Summary and Analysis of I Travelled Among Unknown Men by Wordsworth

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About William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born in the year 1770 in Cockermouth in England. He experienced tragedy early on his life in the form of death of his mother and this experience shaped his future works. Wordsworth published his first verse in the year 1793. He gained major fame with Lyrical Ballads, published in the year 1798, written together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. These two are now known to be the launchers of the Romantic Age. The most notable works of Wordsworth include Lyrical Ballads, The Excursion and The Prelude. He was Britain’s Poet Laureate, a poet who composes poems for special events and occasions, from the year 1843. He died in the year 1850 due to pleurisy.

About I Travelled Among Unknown Men

‘I Travelled Among Unknown Men’ is a love poem completed in 1801 but published in 1807. It is the third poem of the ‘Lucy series’. This poem has Lucy in its latter half. Though some say Lucy was an unrequited love of Wordsworth, others say she was largely hybrid and fictitious. This poem speaks of Wordsworth’s love for England and turns to Lucy only towards the end.

Setting of I Travelled Among Unknown Men

Wordsworth was away from England when he wrote the poem. But the setting in the poem is wholly in England, though it speaks of seas in the beginning on the poem, on which the speaker travelled from England.

Poetic Devices in I Travelled Among Unknown Men

Stanza:

The poem is made of 4 stanzas of 4 lines each.

Rhyme:

The poem has a regular rhyme scheme of ABAB. The last words of first and third lines, and of second and fourth lines rhyme with each other.

Repetition:

There is some repetition in the last line of the second stanza in the form of ‘more and more’. The name is repeated in the last stanza.

Alliteration:

There is some alliteration in the third line of the second stanza; ‘A second time; for still I seem’.

Foreshadowing:

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!’ is a foreshadowing of Lucy’s death told of in the last stanza.

Imagery:

There is some imagery in the last stanza. We can see Lucy sitting under a cool shade of a tree, looking out at the wide green fields and playing.

Summary of I Travelled Among Unknown Men

The speaker of the poem, William Wordsworth himself, says he travelled among unknown men in foreign lands. Only when he did so, he realised the extent of his love for his homeland, England. He says that he will never leave her shore for a second time. Among the mountains, the speaker felt the joy of his desire. This is a reference to Lucy. She was an Englishwoman. The speaker ends the poem by speaking of Lucy’s death. The woman he loved was of England and for that, he loved England more.

Analysis of I Travelled Among Unknown Men

The speaker of the poem is William Wordsworth himself. It is said that this poem was conceived when he was visiting Germany. While there, he realised the extent of his love for England. This poem was to be published with his works of 1801, but instead got published in 1807. It is a love poem.

The speaker begins the poem by saying that he travelled among unknown men in lands beyind the sea. He is referring to Germany though ‘lands beyond the sea’. He says he only realised his love for his homeland only when he was away. Absence makes heart fonder; this is what the speaker is feeling.

It is past, that melancholy dream! The speaker begins the next stanza with this sentence indicating his return to England. He compares his trip to foreign land to a melancholic dream. He says that he stills love England more and more. The use of ‘still’ in this stanza indicates of some event which could make him lose love for his homeland. But he does not lose it; contrary to that, he still feels it growing more and more. This event is spoken of in the next stanzas.

The speaker says that he felt the joy of his desire in England’s mountains. Now, we know from the rest of the poem that the person he speaks of is one ‘Lucy’. From this, we can say that Lucy lived amidst mountains happily. And it was there in those mountains, that the speaker felt her joy. The speaker then goes on to speak of all the English that was part of Lucy.

Lucy turned the wheel beside an English fire. The English sun showed the bowers where Lucy played and the English nights hid them. And it was the English fields that Lucy last saw.

The poem takes a turn from the speaker saying he missed his homeland to the speaker speaking of Lucy. The ‘still’ used in the second stanza now makes sense. England was where the speaker’s love, Lucy died and yet he found himself to love England more and more. Wouldn’t the place of death of someone dear be a place of sadness? Yet, the speaker’s feelings seem to go towards the opposite direction. And the way he speaks of Lucy too indicates some hidden meaning. He says she was his ‘desire’. He says he ‘cherished’ her. The words speak of an unapproachable and hence, an unrequited love. But they can also be taken as easily in the opposite way.  

For these paradoxes in this poem, and of such paradoxes in other poems too, the existence of ‘Lucy’ was questioned. It is now said that Lucy is fictitious.   

Central Idea of I Travelled Among Unknown Men

The central of the poem is to show the speaker’s homesickness. It is also to show why the place is so dear to him.

Tone of I Travelled Among Unknown Men

The tone of the poem at the beginning is full of homesickeness. This turns to sad and melancholic in the last two stanzas.

Conclusion

William Wordsworth writes a beautiful and melancholic love poem in which he talks of his love for his homeland, England and for his ‘love’, Lucy.

Contributor: Uttej Reddy

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