Friday, February 24, 2012

009. Two Famous Death Poems. Shirley And Shakespeare. Appreciation By P S Remesh Chandran

Two Famous Death Poems. Shirley And Shakespeare. Appreciation By P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum

By PSRemeshChandra, 21st Mar 2011.
Short URL
Posted in Wikinut Poetry, Drama & Criticism

Death is the end of all earthly cares and the beginning of eternal things. It is believed that the moment we die, we are born in another universe. With it begins a new way of being. More number of songs and poems are written on death than on birth. It is considered an important event in man's life. In many communities all over the world, death is an occasion for festivity and celebration. Shakespeare's Fear No More and James Shirley's Death The Leveller are appreciated here.

Shakespeare at last has begun to be read and appreciated, than being acted on stage.

1.FEAR NO MORE. A Song by William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare was one of the world's greatest poets and dramatists. He considered himself a poet, but to make a living, could not exclude himself from the tedious work of being on stage. He very much wished his plays to be read and appreciated more as literary creations, than to be acted as plays on stage. His wishes have been granted by Time. Now his plays are rarely acted, but being read and appreciated as literary masterpieces as he wished. Fear No More is a song from his play Cymbeline. Two brothers weep over the supposed death of their sister who is only unconscious. The song is actually an Ode To Death. Death comes as a release from the evils of the world and is inevitable to all. This song is the poet's prayer for the peace of the departed soul.

Work in this World, for which wages are paid in Heaven.

When we have done our worldly works, we return to our home that is in heaven where we will be paid wages for our work done in the world. We will be blessed or punished, according to the measure of the virtue or vice resulted from our work. Death is universal and man cannot escape from it. There is no armour to hold against death and man has to succumb to the inevitable. He has no protection from this gateway to the next being. The rich and leisurely golden lads and girls, as well as the chimney-sweepers doing the dirtiest of works, have all to die. Authority, scholarship and physical strength follows suit and finally reaches the dust. Even young lovers die.

Is it to bliss that we go after death?

The parting soul gets peace, since it is released from the evils of the world. It needn't anymore fear the heat of the Sun or the angry outbreak of winter. The frown and anger and displeasure and stroke of well-placed figures and authorities and tyrants, the very things that make human lives hell in this world, needn't be feared anymore. Our burdens are very much lightened, for clothing and eating are no more needed. The deadly lightning and thunder-bolts, the dread of out-on-the-field workers, will not affect us anymore. Abusing words and unkind criticism, which constantly humiliated us, lowered our status and self-esteem, and tormented our souls will no more reach our ears. Weeping and happiness are past. We reach bliss, supreme happiness. And distinctions are also past- the reed and the oak are the same to the dead man.

A land where sceptre and crown and scythe and spade are made equal.

2. DEATH THE LEVELLER. A poem by James Shirley.

James Shirley was an English poet and teacher who later became famous for his plays. He died during the great London Fire. Death The Leveller is part of one of his plays. He conceives death as a great leveller who keeps no distinctions between rich and poor, high and low and hard and soft. The glories of our blood and state are nothing but shadows. Family traditions and social status do not come to our aid when we are dying. Man has no immunity against fate. Death lays his icy hands on kings and subjects alike. Kings wearing the sceptre and crown, the symbols of their sovereignty and peasants wearing the scythe and spade, the tools of their trade are all brought to dust and made equal by death without any distinctions.

Eloquence of a poet in defense of death.

Glory is but a momentary glimpse of eternity. Great emperors like Ashoka and Alexander have conquered vast plains and armies, won battlefields and raised victory memorials, but they too have gone to the other world. Great swordsmen reap heads of their opponents in the battlefield, but even their strong nerves must yield at last and they too have to stoop to fate, early or late. Actually they are not winning over the other, but taming one another. Great War heroes one day become wounded captives creeping to their death. They are now pale with shame being in the hands of death, because unlike in the Warfield, they cannot now fight against their captor. Victory memorials may wither away and great battles in history fade from memory. The once-victor will one day become a bleeding victim on the purple altar of death, purple because of blood and gore. However high our heads are held, they will have to come down to the cold tomb. Great heroic acts do not survive us. Only the just and right actions of a man will blossom and emit sweet smell, after he has long withered in dust.

Are we really living here or dreaming about living here?


Death is the universal closing of a way of life in one universe and the starting of another one in another universe. It is believed that and also it is indeed a thrill to think that, once the gravitational constriction of the black hole that is the life-proofed passage between two universes is passed, the dead and reborn being would feel nothing about anything that might have or might not have happened. It would be felt like everything reversed exactly mathematically. Some seers have even doubted as to whether we are really living in this world, or lying relaxed in some universe and dreaming about living a life in the World. When poets and seers are concerned and involved, anything strange can be conceived and formulated. Bizarre notions are not untravelled land for poets. It is therefore only their modesty and reserve that prevented William Shakespeare and James Shirley from elaborating on the above ideas, certainly not their unfamiliarity with any such notions, especially Shakespeare with his long line of uncanny characters.

Death is universal, so rouses similar feelings in man everywhere.

Since death is universal, it rouses similar feelings in man everywhere, though intensity and velocity of emotions may vary from person to person. That is the foundation for the similarity between the two poems, Fear No More and Death The Leveller. They are similar in many other aspects also. Both poems celebrate the glory of death. They hold the same views and project the same ideas. Both poems are part of their plays. Both poets used the same word Sceptre to denote Kingly Authority. Shakespeare hints that we will be paid our wages in heaven for our deeds done in this world. Shirley warns us that only our just and rightful actions would survive us. Both poets project the inevitability and inescapability of death. Shakespeare's life period in England was 1564-1616 and Shirley's was 1596-1666. Shirley was 14 years old when Shakespeare was 44. Therefore Shirley certainly might have been inspired by Shakespeare. And both poets were Londoners too.

Appreciations, Cymbeline, Death The Leveller, English Songs, Fear No More, James Shirley, Literature And Language, P S Remesh Chandran, Poetry, Reviews, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, William Shakespeare

Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.

31st Mar 2011 (#)
Shirley might have been inspired by Shakespeare.
But, certainly I'm inspired by your literary work here on Wikinut.
This article of appreciation by you has brought the great poets together.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

008. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. Robert Frost. Appreciation By P S Remesh Chandran


Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. Robert Frost. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum

By PSRemeshChandra, 19th Mar 2011.
Short URL
Posted in Wikinut Poetry, Drama Criticism

Nature creates many beauties for man to observe, but man being burdened with the multitude of tasks to run a family cannot spare his time for sharing the pleasantness nature imbues. In his rush of life he is forced to abandon the easy solaces nature offers which if accepted, would have served as a balm for his mind in flames. Robert Frost's poem Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening shows a glimpse of what treasures man has lost. True, what man forgets first is the beauty of his mother.

A British poet trained on practical American lines.
Matthew Arnold, the critic and poet.
Robert Frost was a farmer and poet who had a deep concern for nature. He lived during 1874-1963. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening is his world famous poem which appeals to man's desire to be always be with nature. In the poem we see the poet riding a little horse into a snow falling forest in the evening. His sense of beauty tends him to stay but his dominating sense of duty sends him away. The genius of Frost shuttles between dream and reality and finally lands on immediate reality. Perhaps his long American life might have trimmed him on practical lines.

Nature's Cynosures are for all the world to see.

'Whose Woods These Are, I Think I Know'
The poet stops by the wood on a snowy evening in winter. He doesn't know who the owner of the forest is. Judging from the fact that there were no signs of any modern constructions to be seen there, he assumes that the owner of the forest might not be a town’s man, but a villager. So far so good. He hopes that the owner will not appear there at that time of heavy snow fall, as he does not wish to be seen tress-passing into private land. Sweet English reserve and shyness! Even though somewhat reluctant to enter a private property, his soul's desire to be with nature tempted him and he entered the forest riding his horse.

All a winter's work for the squirrels and sparrows to see.

All a winter's work, for the squirrels and sparrows to see.
Nature's benedictions are man's common asset, limited to no one's ownership. She creates her cynosures for all the world to see, through generations and ages. She creates them not exclusively for humans, but anticipating the admiring eyes of the squirrels, sparrows, peacocks and the marsupials also.

Animal instincts are sharper-tuned to sensing danger than man's.

To watch the woods fill up with snow.
Snow heavily falling on the trees and rocks and shrubs will form curious images of strange shapes and sizes. The poet plunges deep into observing their beauty and quite forgets the passing of Time. The horse was more danger-conscious and responsive to surroundings than the poet. Have anyone ever heard about an animal that took its own life? It became suspicious. What is this fellow on my back doing?
Between the woods and frozen lake.

Between the woods and frozen lake.
Dangers of an ink-black night are ahead. No farm houses are to be seen anywhere nearby. They are standing between an unfriendly wood and a frozen lake where no one will get shelter and can survive. Man and animal can be lost and frozen in these circumstances. Besides, it is the darkest night of the year that is approaching. Is this man on my back having ideas of suicide? Animal instincts are sharper-tuned to sense danger than man's. So thinking such and such, the horse gave his harness bells a shake to ask his master whether there was any mistake. Actually he was asking his master why they were stopping and staying in that unfavorable atmosphere for long.
The Tiny Little Boy with Hay-ho, the Wind and the Rain.
Forage is scarce in winter, so a long neck.
The sounds of the horse-bells were heard distinctly against the only other background sound there, the swish-swishing sound of the easily-flowing wind sweeping against the incessantly down-falling snow. The exquisiteness of the description here reminds the readers of another master craftsman. In The Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, there is a little song sung by the clown: 'When that I was a tiny little boy, With hay- ho, the wind and the rain.' Everyone knows the wind and the rain, but who is this Mr. Hay-Ho? Critics have long debated who this Hay Ho is. It is very simple. Every little child knows Hay Ho; it is the combined effect of sound caused by wind on the rain personified. When wind blows against a green paddy field and the long lines of grass bow their heads in row after row, Hay Ho is present there. When we walk along a tar road while the rain comes down in torrents and the wind sweeps heavily against the rain, then again we can see Hay Ho on the road, coming towards us and going away from us. Hay Ho is indeed something to a tiny little boy and also for the poets. One is always the other. An exactly similar beauty with words is created here by Frost, in describing in vivid and suggestive words the swish-swishing of the wind and the rain in the snow-filled forest.

One single line written across the face of Time: How far to go before rest?

Miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go.....
The timely sound of his horse-bells roused the master to reality and reminded him of his immediate duties. Thus rightly inspired, the poet continues on his journey, singing those famous lines which made this song immortal.

'The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.'

An admirer of Robert Frost from across the oceans.

The woods are lovely, but I have promises to keep.
The sleep referred to here is the final sleep. These are lines written across Time, to inspire the world through ages. It is not certain whoever were inspired, excited and intoxicated with these lines. But it is known, the famous author of books such as Glimpses Of World History and The Discovery Of India and the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote them down on his walls to be seen always.


Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Appreciation, English Songs, Literature And Language, P S Remesh Chandran, Poetry, Poets, Reviews, Robert Frost, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Meet the author
Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

007. Song To The Men Of England. P B Shelley. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran

Song To The Men Of England. P B Shelley. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran

Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom  Books, Trivandrum

By PSRemeshChandra, 18th Mar 2011.
Short URL
Posted in Wikinut Poetry, Drama & Criticism

A revolutionary is a person who causes constant changes around him wherever he is. In this sense, Shelley was a revolutionary poet. Song To The Men Of England opened up world's eyes to the torture, brutality and exploitation workers were subjected to in England during the time of her colonial prosperity and raised the question: Why can't we revolt?

Kill not a bird or beast or man, they are all our brethren.

A portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote each poem to celebrate and enjoy each particular tune as we can see in his Song To The Men Of England, Ode To The West Wind, To A Skylark, The Cloud and Adonais. He is considered one of the greatest poets in the English Language. And his influence on world literature is paramount. When we refer to him as a revolutionary, it does not mean he advocated merciless killing. In fact, he considered even animals as our fellow creatures, not to be slain for human food. It was after reading his works that the famous English author and dramatist George Bernard Shaw became a strict vegetarian.

Workers and exploiters are like bees and drones in the bee community.

A 1939 weaving loom with flying shuttles.

Here in this poem, Shelley is asking the Nineteenth century peasants and workers of England why they are not revolting against the landlords and production owners who are exploiting them to the last drop of their blood. In the Bee community, female bees do all the work and the male drones live by exploiting them. Shelley calls the workers Bees and the exploiters Drones which is apt.

Purpose of weapons fails when they are used against man.

A 200 single yarn beaming machine of 1907.

Shelley's questions in the poem to the workers of England skillfully bring out their pitiful living conditions in the England of his times. He is asking them for what reason they plough the fields for the lords who are responsible for their poverty. For what reason with toil and care they weave the rich robes their tyrants are wearing, while their own children shiver in the dark without coal or cotton. From their birth till their death the workers feed, clothe and save those ungrateful drones, who in their turn would either drain their sweat or drink their blood.

Weapons become spoiled when they are stained with their makers' blood.

The celestial forge of Venus and Vulcan. 1641 oil.

The Bees of England forge many weapons, chains and scourges which go straight to the hands of the tyrants to be used against them in it's time. Weapons were invented to assist man in his works but when used against man, their purpose fails and they become spoiled. Critics have differed in their interpretations of this word 'spoiled.' A weapon to become spoiled means, to become stained with it's maker's blood. Knives were invented for cutting away tree branches from the ancient man's path, chains were invented for lifting huge weights from the ground, and whips for taming wild animals. But when they happen to be used for throat-cutting, binding men together and for beating him, their purpose fails and they become spoiled.

Sacrificing a life, making riches and robes and arms for tyrants.

'Forge arms, in your defense to bear'

The workers pay so high a price by living in constant pain, fear and poverty but even then, in spite of all their sufferings, at least their physical and spiritual needs are not got fulfilled. If not for fulfilling their basic animalistic needs, why should they labour from morning till night and from night till morning? Leisure, comfort and calmness are the spiritual needs of man. Food, shelter and the medicinal treatment of love are the physical needs of man. It is strange to note that Shelley, unlike many of the other poets of his times, has included love as a physical need of man, like food. The workers sow seed, but the harvest is taken away by the lords. They bring wealth out of earth through their work, but the riches are amassed and kept by the others. They weave robes for the others, but their own children have nothing to wear. The arms they forge also add to the armories of the oppressors. Thus Shelley convinces the workers of England and elsewhere that they are exploited to the extreme and that rising through revolutions is their right.

A poet's burning eloquence forcing the doors of England open.

Sow seed and reap, but let not the idle heap.

We will normally expect that the poet, spreading such radical ideas will finally find his way to the London Tower, the English equivalent of the French Bastille. But it was the era of the Industrial Revolution, closely following the English version of the Italian Renaissance. No workers' revolution occurred in England then or later as Shelley hoped and Marx predicted. Communism, the supreme theory of revolution was indeed born in England's soil, but Carl Marx fuming and storming his head in the British Museum for Thirty two years came to no use. Prosperity extinguishes revolutionary traits whereas poverty inflames them. But England in later years became the haven and world headquarters of revolutionaries in exile, due to the open door policy there. Shelley's burning eloquence in this song cannot be denied it's due share of influence in bringing about this change.

The silent song of weaving their winding-sheets to their graves.

Weaving their winding sheet to their graves.

Shelley showed to the exploited workers that they have a right to rise in revolts. He encourages them to sow seed but let no tyrant reap; find wealth but let no impostor heap them. But his clarion-calls fell into deaf ears. Seeing the inertness of the English workers, towards the end of the poem, Shelley condemns them. By not revolting, they will have to finally shrink to their cells, cellars and holes that are supposed to be their residences, as the vast halls they constructed are all possessed by the privileged. Imagine a great massive elephant melting itself down and disappearing into the tiny pit of a sand-elephant; that is how the proletariat shrinks. The great beast does not know its capabilities. It is a pity to see them still wearing and shaking the chains they themselves wrought. 'The steel ye tempered glance on ye', he says. Glance here has a dual meaning. He used the word in it's both senses: slip off from the hand causing a mortal wound, and have a quick look. The steel the workers themselves tempered ridiculingly laughs at them! If their destiny goes on unhampered in this manner, with plough and spade and hoe and loom, the tools of their trade, they will continue to build their tomb and weave their winding-sheet till their beautiful England becomes their vast sepulchre.

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


Appreciations, English Songs, Literature And Language, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Poetry, P S Remesh Chandran, Reviews, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, Song To The Men Of England

Meet the author

Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.

18th Mar 2011 (#)
Shelley was very bold and daring to have published these lines during the peak of England's colonial powers. And he certainly might have been very sympathetic and delinquent in his attitude to the workers in his native land. He indeed was a very brilliant poet who set fire to the conscience of his century. This poem is a masterpiece of poetical eloquence. Commitment and involvement in flames.

31st Mar 2011 (#)
I'm inspired by P.B.Shelley also.
Thank you for such a wonderful treat as this on Shelley.

25th Jun 2011 (#)
Thank you for this insightful article.

006. Leisure. W H Davies Poem. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran

Leisure. W H Davies. Appreciation by P S Remesh Chandran

Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum

By PSRemeshChandra, 16th Mar 2011
Short URL
Posted in Wikinut Poetry, Drama & Criticism

Man is always eager to observe and enjoy the beauties of nature. Only that he does not get enough spare time to elate and thrill his mind by soaking up the magnificent spectacles Mother Nature has created around him. It was in the midst of and from these beauties that man was created. Therefore his wish to be with them is only natural. When he leaves them behind, he pines in his soul as if leaving his homeland.

Primitive man who sat in his mountain cave watching the sunset was the first writer of poetry.

Reading in leisure, the greatest of all pastimes.
Archaeology and excavation of ancient sites of human living has taught us that there has been no time in human history that was deprived of leisure and time for rest. Whenever man got freed of inevitable and immediate works, he always found a bit of time to indulge in leisurely activities. Primitive man who after a delicious meal sat in leisure in the mouth of his mountain cave and observed the distant sunset was the first writer of poetry. From the snow-buried Neanderthal Valley in Germany and the ice-cold caves of Cro-Magnon in France, we have obtained evidence of the outcome of a hunting societies’ leisure, magnificent rock wall paintings.

The idea of calm and leisure exists in a sitting cat.

Statue of Davies on the seafront of Port Williams.

Man is not alone in enjoying the beauties of nature and leisure. Cats, horses, cows, squirrels, birds all catharsizes their souls through leisure. Cats are the first to enjoy music, sunshine, rest and leisure. In beautiful evenings they have seen washing and cleaning themselves meticulously taking hours, walking to regular elevated acoustically apt places and sitting listening to their favourite church and temple songs coming through loudspeakers, basking themselves in bright warm sunlight. Cows and sheep constantly and steadily look at things far away for any length of time, but if we go and stand behind them and look for what is there so interesting for them to stare at, we will see nothing special and particular. They are enjoying their leisure.

Work stretches itself according to the time available to finish it.

Cats are the first to enjoy leisure and sunshine.
One curious thing about work is that it stretches itself according to the time available to finish it. So practically man gets no time for leisure. Leisure is something that disappears from this world. It is what brought civilization and culture into this world and what will keep the world from falling apart in future. Without its soothing balm, civilizations, societies and nations are lost. Without its cementing bondage, empires of intricate economics crumble and fall. And without its promising prospect, man's all achievements on land and sea and space would go to smithereens.

Admiring eyes of a tramp and rural shepherd in America.

There is enough to see but man has not time.

W.H.Davies was a British poet who lived during 1871-1940. In his earlier years he led the life of a tramp and rural shepherd in America, the stamps of which can be seen in his poems. In his famous poem Leisure, he regrets the loss of leisure from man's life. He was very keen in his observations of Nature, in which he stands in a line with Robert Frost and Alexander Pope.

Squirrels forget their hidden caches, man recovers them for supper.

Basking in the Sun in leisure, after eating apple.

Man is now left with no time to observe and enjoy the beauties of nature. He has now no time left to stand beneath the flowery branches of trees and stare at the things he likes as long as the cows and sheep does. The cattleman profession of the poet is reflected here. Passing through the woods, he sees the squirrels running everywhere and hiding their nuts in the grass. Sometimes they may forget to recover this cache, the thought of which makes the poet laugh heartily, for he himself had very often sought these forgotten stores in his hunger. But now he has no time to enjoy the briskness and beauty of their movements.

Watching star studded skies at night: The great pastime of primitive man.

Guardian of the gateway in leisurely vigil. A heron.
The clean streams and brooks reflecting the broad daylight appear like the bluish star-studded skies at night, which indeed is a majestic sight to see through the woods. But alas! The rush of life urges the modern man to move forward, leaving the beautiful sight unenjoyed behind him.

Innocent radiance of a smile would enchant anyone with its charm.

Leisure beneath the mountain canopies. A Chinese painting.

It is also good and soothing to see the dance of nature on the hills and valleys and meadows. It is Beauty dancing. A smile begins in her eyes and finishes in her lips which would take a little time for her to complete, and for man to observe. The innocent radiance of a smile would enchant anyone with its charm and embrace anyone in its warmth. But man has no time left to enjoy the smile of nature.

Dance of nature in the hills and forests completes with the cycle of seasons.

Absolute leisure on the lap of eternity.
Some critics have shrunk the meaning here to the presence of some mortal human beauty dancing in the wild, and undiligent readers also may fall into the same fallacy. But the logical reference here is to the presence of the perfect beauty, i.e., Mother Nature dancing in the hills and forests. The smile of nature is complete only with completion of the cycle of seasons, which means, to see the full smile of nature, one has to wait on the same spot through one full year. Man cannot wait that long and he have not that much time to spare. So, if this life is such full of care and anxiety that we are left with no time to stand and stare at the things we like as long as we wish to, then it is a very poor life indeed in this earth.


Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons


British Poets, English Songs, Language And Literature, Leisure, P S Remesh Chandran, Poems, Poetry, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, W H Davies

Meet the author

Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan : The Intelligent Picture Book.



31st Mar 2011 (#)
I didn't know much of W.H.Davies, but this one is about his most famous poem Leisure that I contemplate on when I see people distressed about their business being oblivious to the beautiful nature.

Monday, February 20, 2012

004. The Leech-Gatherer. William Wordsworth. Appreciation By P S Remesh Chandran


The Leech-Gatherer. William Wordsworth. Appreciation by P.S.Remesh Chandran
Editor, Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum

By PSRemeshChandra, 15th Mar 2011.
Short URL
Posted in Wikinut Poetry, Criticism

William Wordsworth's poetry has no style because Nature and Life has no style. The perfect plainness of his poems gained him popularity. He mostly wrote about Nature and Man and is considered the world's greatest Nature Poet. The world was very late in recognizing his merit. However, Glory found its way into his grave. The Leech-Gatherer is the universal symbol of Eternal Human Labour.
A poet's perennial interest in Man and Nature.

A portrait of William Wordsworth.
The poem The Leech-Gatherer has an alternative title, Resolution And Independence which is apt. When Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Mary Shelley, according to a story, decided to write one model horror creation each, Coleridge wrote ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ which became an instant horror classic. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein which still terrorizes the world. Wordsworth who was inept in such matters wrote The Stolen Boat which made no one horrified. The Leech-Gatherer was his supplement to this sequel which fulfilled its mission by creating a new sophistication in horror. It is one of the immortal creations of Wordsworth and can be spotted so among the hundreds of inferior poems he created during his poetic career. It has been a universal question, whether the world will provide for us in our old age. The Leech-Gatherer is the answer to this age-old question.
Appearance of exquisite nature pictures in poetry pages, after Edmund Spenser.

Dove Cottage in Grasmere. Once home to Wordsworth.
The poem opens with presentation of a series of beautiful nature pictures, second only to Edmund Spenser in his The Fairee Queene. After the heavy rain and storm of yester night, the Sun is rising calm and bright as if nothing had happened the day before. The atmosphere is such still and silent that sweet sounds of birds singing in the distant woods can be heard as distinctly as if they are very near. The voices of Stock-Dove, Magpie and Jay mixed with the pleasant noise of waters flowing everywhere fills the atmosphere. All the Sun-loving creatures are out of doors, i.e., out of their caves and dens, and the simple grass is shining bright with the rain drops adorning them. Unable to hide her mirth, the hare is running races in the morning air on the moor, just like frivolous and playful kitten. Wherever she touches her feet, tiny water particles splashes up rising like mist from the splashy earth, glittering in the Sun, forming beautiful rainbow-glows about her tiny feet. The poet can feel the very pulse-beat of Nature since he is personally present there.
As light and happy as a lark.

Grasmere Village with Dove Cottage.
 'He was then a morning traveller upon that moor. He was as happy as a boy that he sometimes heard and sometimes heard not the roaring sounds of the great woods and waterfalls around him.' Now he has quite forgotten how sad he was moments earlier and would be, moments after. He has reached the peak of happiness if there is one, forgetting all his pangs and past memories and that sad, useless melancholic mood common and so natural to man.
Premonitions of a lonely traveller on the moor.

Waterfall and Stone Hut where the poet wrote poems.
When we are happy, we begin to think that our happiness won't end. And when we are sad, we begin to feel anxious about whether our sadness won't end some day. Happiness and sadness are but waves in the sea of thoughtfulness which recede to the same still broadness. It is only natural for man to fall from the height of happiness to the depth of dejection. This happens to the poet also in that fine morning.
Clouds coming thick into the serene mind of a poet.

'He was a traveller then upon the moor'

Fears and fancies come thick into his mind, like clouds coming ominously into a serene sky. In the midst and presence of such blissful creatures as the warbling sky lark and the playful hare, he feels himself to be walking away far from the world and all earthly cares. His whole life he has lived in pleasant thoughts as if life's business were a summer dream. His poetry-writing career had not brought him enough to buy even his shoe-strings. Many mighty poets have returned to earth in their misery, suffering fleshly ills such as cold, pain and heavy labour. Would he too die the same way? Would solitude, distress, pain of heart, and poverty be awaiting him too, to accompany him to his grave? Is it not so that the tragic career of all poets, as a rule, begins in gladness and ends in sadness and gloom? The marvelous village Milton that was Chatterton, who had walked in glory and in joy along his native mountain side following his plough, had perished in poverty, but with pride. But why are these ominous thoughts occurring to him at these untoward moments? The goose-bumps springing up all through his body struck in that lonely and desolate moor told him that Nature is soon going to present him with some sign of divine warning to admonish him about the preciousness and rarity of Time. Then he saw it- the warning, placed there on the wild for all the world to see.
The warning written on the lonely moor, beside the pool.

Sudden appearance of the ghost of a man was here.
A very old man, perhaps the oldest man that ever wore grey hairs, appeared suddenly beside a pool in that wild, the oldest person the poet ever saw in this world. He never fitted in with those lonely wild surroundings. Such an extremely old man in such strangest of circumstances was odd and out of place. Nature does startle man with her bizarre and striking spectacles. 'Sometimes huge stones can be seen lying couched on tree-less bald mountain tops, causing wonder to all who look at them.' One will begin to think whether or not they are gifted with an unnatural ability to walk up the mountain eminence and lie couching there, precariously balanced. Another equally tantalizing spectacle is from the sea shore, that of 'some huge sea-beast crawled forth and reposing on some shelf of rock or sand to sun itself.' Such bizarre and out of place seemed the appearance and look of that old man in such strange surroundings. Some wild experience of disease or pain had caused his body to bend unnaturally double, making his feet and head come close together, in life's pilgrimage. One will wonder how he can make himself still stand erect in that nature-tortured frame. He propped his body upon a long grey staff of shaven wood. 'Upon the margin of that pool, he stood there as motionless as a firm cloud that moveth not in the wind, and if it moves at all, moves all together.' Not anywhere else in world literature has the uncanny appearance of old age ever been pictured more movingly.
Will the world look after us when we are old?

Gardens landscaped by the poet in Rydal Mount.
The old man was stirring the pond with his staff and studying the muddy water. Wordsworth very much wished to ask the old man what his occupation was there. He asked and the old man answered in an uncommon, lofty, decorated language. He was simply catching leeches from the pool. Enduring many hardships on the way, he had come to the pool to gather leeches for food and for sale. He has resolved to be independent and self-reliant in his old age. He roamed from pool to pool and from moor to moor gaining his legitimate living. He 'gained an honest maintenance and got housing by chance or choice each day through God's help.'
Was it real, or a vision of admonition from eternity?

The old man's words burnt deep into the lazy poet's heart. He wondered whether he hadn't seen this person somewhere in his dreams. Yes, this is the eternal Time Man, The Kaala Purusha, walking through ages, 'sent from some far off region to strengthen the poet by apt admonition.' The lonely place, the old man's shape and speech- all troubled him and for a while, he lost his senses. However, when he regained his consciousness, he was a completely changed new man, like the wedding- guest in ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’. The poet resolved to think about the leech-gatherer on the lonely moor, in future whenever his mind lost its strength. Thus the alternate title for the poem, ‘Resolution And Independence’ is very appropriate. The element of horror in the poem owes it's thanks to the poet's friend Coleridge. The plainness of the poem is derived from Burns. The genuine contribution of Wordsworth in the poem is the unique moral treatment of the Man and Nature theme.


There is a jungle beauty spot with a broad, step waterfall in Meenmutty in Nanniyode Village in the Trivandrum District of Kerala. Mighty mountains surround it. I was a regular visitor to this place where I would wash my apparels, bathe in the torrent and lie on the rocks. On the distant mountain folds can be seen often an old man coming down, appearing and disappearing according to the nip and fall in the terrain. Finally he would reach the river bank and take a dip beside me in the torrent. Unlike the other natives, we were the two who preferred bathing above the waterfall to rather than descending to the safety of the lower tranquil part of the river. We both liked taking the risk of being swept away down by a flash flood that may originate from the proximity to the mountains. Then he would take his bait and catch one or two fishes for his dinner. Then he would rise and taking the fishes, the firewood, grass bundles for his goats, two killed birds and a hare, all gathered from the mountains, walk down through the rocks towards his home. Whenever he appeared on the river bank in the evenings, a water crow, the blackest and the ugliest I ever saw, also appeared and sat beside him on a rock amid the stream, hoping for a fish from his catch which it invariably got. I knew this old man was severe and strict to his children, wife and others, but his ragged and weather-beaten frame and his uncouth behavior was an attraction to me, a fascination. He in my eyes was a genuine unpolished creation of nature, independent and resolute in his old age.

One day news came that he was bitten by a deadly snake in the mountains and was lying in critical stage in a hospital. Many times it was rumoured that he has gone, and that it was good to his family. The water crow sat there on the rock amid the torrent each day. It was the first time I prayed Lord Shiva to perform a miracle and do not withdraw this creation from the village too soon. Anyway the Lord has an adornment of a magnificent snake around his neck. After days of lying unconscious the man was brought back to life, to the disappointment of many. In the distant mountain folds the head can still be seen rising up and down as he comes down to the river carrying his catch. The water crow still sits there on the rock in the stream and gets its snacks.

Pictures Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Book Appreciations, English Literature, English Songs, Poetry, P S Remesh Chandran, Resolution And Independence, Reviews, Sahyadri Books And Bloom Books Trivandrum, The Leech-Gatherer, William Wordsworth

Meet the author

Editor of Sahyadri Books & Bloom Books, Trivandrum. Author of several books in English and in Malayalam. And also author of Swan: The Intelligent Picture Book.