W William Wordsworth

To a Snowdrop by William Wordsworth

To a Snowdrop was published in 1819. The poem is written in a sonnet form, according to the Petrarchan style. It consists of an octave and a sestet with an ABBAABBA CDECDE rhyme scheme. To a Snowdrop is composed in iambic pentameter and it changes to emphasize the meaning and prosody of the lines. It describes an unexpected guest in the lyrical voice’s garden where the final lines provide the possibility of reflection and thought.

The main themes of To a Snowdrop are nature, and its beauty, and the impermanence of life. Nature is personified, as the snowdrop is called “an unbidden guest”, and the transitoriness of existence is expressed through the inevitable change of the seasons where the snowdrop continues unperturbed, despite its delicate nature. This last theme is accentuated by the last line: “And pensive monitor of fleeting years!”

To a Snowdrop by William Wordsworth


To a Snowdrop Analysis

LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they

But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,

Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,

Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

Shall soon behold this border thickly set

With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,

And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

The octave presents the snowdrop. The flower is presented as lonely from the beginning (“Lone Flower”). First, the snowdrop is presented in the winter (“hemmed in with snows and white as they”) and how it defies the cold weather (“But hardier far, once more I see thee bend”). In these lines, there is a snow imagery in order to portray the harshness of the climate, but, also, to express the distinguished quality of the flower. There is alliteration on the third line (“Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend”) to accentuate the characterization of the flower as an “unbidden guest”. Nature, particularly the snowdrop, is personified as a self-invited, embarrassed guest. The lyrical voice continues to depict how the flower struggles with the weather by using combat vocabulary such as “sallying” and “waylay”. The snowdrop’s movements are carefully described in order to emphasize the noble character of the flower that was mentioned in the beginning and the roughness of the winter climate. The lyrical voice, despite the harsh climatic conditions, welcomes the flower (“Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend”) and longs for spring: “Blue-eyed May/Shall soon behold this border thickly set”. The month of May is also personified, and it is seen as a way of overcoming the harshness of the winter climate.

The sestet depicts the spring scenery. The imagery and the tone of the poem change dramatically, as the roughness of the winter is left behind to think of the possibility of a better climate: “With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing/ On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers”. The alliteration on these lines emphasizes the festive feeling of the scene. The tone of the poem shifts again, as the lyrical voice acquires a reflective tone in which he/she promises to remember the majestic and distinguished qualities of the flower (“Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,/Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring”). In the last line, the snowdrop acquires a philosophical side, as it represents a flower that persists all the seasons and is a “pensive monitor of fleeting years”. This flower that goes through every season can be compared to life itself, which is full of changes and modifications.


About William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was born in 1770 and died in 1850. He was an English poet and one of the best-known figures of the Romantic period. Alongside Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth wrote Lyrical Ballads, and the publication of this collection launched the Romantic Age in English literature in 1798. However, Wordsworth’s most important work is said to be The Prelude, a semi-autobiographical poem that he wrote in his youth. This poem was revised several times, and William Wordsworth worked on it during his whole life. The Prelude was published posthumously.

As a central figure of the Romantic Movement, William Wordsworth focused his poetry on the personification of nature and its relationship with men. Moreover, his poems describe intense emotions; these are the main source of his aesthetic experience. Also, past and nature are meant to be glorified by the use of spontaneous language.

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Julieta has a BA and a MA in Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team back in May 2017. She has a great passion for poetry and literature and works as a teacher and researcher at Universidad de Buenos Aires.
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