'Goody Blake and Harry Gill' by William Wordsworth

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Oh! what's the matter? what's the matter?
What is't that ails young Harry Gill?
That evermore his teeth they chatter,
Chatter, chatter, chatter still!
Of waistcoats Harry has no lack,
Good duffle grey, and flannel fine;
He has a blanket on his back,
And coats enough to smother nine.

In March, December, and in July,
'Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
The neighbours tell, and tell you truly,
His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
At night, at morning, and at noon,
'Tis all the same with Harry Gill;
Beneath the sun, beneath the moon,
His teeth they chatter, chatter still!

Young Harry was a lusty drover,
And who so stout of limb as he?
His cheeks were red as ruddy clover;
His voice was like the voice of three.
Old Goody Blake was old and poor;
Ill fed she was, and thinly clad;
And any man who passed her door
Might see how poor a hut she had.

All day she spun in her poor dwelling:
And then her three hours' work at night,
Alas! 'twas hardly worth the telling,
It would not pay for candle-light.
Remote from sheltered village-green,
On a hill's northern side she dwelt,
Where from sea-blasts the hawthorns lean,
And hoary dews are slow to melt.

By the same fire to boil their pottage,
Two poor old Dames, as I have known,
Will often live in one small cottage;
But she, poor Woman! housed alone.
'Twas well enough when summer came,
The long, warm, lightsome summer-day,
Then at her door the 'canty' Dame
Would sit, as any linnet, gay.

But when the ice our streams did fetter,
Oh then how her old bones would shake!
You would have said, if you had met her,
'Twas a hard time for Goody Blake.
Her evenings then were dull and dead:
Sad case it was, as you may think,
For very cold to go to bed;
And then for cold not sleep a wink.

O joy for her! whene'er in winter
The winds at night had made a rout;
And scattered many a lusty splinter
And many a rotten bough about.
Yet never had she, well or sick,
As every man who knew her says,
A pile beforehand, turf or stick,
Enough to warm her for three days.

Now, when the frost was past enduring,
And made her poor old bones to ache,
Could any thing be more alluring
Than an old hedge to Goody Blake?
And, now and then, it must be said,
When her old bones were cold and chill,
She left her fire, or left her bed,
To seek the hedge of Harry Gill.

Now Harry he had long suspected
This trespass of old Goody Blake;
And vowed that she should be detected--
That he on her would vengeance take.
And oft from his warm fire he'd go,
And to the fields his road would take;
And there, at night, in frost and snow,
He watched to seize old Goody Blake.

And once, behind a rick of barley,
Thus looking out did Harry stand:
The moon was full and shining clearly,
And crisp with frost the stubble land.
--He hears a noise--he's all awake--
Again?--on tip-toe down the hill
He softly creeps--'tis Goody Blake;
She's at the hedge of Harry Gill!

Right glad was he when he beheld her:
Stick after stick did Goody pull:
He stood behind a bush of elder,
Till she had filled her apron full.
When with her load she turned about,
The by-way back again to take;
He started forward, with a shout,
And sprang upon poor Goody Blake.

And fiercely by the arm he took her,
And by the arm he held her fast,
And fiercely by the arm he shook her,
And cried, "I've caught you then at last!"--
Then Goody, who had nothing said,
Her bundle from her lap let fall;
And, kneeling on the sticks, she prayed
To God that is the judge of all.

She prayed, her withered hand uprearing,
While Harry held her by the arm--
"God! who art never out of hearing,
O may he never more be warm!" 0
The cold, cold moon above her head,
Thus on her knees did Goody pray;
Young Harry heard what she had said:
And icy cold he turned away.

He went complaining all the morrow
That he was cold and very chill:
His face was gloom, his heart was sorrow,
Alas! that day for Harry Gill!
That day he wore a riding-coat,
But not a whit the warmer he:
Another was on Thursday brought,
And ere the Sabbath he had three.

'Twas all in vain, a useless matter,
And blankets were about him pinned;
Yet still his jaws and teeth they clatter;
Like a loose casement in the wind.
And Harry's flesh it fell away;
And all who see him say, 'tis plain,
That, live as long as live he may,
He never will be warm again.

No word to any man he utters,
A-bed or up, to young or old;
But ever to himself he mutters,
"Poor Harry Gill is very cold."
A-bed or up, by night or day;
His teeth they chatter, chatter still.
Now think, ye farmers all, I pray,
Of Goody Blake and Harry Gill!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Goody Blake and Harry Gill: A Masterpiece of Wordsworth


Literary critics have long regarded William Wordsworth as one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era. His works are known to be deeply intimate and reflective, often drawing from his personal experiences and observations of nature. One of his most famous poems, "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," tells a haunting story of betrayal, guilt, and retribution. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes, literary devices, and historical context of this masterpiece.


"Goody Blake and Harry Gill" was first published in 1798 as part of Lyrical Ballads, a joint collection of poetry by Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The collection was a milestone in English literature, as it marked the beginning of the Romantic movement. This poem was later revised in 1800 and 1802, with the final version being the one most commonly read today.


The poem tells the story of Harry Gill, a wealthy and arrogant man, who mistreats Goody Blake, an old and poor woman, by accusing her of stealing firewood from his land. Despite her protests of innocence, Harry has her arrested and put on trial. Goody Blake is found guilty and sentenced to face the harsh winter weather without any shelter. As a result, she falls ill and dies, cursing Harry with her last breath.

After Goody Blake's death, Harry begins to suffer from guilt and paranoia. He hears her ghostly voice everywhere and feels her presence haunting him. He tries to make amends by giving money to the poor and needy, but he cannot escape the curse that Goody Blake has put upon him. In the end, he dies a miserable and lonely death, tormented by his conscience and the ghost of his victim.


The poem explores several themes that are typical of Wordsworth's poetry. The most prominent theme is the idea of justice and punishment. The poem shows how the unjust treatment of the poor and vulnerable can lead to tragic consequences. Harry Gill's arrogance and lack of compassion towards Goody Blake ultimately lead to his downfall.

Another theme that is explored in the poem is the supernatural. The ghostly presence of Goody Blake haunts Harry Gill, reminding him of his crime and punishing him for it. The poem suggests that there is a higher power at work that ensures justice is served, even if it comes in the form of a supernatural curse.

The poem also touches upon the theme of nature. The harsh winter weather that Goody Blake is forced to endure is a symbol of the cruel and unforgiving nature of the world. Despite Harry Gill's wealth and power, he is still subject to the same natural forces as everyone else.

Literary Devices

Wordsworth's use of language and poetic devices in "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" is masterful. One of the most striking aspects of the poem is the use of repetition. The phrase "There's blood upon thy hand, Harry" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the guilt and shame that Harry Gill feels.

Another literary device that is used effectively in the poem is imagery. The description of Goody Blake's suffering in the cold and snow is vivid and powerful. The image of her "pale, thin face" and "frozen tears" creates a strong emotional response in the reader, making us feel sympathy for her plight.

The poem also makes use of personification. The winter weather is portrayed as a malevolent force that is actively working against Goody Blake. The lines "The cold winds swept her living grave / She groaned, and fell, and died" give the impression that the weather is a living entity that is actively causing harm.

Historical Context

"Goody Blake and Harry Gill" was written during a time of great social upheaval in England. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, and the country was experiencing rapid economic and social change. Wordsworth was a keen observer of these changes, and his poetry often reflects the tensions and contradictions of this period.

The poem is a powerful critique of the class system that was prevalent in England at the time. Harry Gill represents the wealthy and powerful upper class, while Goody Blake represents the poor and marginalized lower class. The poem shows how the upper class often mistreated and oppressed the lower class, leading to a cycle of poverty and suffering.


In conclusion, "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" is a masterpiece of Wordsworth's poetry. It tells a haunting story of justice, punishment, and the supernatural, while also exploring important themes of class and nature. The poem's use of repetition, imagery, and personification make it a powerful and emotional work of literature. Its relevance to the social and historical context of its time only adds to its significance and lasting impact.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is an art form that has been around for centuries, and William Wordsworth is one of the most celebrated poets of all time. His poem, "Goody Blake and Harry Gill," is a classic example of his work and is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry.

The poem tells the story of Goody Blake, an old woman who lives in a cottage in the woods. She is a poor woman who lives alone and survives by doing odd jobs for the villagers. One winter, she is visited by Harry Gill, a wealthy man who lives in a nearby town. Harry is a cruel man who takes pleasure in tormenting Goody Blake. He steals her firewood and leaves her to freeze in the cold winter night.

The poem is a commentary on the social and economic divide between the rich and the poor. Wordsworth uses Goody Blake and Harry Gill to illustrate the injustice and cruelty that the poor face at the hands of the rich. Goody Blake is a symbol of the poor, while Harry Gill represents the wealthy.

The poem is written in a simple and straightforward style, which makes it easy to understand. Wordsworth uses vivid imagery to paint a picture of the harsh winter landscape and the suffering of Goody Blake. He describes the cold wind that blows through the woods and the snow that covers the ground. He also describes the warmth of Goody Blake's cottage and the fire that she keeps burning to stay alive.

The poem is divided into two parts. The first part tells the story of Goody Blake and Harry Gill, while the second part is a moral lesson. In the second part, Wordsworth warns the wealthy against mistreating the poor. He reminds them that they too will face the same fate as Goody Blake if they continue to oppress the poor.

The poem is a powerful commentary on the social and economic divide that exists in society. It highlights the injustice and cruelty that the poor face at the hands of the rich. Wordsworth's use of vivid imagery and simple language makes the poem accessible to everyone. It is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today.

In conclusion, "Goody Blake and Harry Gill" is a classic poem that is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry. It is a powerful commentary on the social and economic divide that exists in society and highlights the injustice and cruelty that the poor face at the hands of the rich. Wordsworth's use of vivid imagery and simple language makes the poem accessible to everyone. It is a timeless classic that continues to resonate with readers today.

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