Transcendental War Anyone?

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She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!

--"She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" Wordsworth

Can I just say that first of all, I absolutely loved this poem (and not because it was short either). This isn't the first time I've read Wordsworth. "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" was the most familiar poem--I remember reading it in English way back in 11th grade, but like most poetry, I have a difficult time interpreting meaning.

This poem, however, made sense to me right away. Wordsworth speaks of a woman (Lucy), who, to the world, seemed insignificant. But, he counters that fact by explaining that every part of the universe is important, including Lucy, with the line, "Fair as a star, when only one/ Is shining in the sky." It makes it seem like Lucy is only noticed when she is alone, that she gets lost in the crowd, but that does not make her any more insignificant than everyone else. Wordsworth goes on to say that she is hardly noticed in life, and barely missed in death, but he also says "...oh, The difference to me!", meaning that he appreciated her, even when others did not.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this poem the most was because I have a similar outlook on life. It's like that saying "To the world you are one person, but to that one person, you are the world" or something like that. 


Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love

--"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death" Yeats

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? As soon as I read these two lines, I immediately thought back to Hardy's "The Man He Killed". The theme of the two poems seems pretty similar, don't you think? However, I enjoyed this poem more, because it wasn't nearly as cryptic as Hardy's. Translation: This poem was easier for me to understand. But, even though it was easier to follow, the message still runs deep that sometimes, even those fighting in wars begin to wonder what they're fighting for. But this poem also has a deeper message about dying that wasn't really evident in Hardy's poem.

The speaker says "I balanced all, brought all to mind,/ The years to come seemed waste of breath,/ A waste of breath the years behind/ In balance with this life, this death." As the title says, this poem not only "foresees" death, but also accepts it. The speaker learns to see the balance between life and death--that both are essential for the world to continue to move, and he acknowledges that his end will not bring much loss to his countrymen.


4 Comments

Aja Hannah said:

Wow! I didn't even make that connection to Hardy's poem. I like Hardy's better though because there is so much in it to decipher and discuss, but I do have to admit I probably skimmed Yeats's poem. I barely remember it.

The Lucy images also really stuck with me. I hope someone feels that way about me after I'm dead.

Jessie Krehlik said:

You really liked Hardy's better? I prefered Yeats' poem, more so, I think, because it looks at it from the opposite point of view. This soldier is actually afraid of dying. Hardy's speaker just talks about how he kills people he never has a real problem with, but Yeats' speaker really deals with his own mortality. I like that about the poem.

The reason I enjoy reading Wordsworth is because of his simplicity. He's not my favorite poet, but I like being able to just relax and understand what I'm reading without too much thought. You should look at the discussion I'm having with Josie about Wordsworth's poetry. She reminded me of our Intro to Poetry class and how Father Stephen told us that some critics claim Wordsworth is too simplistic. I agree with them, but explain why. Check it out!

Jessie Author Profile Page said:

Thanks Karyssa. I'll have to take a look. I like your point about Wordsworth being simple. I always loved "Wandered lonely as a cloud" for that reason. It wasn't hard to decipher, and it's got a great message.

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