“Lines Left Upon A Seat In a Yew-tree”

In “Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree,” Wordsworth embodies the idea of Romanticism by describing a reclusive man who loved nature and rejected the ideas of The Enlightenment. The yew tree itself symbolizes the poem’s subject who “turned away, /and with the food of pride sustained his soul in solitude” (Lines 19-20). Just as the “lonely yew-tree stands/ far from all human dwelling,” so does the man who rejected the city and its inhabitants (Lines 1-2). Wordsworth makes sure to include that the man retreats to a place that is “barren” (Line 4). Leaving the city to survive on a barren shore embodies the Romantic ideals that contrast those of the Enlightenment. Not only does the man flee to a place that is barren and therefore of little economic use, he flees into the country to be one with a place in nature he feels is beautiful. Living on the shore defies reason, but serves emotion as the man’s heart “could not sustain/ the beauty still more beauteous” (Lines 33-34). The man also lived an “Unfruitful life” (29). As The Enlightenment champions logic, invention, economy, and mastery of nature, the man who lives alone in an undeveloped shore rejects all ideals of being a productive member of a society, particularly is a city. The yew tree stands alone, not producing anything, yet it provides beauty. Likewise, the hermit made the choice to leave based off of his love for the shore and his hatred for economy and reason, living his life on his emotion and love, becoming one with nature.

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One thought on ““Lines Left Upon A Seat In a Yew-tree”

  1. A good enumeration of ways in which “Yew-tree” exemplified Romantic ideals. I like your emphasis on its barrenness being paradoxically the source of its value — an inversion of the Enlightenment emphasis on prosperity. In a paragraph like this, you could take the discussion just one step further to articulate the conclusion that the image of the solitary, “useless” yew-tree is used to contrast the Enlightenment doctrine of “usefulness.”

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