Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  528. The Solitary Reaper

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

William Wordsworth. 1770–1850

528. 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,         5
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  10
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  15
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:  20
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  25
  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,  30
The music in my heart I bore, 
Long after it was heard no more.