'Hart -Leap Well' by William Wordsworth

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The Knight had ridden down from Wensley Moor
With the slow motion of a summer's cloud,
And now, as he approached a vassal's door,
"Bring forth another horse!" he cried aloud.

"Another horse!"--That shout the vassal heard
And saddled his best Steed, a comely grey;
Sir Walter mounted him; he was the third
Which he had mounted on that glorious day.

Joy sparkled in the prancing courser's eyes;
The horse and horseman are a happy pair;
But, though Sir Walter like a falcon flies,
There is a doleful silence in the air.

A rout this morning left Sir Walter's Hall,
That as they galloped made the echoes roar;
But horse and man are vanished, one and all;
Such race, I think, was never seen before.

Sir Walter, restless as a veering wind,
Calls to the few tired dogs that yet remain:
Blanch, Swift, and Music, noblest of their kind,
Follow, and up the weary mountain strain.

The Knight hallooed, he cheered and chid them on
With suppliant gestures and upbraidings stern;
But breath and eyesight fail; and, one by one,
The dogs are stretched among the mountain fern.

Where is the throng, the tumult of the race?
The bugles that so joyfully were blown?
--This chase it looks not like an earthly chase;
Sir Walter and the Hart are left alone.

The poor Hart toils along the mountainside;
I will not stop to tell how far he fled,
Nor will I mention by what death he died;
But now the Knight beholds him lying dead.

Dismounting, then, he leaned against a thorn;
He had no follower, dog, nor man, nor boy:
He neither cracked his whip, nor blew his horn,
But gazed upon the spoil with silent joy.

Close to the thorn on which Sir Walter leaned,
Stood his dumb partner in this glorious feat;
Weak as a lamb the hour that it is yeaned;
And white with foam as if with cleaving sleet.

Upon his side the Hart was lying stretched:
His nostril touched a spring beneath a hill,
And with the last deep groan his breath had fetched
The waters of the spring were trembling still.

And now, too happy for repose or rest,
(Never had living man such joyful lot!)
Sir Walter walked all round, north, south, and west,
And gazed and gazed upon that darling spot.

And climbing up the hill--(it was at least
Four roods of sheer ascent) Sir Walter found
Three several hoof-marks which the hunted Beast
Had left imprinted on the grassy ground.

Sir Walter wiped his face, and cried, "Till now
Such sight was never seen by human eyes:
Three leaps have borne him from this lofty brow,
Down to the very fountain where he lies.

"I'll build a pleasure-house upon this spot,
And a small arbour, made for rural joy;
'Twill be the traveller's shed, the pilgrim's cot,
A place of love for damsels that are coy.

"A cunning artist will I have to frame
A basin for that fountain in the dell!
And they who do make mention of the same,
From this day forth, shall call it HART-LEAP WELL.

"And, gallant Stag! to make thy praises known,
Another monument shall here be raised;
Three several pillars, each a rough-hewn stone,
And planted where thy hoofs the turf have grazed.

"And, in the summer-time when days are long,
I will come hither with my Paramour;
And with the dancers and the minstrel's song
We will make merry in that pleasant bower.

"Till the foundations of the mountains fail
My mansion with its arbour shall endure;--
The joy of them who till the fields of Swale,
And them who dwell among the woods of Ure!"

Then home he went, and left the Hart, stone-dead,
With breathless nostrils stretched above the spring.
--Soon did the Knight perform what he had said;
And far and wide the fame thereof did ring.

Ere thrice the Moon into her port had steered,
A cup of stone received the living well;
Three pillars of rude stone Sir Walter reared,
And built a house of pleasure in the dell.

And near the fountain, flowers of stature tall
With trailing plants and trees were intertwined,--
Which soon composed a little sylvan hall,
A leafy shelter from the sun and wind.

And thither, when the summer days were long,
Sir Walter led his wondering Paramour;
And with the dancers and the minstrel's song
Made merriment within that pleasant bower.

The Knight, Sir Walter, died in course of time,
And his bones lie in his paternal vale.--
But there is matter for a second rhyme,
And I to this would add another tale.


THE moving accident is not my trade;
To freeze the blood I have no ready arts:
'Tis my delight, alone in summer shade,
To pipe a simple song for thinking hearts. 0

As I from Hawes to Richmond did repair,
It chanced that I saw standing in a dell
Three aspens at three corners of a square;
And one, not four yards distant, near a well.

What this imported I could ill divine:
And, pulling now the rein my horse to stop,
I saw three pillars standing in a line,--
The last stone-pillar on a dark hill-top.

The trees were grey, with neither arms nor head;
Half wasted the square mound of tawny green;
So that you just might say, as then I said,
"Here in old time the hand of man hath been."

I looked upon the hill both far and near,
More doleful place did never eye survey;
It seemed as if the spring-time came not here,
And Nature here were willing to decay.

I stood in various thoughts and fancies lost,
When one, who was in shepherd's garb attired,
Came up the hollow:--him did I accost,
And what this place might be I then inquired.

The Shepherd stopped, and that same story told
Which in my former rhyme I have rehearsed.
"A jolly place," said he, "in times of old!
But something ails it now: the spot is curst.

"You see these lifeless stumps of aspen wood--
Some say that they are beeches, others elms--
These were the bower; and here a mansion stood,
The finest palace of a hundred realms!

"The arbour does its own condition tell;
You see the stones, the fountain, and the stream;
But as to the great Lodge! you might as well
Hunt half a day for a forgotten dream.

"There's neither dog nor heifer, horse nor sheep,
Will wet his lips within that cup of stone;
And oftentimes, when all are fast asleep,
This water doth send forth a dolorous groan.

"Some say that here a murder has been done,
And blood cries out for blood: but, for my part,
I've guessed, when I've been sitting in the sun,
That it was all for that unhappy Hart.

"What thoughts must through the creature's brain have past!
Even from the topmost stone, upon the steep,
Are but three bounds--and look, Sir, at this last--
O Master! it has been a cruel leap.

"For thirteen hours he ran a desperate race;
And in my simple mind we cannot tell
What cause the Hart might have to love this place,
And come and make his deathbed near the well.

"Here on the grass perhaps asleep he sank,
Lulled by the fountain in the summer-tide;
This water was perhaps the first he drank
When he had wandered from his mother's side.

"In April here beneath the flowering thorn
He heard the birds their morning carols sing;
And he, perhaps, for aught we know, was born
Not half a furlong from that self-same spring.

"Now, here is neither grass nor pleasant shade;
The sun on drearier hollow never shone;
So will it be, as I have often said,
Till trees, and stones, and fountain, all are gone."

"Grey-headed Shepherd, thou hast spoken well;
Small difference lies between thy creed and mine:
This Beast not unobserved by Nature fell;
His death was mourned by sympathy divine.

"The Being, that is in the clouds and air,
That is in the green leaves among the groves,
Maintains a deep and reverential care
For the unoffending creatures whom he loves.

"The pleasure-house is dust:--behind, before,
This is no common waste, no common gloom;
But Nature, in due course of time, once more
Shall here put on her beauty and her bloom.

"She leaves these objects to a slow decay,
That what we are, and have been, may be known;
But at the coming of the milder day,
These monuments shall all be overgrown.

"One lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she shows, and what conceals;
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels."

Editor 1 Interpretation

Hart-Leap Well: A Masterpiece of Romantic Poetry

William Wordsworth is one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, and his poem "Hart-Leap Well" is a masterpiece of English literature. This 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation will explore the themes, structure, language, and imagery of "Hart-Leap Well" and its significance in the context of Wordsworth's poetic vision.

Overview of "Hart-Leap Well"

"Hart-Leap Well" is a narrative poem that tells the story of a hart (a male deer) that leaps over a well to escape hunters and dies from exhaustion. The poem begins with the description of the landscape where the hart lived and the well that became the site of his final leap. Wordsworth then describes the hunt and the chase that led to the hart's death, and the reaction of the local people to the event. The poem ends with the hart's spirit appearing to a shepherd and the poet himself, as a symbol of the enduring power of nature and the human imagination.

The Themes of "Hart-Leap Well"

The central theme of "Hart-Leap Well" is the relationship between humans and nature, and the conflict between civilization and wilderness. The hart is both a symbol of the wild, untamed beauty of nature, and a victim of human violence and cruelty. The hunters who pursue the hart represent the forces of civilization that seek to dominate and exploit nature, and the local people who mourn the hart's death are both complicit in and estranged from the violence that defines their world.

Another theme of "Hart-Leap Well" is the power of memory and imagination to transcend time and space. The hart's spirit appears to the shepherd and the poet, suggesting that the animal's life and death have a significance beyond their immediate context. The poem itself is a testimony to the power of language to preserve and transmit the experience of the natural world, and to connect the present with the past and the future.

The Structure of "Hart-Leap Well"

"Hart-Leap Well" is a ballad, a traditional form of narrative poetry that uses a simple, repetitive structure and rhyme scheme to tell a story. The poem consists of 31 stanzas, each with four lines of iambic tetrameter (four feet of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables), and an ABAB rhyme scheme (the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and fourth).

The repetition of the rhyme scheme and the meter creates a sense of rhythm and momentum that propels the narrative forward, while the simplicity of the language and the imagery gives the poem a timeless, archetypal quality. The use of dialogue and direct speech also adds to the dramatic effect of the poem, as the hunter and the shepherd speak to each other and to the hart, emphasizing the human-animal relationship at the heart of the story.

The Language of "Hart-Leap Well"

Wordsworth's language in "Hart-Leap Well" is both poetic and plain, combining vivid descriptions of nature with simple, direct expressions of emotion and thought. The opening stanza, for example, paints a picture of the "lovely veil" of "green fields" and "hedgerows" that surround the well, while also conveying a sense of mystery and awe:

The forest huge, and vast, and wide,   
Which doth the wilde deer close,   
Wherein they safe may bide,   
When pressed by huntsman's foes.   

The use of archaic words and syntax ("doth," "wilde," "may bide") adds to the sense of timelessness and the connection to the ballad tradition, while the alliteration and repetition of "huge, and vast, and wide" creates a sense of grandeur and scale.

The language of the hunt scenes is more visceral and violent, as Wordsworth portrays the hunters and their hounds as ruthless and relentless:

With horn and hound we paced along,   
And moss and heath repassed;   
And soon espied the thornysprong   
Fast by the mossy ford.   

The use of onomatopoeia ("horn," "hound," "moss," "heath," "thorny") and sensory imagery (the sight, sound, and feel of the landscape) creates a vivid impression of the hunt, while the repetition of "and" and the parallel structure of the lines add to the sense of motion and urgency.

The Imagery of "Hart-Leap Well"

Wordsworth's use of imagery in "Hart-Leap Well" is both naturalistic and symbolic, as he portrays the landscape and the animals in a way that suggests their deeper significance and meaning. The well itself, for example, is not just a physical feature of the landscape, but a symbol of the boundary between life and death:

The ancient cataracts are gone,   
No more the level waste lies wide;   
But down the hillside hastening on,   
The brooklet sparkles in the sun,   
And up the cove the spreading wood   
Immerses with its sable flood;   
And here, in lonesome contemplation,   
The traveller oft will stop and see   
The hare dart across the clear stream,   
And down the windy vale the whirling pheasant flee.   

The use of personification ("the brooklet sparkles," "the spreading wood immerses," "the hare dart across the clear stream") and sensory imagery (the sight, sound, and feel of the landscape) creates a sense of intimacy and connection with nature, while the use of archaic words ("cataracts," "waste," "covet") adds to the sense of timelessness and grandeur.

The hart itself is also a powerful symbol in "Hart-Leap Well," representing both the beauty and vulnerability of nature, and the endurance of life beyond death:

And, as he passed the birchen spray,   
Dipping his broad, soft horns in play,   
And as he soothed his wayward way   
Through holt, and hew, and high,   
The hart, as well as I, may sing,   
Blithe as the bird in spring.   

The use of metaphor ("dipping his broad, soft horns in play") and simile ("blithe as the bird in spring") creates a sense of empathy and identification between the poet and the hart, while also emphasizing the animal's individuality and uniqueness.

The Significance of "Hart-Leap Well"

"Hart-Leap Well" is a significant poem in the context of Wordsworth's poetic vision, as it exemplifies his belief in the power of nature and the imagination to transcend the limitations of human experience. The poem can be read as a critique of human civilization and its destructive impact on the natural world, as well as a celebration of the enduring beauty and majesty of nature itself.

The hart's leap over the well can also be seen as a symbol of transcendence and transformation, as the animal transcends its physical limitations and achieves a kind of spiritual freedom in death. This theme of transcendence is central to Wordsworth's poetry, as he seeks to explore the relationship between the human mind and the natural world, and to discover a kind of unity and harmony between the two.

In "Hart-Leap Well," Wordsworth also demonstrates his mastery of the ballad form, using its simple, repetitive structure and rhyme scheme to create a powerful sense of narrative momentum and emotional impact. The poem's blend of naturalistic and symbolic imagery, along with its use of dialogue and direct speech, adds to the sense of drama and immediacy, while also emphasizing the human dimension of the story.


In conclusion, "Hart-Leap Well" is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry that explores the themes of nature, memory, and imagination with power and eloquence. The poem's use of language, imagery, and structure creates a sense of timelessness and grandeur, while also conveying a deep sense of empathy and connection between the poet and the natural world. Through its portrayal of the hart's leap and death, "Hart-Leap Well" reminds us of the enduring power of nature and the human spirit, and challenges us to renew our commitment to the preservation and celebration of the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has been around for centuries, and it has been used to express various emotions and ideas. One of the most celebrated poets of all time is William Wordsworth, who is known for his romantic poetry. One of his most famous poems is "The Hart-Leap Well," which is a beautiful and powerful piece of literature that captures the essence of nature and the human experience.

The poem is set in the Lake District, which is a beautiful and scenic area in England. The poem begins with a description of the Hart-Leap Well, which is a natural spring that is surrounded by rocks and trees. The well is named after a deer that once leaped over it, and the poem tells the story of this event.

The poem is written in the first person, which gives it a personal and intimate feel. The narrator is a traveler who has come across the Hart-Leap Well, and he is struck by its beauty and the story behind it. He describes the well in great detail, using vivid imagery to bring it to life. He talks about the rocks that surround the well, the trees that grow nearby, and the clear water that flows from it.

As the poem progresses, the narrator begins to tell the story of the deer that leaped over the well. He describes the deer as being majestic and powerful, and he talks about how it was able to leap over the well with ease. The narrator is in awe of the deer, and he sees it as a symbol of the power and beauty of nature.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as the narrator describes how the deer was hunted and killed by a group of hunters. He talks about how the deer was chased and cornered, and how it was eventually killed. The narrator is saddened by the death of the deer, and he sees it as a tragic event that represents the destruction of nature.

The poem ends with the narrator reflecting on the story of the deer and the Hart-Leap Well. He talks about how the well is a reminder of the beauty and power of nature, but also of its fragility. He sees the well as a symbol of the cycle of life and death, and he reflects on the importance of preserving nature for future generations.

Overall, "The Hart-Leap Well" is a beautiful and powerful poem that captures the essence of nature and the human experience. It is a reminder of the beauty and power of nature, but also of its fragility and the need to preserve it for future generations. William Wordsworth was a master of romantic poetry, and this poem is a testament to his skill and talent as a poet.

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