The poem “A slumber did my spirit seal” by William Wordsworth (1880) portrays various definitions of social feminism, nature and the role of the culture industry. Consequently, some guiding questions can be used in analyzing the portrayal of these aspects in the poem arise. These questions include; how the feminist aspect described and used in the poem? In what way are views on social matters portrayed by the author? What are the cultural aspects represented by the poem? How does the author describe the nature, natural phenomenon, its unique functions and characteristics? The poem, “A slumber did my spirit seal” represents all the features, which affect daily human beings life and its environment.
According to Adorno and Horkheimer, “Culture is supposed not only to be transcendent but also transparent, and this requires the effacement of those visible features of race, class and gender, which are crucial determinants of everyday experience” (12). Culture, like faith is sometimes impossible to generalize; indeed most poets do not even make a claim for the representativeness of their personal visions (Barnet, 56). As much as poet’s struggle to represent general aspects of culture in their poems, there are elements within the poem that exhibit distinguishable cultural perspectives. From this poem for example, Nature always wears the spirit’s colors, which is far from being a thing of faith, as it was for the romantics. In simple terms, nature is pure. First, “A slumber did my spirit seal” shows William Wordsworth’s romantic life with a woman “she” and how he loved and kept her in the heart.
Even after the woman dies, her soul still remains deep sealed in his heart. The culture of burying the death is seen in the second stanza where he writes, “She neither hears nor sees” the girl is buried in a grave dug on the earth’s surface. She “Roll'd round in earth's diurnal course” and “with rocks, and stones, and trees” meaning that she was buried and had become a part of the ground, which is characterized by components such as rocks, stones and trees. The author goes on to state that they follow the “earth’s diurnal course” (Wordsworth, 2). As the girl’s corpse is lowered into the grave, it becomes rejoined with the earth’s components. According to Wordsworth, the earth becomes empty, a traumatic place, and a sacred place, and this place later on becomes the funeral home for the young girl, which in turn becomes the grave of the entire world. That is, the earth consumes the nonliving humans everywhere around the world, and this, therefore signifies a uniformity of culture all across the globe (Barnet, 77). The basic conclusion about this is that the death comprises the death of the woman as well as hat of nature. When a woman dies, nature dies, the two are inherently related. In addition, the woman’s purity is resembled to that of nature by Wordsworth. He tries to show that although death is a painful aspect, death results in the re-assemblage of a woman and nature. Two pieces of innocence are essentially rejoined.
William Wordsworth discusses the death of a girl, who probably can be a lover or a very close friend to him. It shows the feminine role in creating an affectionate environment for romance and how it dictates human feelings in the male partner. In the poem, he describes the death of a woman and further explains his perception at that state of death. The title of the poem “A slumber did my spirit seal” suggest that the speaker was in a state of lethargic, as if he was not living in reality but rather in a twisted dream or in a fantasy. There are two things that come into question in the poem. In the first stanza, the author thought the girl will not die, but in the second stanza, the girl is dead. From the reader’s perspective, the two statements might not show any relationship. Therefore, how does the reader regard the speaker’s attitude towards about the female (baby girl or a woman) in the first thought, as shown in the first paragraph? According to human nature, is it sensible to have no “human fears” or is it foolish and naive? But, at the last stanza, the last two lines provide the possible answers to these questions, that, she has become part of the natural world which shows some sense which is greater than the naive spirituality as shown in the first stanza; the “she” individual “motion” and “force” are now under control of grand motion and the force of nature. It shows the speakers acceptance to the cause of nature, where when one is dead, there is no reverse to it. Although it is painful to lose a lover or a close friend, death is, however, inevitable and breaks all the bonds attached between lovers (Fiske, 57).
The earth is used to represent nature. The earth is made up of rocks, stones and trees among others. In addition, the aspect death is a fate dictated by nature. The death of the girl which comes up early made her escape the unfriendly factors of nature as growing old as one grows up, scars from injuries people experience in real life. Wordsworth makes the piece interesting in his failure to obscure the presence/nonpresence of the human in the poem. The word “thing” is used to refer to non-living things like stones, rocks among others, though, in the poem it is used to refer to the girl (Worth, 23). A human being is not a thing. From the poem, it is a fact that a young girl mentioned is the one who is faced with a task, which is too difficult for her because of being a young thing. She is still too young to perform a job because the feeling that being human is in a particular way missing in the poem. Instead, the factor that is constituted here is the thingy character of things. The “thing” therefore refers to the state of inertia the girl’s body had attained when she died thus joining the “diurnal nature course.” As will be seen in the next paragraph, this would only be applicable to a female as a female is in the conventional world often equated to nature.
One thing to note is the author’s equation of feminism and nature. He particularly uses the young girl to relate to nature. In the conventional society, the beauty of a woman is often equated to nature’s beauty. A woman is considered to bloom in accordance with the bloom of nature. In fact, this is Wordsworth goes to great length why the young girl essentially rejoins nature when she is dies. This is once again to show that female beauty is related to nature. The fact that the girl is young also depicts an element of innocence, just like the way nature is innocent before it is destroyed by man through his unscrupulous practices. Innocence depicts masculine hegemony as depicted by Laura Mulvey in her “male gaze” theory whereby the status of women is defined in relation to the male. In this context, the female is innocent and requires the protection of the male. If the poem was describing a male, it is very probable that the author would not go to such great lengths to equate him or try to establish a relationship between him and nature.
The description of feminism, nature, social aspects, and cultures can be seen throughout the poem, “A slumber did my spirit seal” by William Wordsworth (1880). Wordsworth’s only true love is Lucy, the child of the green earth unaffected by the factors of ageing. He conquered all his human fears because of intense love for “she.” The girl’s sudden death in the peak of her youth has heavily burdened Wordsworth’s heart with great sorrow. When the coffin was lowered into the grave and forever buried, the girl’s corpse was united with the components of the earth. She became part of the earth because she could not move, speak, hear or see, and the only movement she could make at that state was the united movement of the earth's rotation and revolution. The joined movement goes along with the trees, flowers and plants that grow on the ground. However, the limitation of interpretation of the research was encountered because it does not define the author’s clear perception about the feminism aspect. Furthermore, it is difficult to determine who “she” is referred to. However, it is reasonable to assume that the girl is Lucy because the poem is listed as one of the Wordsworth’s “Lucy” poems, which is a cluster of elegies that talk about the death of a young girl.
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