THE LEECH GATHERER – DOROTHY AND WILLIAM WORDSWORTH
28th, March, 2013
William Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth were authors, who wrote mostly about nature. However, these two employed different approaches in their writing. Dorothy Wordsworth in her writings is fascinated by the physical or material reality of the different things in nature, which she addresses in her writings. On the other hand, William Wordsworth finds fascination in the deeper meaning of the nature’s elements, which he addresses in his poems. Unlike Dorothy who focuses on the external beauty of things in nature, William is more drawn to the internal aspect of things in nature, their general meaning, and spirituality. This essay therefore, compares the works of William Wordsworth and Dorothy Wordsworth titled “The Leech Gatherer.” This will include an analysis and comparison, which will bring out the different perceptions of the two authors about nature, and the different ways they give meaning to the nature elements in their poetic works.
“The Leech Gatherer” by William Wordsworth is a poem, also called “Resolution and Independence.” This poem has 140 lines, which are divided into twenty stanzas. The title of the poem mainly draws from the content in the poem. The author narrates his experience when he meets with a leech gatherer. Therefore, this poem is written in the first person form. The speaker in the poem is the author himself. In the poem, the author narrates about his walk in the moor one spring morning. He experiences a strange phenomenon when he meets an old man, who was a leech gatherer, wandering in the moor, in search of leeches. At this point, the element of nature is already manifesting in the poem. This is through the use of seasons such as spring morning, and the use of landscape such as the moor, as well as the presence of leeches, which are part of nature. Many other elements of nature occur in this poem, even though they have been used to portray different meanings (Wordsworth 1802).
In this poem, the leech gatherer had spent most of his past many days looking for leeches up and down in the moor. Although leeches are scarse in this season, the leech gatherer does not give up searching for them, as his life depends on them (Wordsworth 1802). In this scenario, William Wordsworth presents a deeper meaning of what the leeches are, and what the old man’s struggle represents. Therefore, although the leeches are part of nature, William Wordsworth looks beyond their physical presentation and thinks of them in a deeper view, thus, giving them a different meaning, which is more deep and spiritual. The scene of a person hunting is quite fascinating, and is a representation of nature. Therefore, in William Wordsworth’s poem, the old man searching for leeches is an act that considerably reflects on nature. This is mainly through the interdependence between human beings and other elements in nature. Therefore, this scene creates a natural relationship. However, William Wordsworth does not just look at this as plainly as it appears. William Wordsworth compares this relationship between the leech gatherer and his leech searching to a determined and perseverant poet. Although the season was not favorable for leeches, the leech gatherer did not give up hope but went ahead to search for leeches, hoping that he would gather some. Therefore, this has a deeper meaning of a poet, who is faced with adversity and solitude, but he is strong-hearted enough to endure the adversities before him.
At the beginning of the poem, William Wordsworth the author employs a variety of expressions symbolizing nature. As a wanderer, he experiences happy emotions and is in high spirits while travelling the moor. He delights in the beautiful nature surrounding him. However, he thinks to himself that happiness and despair are closely linked. When he encounters the old man, the leech gatherer and interacts with him, he learns that the old man’s work of gathering leeches has many things in common with poetry writing. Therefore, like a leech gatherer, the speaker in the poem, who is William Wordsworth, compares the art of poetry writing to the practice of leech gathering. While the leech gatherer searches for leeches in the moor, the poet searches his or her mind for poems. The moor is the natural environment where the leech gatherer finds the leeches, thus is home to leeches. On the other hand, the mind of a poet is where the poet searches through for poems. For the poet, the mind is therefore, the home to ideas. The leeches are not always available for the leech gatherer to collect, even though he shows up to search for them. This is the same way a poet might lack inspiration, which sometimes is hard to find. Therefore, by comparing the leech gatherer with a poet, the speaker in the poem is of the opinion that, a poet, no matter how discouraged he or she is, or how much inspiration they lose, they must learn from the leech gatherer. The leech gatherer goes ahead to search for leeches, even when the season is not favorable for leeches, and they are scarse because of dryness. The same, a poet should go ahead, even when they lack inspiration; they ought to look for it and continue with their art of poetry.
On the other hand, Dorothy’s passages suggest that she may have been inspired as much by the events and appearances in the external world, unlike William, who was interested in the internal meaning of things. In her Grasmere journal, Dorothy presents a fascinating account of her life in the Lake District, in the beginning of the 19th Century. This comprises various accounts and descriptions of nature, among other fascinating elements. Dorothy Wordsworth gives a different perspective of the leech gatherer. Like William Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth too met the leech gatherer, but in a different way from William’s. Unlike William Wordsworth, Dorothy only dwells on the external attributes of the things in nature, and does not tie a meaning to them. She appreciates the beauty of nature, plain as it is, and does not describe it in a deeper context, to result in a different meaning, like in the case of William Wordsworth. Therefore, her encounter with the leech gatherer is seen in a different approach.
In her account of the Leech Gatherer, Dorothy is with William Wordsworth, when they meet the leech gatherer, on their way from seeing off Jones. However, the incidence of meeting the leech gatherer in Dorothy’s account undergoes a sharp change in the approach she has used, which is quite different from William’s approach. Dorothy in her account has explicitly described the physical or material state of the leech gatherer. She has not used an approach that would veer beyond the material existence of the old leech gatherer. For instance, she has introduced the leech gatherer as, “an old man, almost double.” “He had been hurt in driving a cart, his leg broke, his body driven over, his skull fractured” (Wordsworth 1801). In this case, Dorothy has utilized a detailed description of the physical body of the leech gatherer in order to present a poetic image to the audience. In addition, she uses phrases such as the old man’s “feeble chest.” All these have been used to emphasize the age of the old man, which is a physical state.
Dorothy has also used the stylistic device of metaphors in her account, to point to the similarities between two aspects. For instance, “a more than human weight upon his frame had cast” (Heringham 2011, p.70). This metaphorical expression has been used to refer to the heavy weight of the material world from which the leech gatherer has wrested his deeply problematic “independence” (Heringham 2011, p.34). This is among some of the metaphoric expressions that Dorothy has used in order to show the material or physical status of the leech gatherer. In addition, the leech gatherer is “old and poor” and he has a “hazardous and wearisome” employment (Heringham 2011, p.71). Dorothy also claims that the leech gatherer was a beggar, since the price of leaches increased. This also is a description aimed at showing the physical or material status of the leech gatherer in the form of the level of his economic prowess. Overall, Dorothy Wordsworth has utilized imagery as a literary style to represent the physical aspects of the elements she uses in her writing.
A major difference between the two authors in writing this piece of work is their style of writing. William Wordsworth has utilized poetry form, since his work is a poem. On the other hand, Dorothy has written her piece in prose form. Therefore, Dorothy’s writing is basic and meant to get the message across. However, William’s writing is more artistic, since the language in the poem is manipulated to have a music effect through use of rhythm and rhyme in the poem. The difference in this might be the fact that Dorothy wrote her works in her personal journal and travelogue. In addition to this, William Wordsworth’s poem is in the abstract form, while Dorothy’s is in the literary form. This is because, Dorothy has based on the physical or material aspects of nature, which she explains in the literary form. On the other hand, William Wordsworth focuses on the inner meaning of elements of nature, thus, presenting them in the abstract form. Therefore, although Dorothy and William Wordsworth both talk about the leech gatherer in their writings, they have employed varying approaches, and this is the differentiating factor between their writings.
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