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Monday, May 04, 2020

Stolen Boat by William Wordsworth - Critical Appreciation

William Wordsworth has been considered as one of the renowned poets of the Romantic age. He excelled in his poems dealing with nature. The poem "Stolen Boat" is an extract taken from William Wordsworth's famous autobiographical poem "The Prelude", Book I (1805) which was published in 1850

Wordsworth was influenced by nature, and so he observed human life with nature's eye. The poem "Stolen Boat" tells how Nature moulded Wordsworth personality through some kind and severe influences of her. Compton-Rickett observe, "Wordsworth is not merely a poet of Nature, he is a prophet of Nature. He intellectualises Nature." 

Stolen Boat - Critical Appreciation
Stolen Boat - Critical Appreciation

The Stolen Boat - Critical Appreciation

The poem "Stolen Boat" begins with a pictorial description of countryside where a ten year old boy finds a little boat near a lake on one summer evening. The boat is tied to a willow tree. The boy unties it and steps into it and starts rowing the boat along the lake. 

He derives immense pleasure while rowing the boat. At the same time, he gets anxious because he feels that he has done a dishonest deed by stealing a boat. His conscience brings in him guilty feeling. Here, the poet has beautifully described the mental state of a small boy. 

In the next passage of the poem, the poet transports us to a dream world where the boy is all alone in a beautiful, calm and lovely lake which is surrounded by huge mountains. The beautiful and haunting atmosphere of the moonlit night arouses both fancy and fear in the boy. Wordsworth has employed beautiful, simple and realistic images. For example - 

"Small circles glittering idly in the moon
 Until they melted all into one track 
 Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows, 
 Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point 
 With an unswerving line, I fixed my view 
 Upon the summit of a craggy ridge, 
 The horizon's utmost boundary; for above 
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky."

From the above mentioned lines, it is clear that Wordsworth not only loved nature but he was a keen observer of nature also. He had an exceptional capacity for describing nature. The passage dealing with his experience with the stolen boat is rich in nature picture. 

The boy is alone in the lake, as he rows the boat, the mountains around the lake produce echoes  of rowing a boat. The echoes arouse fear in the boy's mind. As the boy continues rowing the boat form the land, he is transported to a world of fancy. For example -

"She was an elfin pinnace; lustily 
 I dipped my oars into the silent lake 
 And, as I rose upon the stroke , my boat 
 Went heaving through the water like a swan."

In this way, the boy compares his boat with a swan heaving on the body of water. The word 'pinnace' and 'elfin' add beauty in it. Wordsworth has deliberately employed archaic words.  

In the next passage, the poet has beautifully personified nature. He has described nature as living creature, who keeps her eye on every aspect of life whether it is good or bad. In this part of the poem, the fear of some extreme force haunts the boy and it broods on his mind. The boy sees a 'craggy ridge' which appears to him as the meeting place of the sky and the mountain top. 

The boy wishes to go there. As he goes nearer the craggy ridge, suddenly from behind the craggy ridge a new huge and black peak raises its head purposefully like a living creature. The boy feels that it wants to teach him a lesson and reminds him that he has done a misdeed by stealing a boat. 

He also feels that the peak has been chasing him. The feeling of fear has almost of supernatural quality. Wordsworth has artistically described the element of fear in the boy's mind. For example - 

"With trembling oars I turned, 
And through the silent water stole my way."

In the concluding part of the poem, William Wordsworth has described the influence of the huge peak on the boy. As a ten year old boy, after reaching the shore, runs homeward through the meadows in serious and grave mood as if he has been scolded by his teacher and guide - Nature. 

He feels the seriousness of what he has experienced and to which he cannot give a concrete shape because the sight of the peak awed him.

Wordsworth addresses the Universal idol of wisdom and spirit. He says that this Universal Soul is the cause for the eternal motion and force behind all forms and images of this world. Wordsworth adds that this same soul right from the poet's childhood, this Universal Soul which is manifested through Nature, helped the poet in purifying his feelings and thoughts. 

The same Universal Soul purified the poet by a stern discipline during the moments of pain and fear. This is how the poet recognised man's grandeur through the workings of the Nature, which is the manifestation of the Universal Soul. Wordsworth is thankful to Nature that she has imposed her discipline upon him, and aroused fear and reverence in him.



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