vivid pictures in the mind of the reader.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the eyes of a woman he has seen. He says that her eyes are "wild," which immediately creates a sense of mystery and intrigue. The word "wild" suggests that there is something untamed and unpredictable about this woman, and the speaker is drawn to her because of it.

The next line of the poem is equally powerful: "But not with the wildness of despair." This line suggests that the woman's wildness is not a result of sadness or desperation, but rather a natural part of her being. It also implies that the speaker has some knowledge of the woman's inner life, and that he understands her in a way that others might not.

The third line of the poem is perhaps the most beautiful: "Nor hers in any way the voice of wantonness." Here, the speaker is saying that the woman's wildness is not a result of promiscuity or sexual desire. Instead, it is a pure and innocent expression of her true self. This line is particularly powerful because it challenges the traditional view of women as objects of desire, and instead presents them as complex and multifaceted individuals.

The fourth line of the poem is a bit more ambiguous: "But a glad animal grace." Here, the speaker is describing the woman's movements and demeanor as being like that of an animal. This could be interpreted in a number of ways. Perhaps the woman is free-spirited and unencumbered by societal norms, like a wild animal. Or maybe the speaker is simply struck by the woman's physical beauty and grace.

The fifth and final line of the poem is a bit of a surprise: "And light and feet and joy in every limb." Here, the speaker is saying that the woman is full of light and joy, and that this is evident in every part of her body. This line is particularly powerful because it suggests that the woman's wildness is not a negative trait, but rather a source of joy and vitality.

Overall, "Her Eyes are Wild" is a beautiful and complex poem that challenges traditional views of women and celebrates the beauty and wonder of nature. Wordsworth's use of language is masterful, and he creates a vivid and compelling portrait of a woman who is both mysterious and alluring. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the essence of human experience and to evoke emotions in the reader.

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