poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

“The Solitary Reaper” was written in 1805 and published in 1807 in Wordsworth’s collection Poems, in Two Volumes.

The Solitary Reaper

Behold her, single in the field,   
Yon solitary Highland Lass!   
Reaping and singing by herself;   
Stop here, or gently pass!   
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;   
O listen! for the Vale profound   
Is overflowing with the sound.   
No Nightingale did ever chaunt   
More welcome notes to weary bands 
Of travellers in some shady haunt,   
Among Arabian sands:   
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard   
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,   
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.   
Will no one tell me what she sings?—   
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow   
For old, unhappy, far-off things,   
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,   
Familiar matter of to-day?   
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,   
That has been, and may be again?   

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;   
I saw her singing at her work,   
And o'er the sickle bending;—   
I listen'd, motionless and still;   
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,   
Long after it was heard no more.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, who rallied for "common speech" within poems and argued against the poetic biases of the period, wrote some of the most influential poetry in Western literature, including his most famous work, The Prelude, which is often considered to be the crowning achievement of English romanticism.

by this poet

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
—A simple child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes
A slumber did my spirit seal;
   I had no human fears:
She seemed a thing that could not feel
   The touch of earthly years.

No motion has she now, no force;
   She neither hears nor sees;
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
   With rocks, and stones, and trees.