A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal, By William Wordsworth

1187 words - 5 pages

In the latter part of the romantic period, Wordsworth, as a part of his lyrical ballads, wrote “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal.” Although not initially intended, the poem eventually became part of a series labeled as the “Lucy Poems.” The five poems, in some way or another, address loss, separation, and their connection to nature. Recent analyses have yielded interesting results in interpreting the poem. Because of the ambiguity present within the lines, varying interpretations have emerged. As it turns out, “A slumber did my spirit seal” is not just a poem, as most people would have it, of a male speaker lamenting the loss of his love Lucy. WHAT IS MY THESIS!

The first, and most conventional interpretation of “A Slumber,” identify the pronoun ‘She’ in the third line as “Lucy,” who is the subject of the four other poems in the collection. The male speaker (the speaker of a poem must be separate from the poet, in this case Wordsworth) describes how this woman whoever she may be: mother, lover, sister, or friend; has died. The word “slumber” is a euphemism to suggest an easy passing on to the afterlife. The final two lines of the first quatrain point to the tranquility of her death, and the narrator’s consolation that she is beyond the grasp of human mortality.
In the second quatrain, the impact of her death is starting to dawn on the speaker. In the first line, by saying that she has “No motion…no force” (line 5) he is possibly reflecting on how she was in life: a woman in constant movement, one that took part in life, rather than sitting on the sidelines. Now, all of that energy has ceased to exist. The speaker, however, tries to look at the situation on the positive side. He is counting on his beliefs that there is a life after death that she is “rolled round in earth’s diurnal course” (line 7). That effectively, she is now a part of nature. The speaker tries to convince himself that she is happy wherever she has gone. Unfortunately, the sudden death of his love has a very profound effect upon his psyche, and in Davies’ interpretation, the speaker has his own trouble tripping “on the borders of life and death” (160).

Hugh Sykes Davies in his essay “Another New Poem by Wordsworth” (1965), suggested that there was a second way of interpreting “A Slumber.” He says that the absence of the name “Lucy” in the poem produces an “Awkwardness” (135) that is overlooked in the traditional interpretation. However, he takes an active approach saying that the poem does not belong to the group of “Lucy” poems. His argument is that the pronoun “she” in the third line, instead of referring to “Lucy”, is describing the only noun “fitted by meaning and number” (136), the word ‘spirit’ in the first line.
His continuing research is his attempt to find out the gender of the word ‘spirit’. He finds that Wordsworth is rather irregular when it comes to the gender of ‘spirit’. Davies is unable to offer any solid conclusions, but does say that Wordsworth does...

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