W William Wordsworth

It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear by William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth’s characteristic use of imagery and figurative language regarding the natural world is on full display in ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear.’ 

This piece is a beautiful nature poem, one of Wordsworth’s best. In ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear‘, he explores a specific area alongside a riverbank. When speaking about this area, he claimed that it was located in Easedale and that he composed “thousands of verses by the side of it.” Wordsworth expresses his belief that this place, and the music it makes, are everlasting. He knows that men and women will walk there after him and call it by the name he chose, Emma’s Dell. 

It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear by William Wordsworth


Summary of It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear’ by William Wordsworth focuses on Emma’s Dell, an area that Wordsworth called his “second home.”

The poet spends the lines of the poem exploring the various elements around an extraordinary river. It runs through the woods, surrounded by trees of all different varieties. Their leaves, colors, and shapes help make up the visual landscape of the poem. The poet uses personification, metaphors, and imagery to paint a clear picture of the river’s sound, the music it makes with the other elements of the woods, and his attachment to the area. 


Themes in It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

Wordsworth engages with the theme of nature in ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear.’ Readers are smoothly and peacefully introduced to the river, in Emma’s Dell, that the poet cares so deeply about. He speaks about the sound the water makes and how it combined with the other natural sounds, makes beautiful music that feels eternal. This natural setting is so important to the speaker that he declares it became his second home. He’d often go there to enjoy the sights and sounds. 


Structure and Form of It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear’ by William Wordsworth is a forty-seven line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines do not follow a specific rhyme scheme, but they follow a similar metrical pattern, iambic pentameter. While there are moments in which the pattern changes (iambs becoming trochees, etc.), most of the lines are written in blank verse. 


Literary Devices in It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

Wordsworth uses several literary devices in ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear.’ These include but are not limited to caesura, imagery, and enjambment. The latter is a common formal device that occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point—for example, the transition between lines three and four and lines twenty and twenty-one. Readers have to jump down to the next line to find out what happens next. 

Caesurae are pauses in the middle of the lines. For example, the first line of the poem in which Wordsworth uses a colon to separate the two halves or line twenty-five reads: “Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb.” Imagery is an undeniable element of this piece. Without it, Wordsworth’s lines would fall flat. Some of the best examples include: “ the voice  / Of waters which the winter had supplied  / Was softened down into a vernal tone.” 


Analysis of It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear

Lines 1-17 

It was an April morning: fresh and clear 

The Rivulet, delighting in its strength, 

Ran with a young man’s speed; and yet the voice 

Of waters which the winter had supplied 

Was softened down into a vernal tone. 

The spirit of enjoyment and desire, 

And hopes and wishes, from all living things 

Went circling, like a multitude of sounds. 

The budding groves seemed eager to urge on 

The steps of June; as if their various hues 

Were only hindrances that stood between 

Them and their object: but, meanwhile, prevailed 

Such an entire contentment in the air 

That every naked ash, and tardy tree 

Yet leafless, showed as if the countenance 

With which it looked on this delightful day 

Were native to the summer.–Up the brook 

In the first lines of ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear,’ the speaker begins with the line that later came to be used as the poem’s title. In these lines, the poet spends time describing the movements and emotions attached to a river. He describes the “Rivulet” that moved “with a young man’s speed.” This is a great starting example of a metaphor. It is not the only one to be found in these lines. Wordsworth was fond of using them to help readers imagine the nature of the scenes he sought to depict. Despite the speed at which the river ran, Wordsworth notes that it was quiet. The waters that should be raging loudly with snowmelt are instead speaking in a “vernal tone,” or one corresponding to spring. 

In the sounds of the water, Wordsworth, or at least the speaker he was channeling for this poem, can hear the sound of everything natural. He mentions the “hopes and wishes of all “living things” circling him in the water. The “multitude of sounds” are pleasing. 

When he expands his vision of the scene, he takes in the grove budding and interprets it as a sign that nature is seeking out “June,” looking for the summer in which all plant-life can flourish to its fullest potential. All while these semi-personified plants seek out summer, the speaker notes the “contentment in the air.” There’s a peace in the scene, seen through the leafless trees. 


Lines 18- 33

I roamed in the confusion of my heart, 

Alive to all things and forgetting all. 

At length I to a sudden turning came 

In this continuous glen, where down a rock 

The Stream, so ardent in its course before, 

Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all 

Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice 

Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb, 

The shepherd’s dog, the linnet and the thrush 

Vied with this waterfall, and made a song, 

Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth 

Or like some natural produce of the air, 

That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here; 

But ’twas the foliage of the rocks–the birch, 

The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn, 

With hanging islands of resplendent furze: 

The speaker brings in a personal narration in the next lines. He describes himself walking up the river bank with “confusion” in his heart. He could set his life to the side and enjoying being “Alive to all things and forgetting” everything else that might bother him when he returns home. 

Suddenly, the sound comes alive when Wordsworth turns a corner and hears the stream go “down a rock.” It let forth “sallies of glad sound.” This sound combined with everything else he’d heard on his walk, and throughout his life, so far. It “made a song.” It came clearly and purely from the air around him, naturally produced and beautifully sun. He knew that this song was eternal and could not “cease to be.” 


Lines 34-47 

And, on a summit, distant a short space, 

By any who should look beyond the dell, 

A single mountain-cottage might be seen. 

I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said, 

‘Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook, 

My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee.’ 

—-Soon did the spot become my other home, 

My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode. 

And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there, 

To whom I sometimes in our idle talk 

Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps, 

Years after we are gone and in our graves, 

When they have cause to speak of this wild place, 

May call it by the name of EMMA’S DELL. 

From the spot where he was standing, looking out at the river and listening to the music of nature, the speaker can see “A single mountain-cottage.” He notes that only someone looking for it is going to see it. He “gazed and gazed” at it and decided to dedicate the brook to “thee,” someone he refers to as “Emma.” He later reiterates this, deciding to name the place Emma’s Dell. Some scholars have suggested that “Emma” is a reference to Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy. This makes some sense as he often dedicated poems to her, and the two lived together for a long period in their lives. 

The spot was so important to the speaker that from then on out, it became his “other home,” his “out-of-doors abode.” The speaker knows that he’s not the only one who comes to this area and appreciates its beauty. He looks into the future and notes that one day when he and his listener are gone and in their graves, that others will speak of “this wild place…by the name of Emma’s Dell.” 


Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed ‘It Was an April Morning: Fresh and Clear’ should also consider reading some of Wordsworth’s other best-known poems. For example: 

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Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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