Nutting: Poem by William Wordsworth - Summary

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—It seems a day
(I speak of one from many singled out)
One of those heavenly days that cannot die;
When, in the eagerness of boyish hope,
I left our cottage-threshold, sallying forth
With a huge wallet o’er my shoulder slung,
A nutting-crook in hand; and turned my steps
Tow’rd some far-distant wood, a Figure quaint,
Tricked out in proud disguise of cast-off weeds
Which for that service had been husbanded
By exhortation of my frugal Dame-
Motley accouterment, of power to smile
At thorns, and brakes, and brambles—and, in truth,
More ragged than need was! O’er pathless rocks,
Through beds of matted fern, and tangled thickets,
Forcing my way, I came to one dear nook
Unvisited, where not a broken bough
Drooped with its withered leaves, ungracious sign
Of devastation; but the hazels rose
Tall and erect, with tempting clusters hung,
A virgin scene!—A little while I stood,
Breathing with such suppression of the heart
As joy delights in; and, with wise restraint
Voluptuous, fearless of a rival, eyed
The banquet;—or beneath the trees I sate
Among the flowers, and with the flowers I played;
A temper known to those, who, after long
And weary expectation, have been blest
With sudden happiness beyond all hope.
Perhaps it was a bower beneath whose leaves
The violets of five seasons re-appear
And fade, unseen by any human eye;
Where fairy water-breaks do murmur on
For ever; and I saw the sparkling foam,
And—with my cheek on one of those green stones
That, fleeced with moss, under the shady trees,
Lay round me, scattered like a flock of sheep—
I heard the murmur and the murmuring sound,
In that sweet mood when pleasure loves to pay
Tribute to ease; and, of its joy secure,
The heart luxuriates with indifferent things,
Wasting its kindliness on stocks and stones.
And on the vacant air. Then up I rose,
And dragged to earth hoth branch and bough, with crash
And merciless ravage; and the shady nook
Of hazels and the green and mossy bower,
Deformed and sullied, patiently gave up
Their quiet being; and, unless it now
Confound my present feelings with the past;
Ere from the mutilated bower I turned
Exulting, rich beyond the wealth of kings,
I felt a sense of pain when I beheld
The silent trees, and saw the intruding sky
Then dearest Maiden, move along these shades
In gentleness of heart; with gentle hand.
Touch—for there is a spirit in the woods.


      In the poem Nutting, Wordsworth recalls one of the glorious, unforgettable days when, he went out to the woods to gather hazel nuts, like other school boys. He carried a crook with which to pull down branches of the trees and a large bag slung over his shoulders. He wore old cast-off clothes, which had been carefully preserved by the advice of the lady with whom he boarded for such expeditions. Thus dressed and equipped he looked a strange figure. When he reached the woods and one particular nook which had not been visited and damaged by anyone, he felt delighted at the sight of the hazel trees, tall and upright, hung with clusters of milk-white nuts. He did not begin to pluck them immediately but looked at the rich crop that would be his or sat beneath the trees among the flowers and played with them, as it often happens to persons who are confronted with unexpected happiness. A lovely stream trickled down there and violets scented the air. Having the objects of his joy within his reach he was pleased with things of comparatively little account. At length, he rose and dragged down and broke the branches mercilessly. He left the shady nook with its beauty soiled and destroyed. But as he went away with the rich load of nuts, he felt a sense of pain at the gaps he had made in the woods and realized that there was something spiritual.

      The poem Nutting is remarkable for the contrast between the purely animal joy he experienced at the perfection of the spot where nature had made the hazel nuts grow abundantly, which did not, however, prevent his merciless ravage of branch and bough, and the feeling that soon began in him of, there being a spirit in nature and which later on in his life hardened into a belief.

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