Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: Philosophical Poems The Stolen Boat By William Wordsworth

Friday, February 26, 2016

Philosophical Poems The Stolen Boat By William Wordsworth

When The Majestic Becomes The Monstrous


The stolen melons are the sweetest, stolen apples taste the best. The poet has reminiscences of adolescent age when he stole a boat for a ride. The poet in the very first line says that he was ‘led by her’ to the place where the boat was moored. The nature (or her) steered him to steal the boat. The pleasure is not absolute, but a ‘troubled pleasure’ that pricks his conscience even after he has retrieved the boat at its former place. So the aftermath of the ‘stolen’ thing is a haunted conscience that troubles the thief for a long time. It may trouble lifelong depending upon the severity of crime, mental condition when the ‘crime’ was committed and the sensitivity of the person to react to a situation.

During the adolescent age mind is experimenting and experiencing many new things. It has more attraction towards things forbidden by society. Stealing is not necessarily for permanent possession or consumption of a thing. The boat was stolen for a ride and was to be moored in the same place once the adventure of the journey was over. The innocence in stealing makes the poem attractive. The magnitude of the crime is trifle and readers are full of sympathy for pious thief.

The poem is a confirmation of the age old saying ’guilty conscience pricks the mind’. The guilt may supersede the magnitude of the offense. The monster is within us. The daring is not in confrontation, but in hurried escapism to save the psyche from some irreversible damage. The poet decides to turn back with ‘trembling oars’. Things appear beautiful from a distance, when we go closure the ugly side is revealed. Sometime the revelation is so all of a sudden that a person is taken aback with a shock of the unexpected. The unreconciled psyche sends a danger signal and ‘defense mechanism’ insist on avoiding the cause of trouble.

All craggy hills have hidden monsters. If the boat was not a stolen one, the boy could have enjoyed the lofty and majestic hills, the shades of colour bathed in moonlight, the silence and solitude. The journey in a stolen boat started with a beautiful scenery of ‘small circles glittering idly’, ‘elfin pinnace’, ‘silent lake’, ‘like a swan’ are some beautiful perceptions of untroubled mind. The mind is mesmerised, and has obliterated the moral coaching done by society. The ‘natural’ seems to have won over the ‘artificial’. Society is appalled by pleasure of an individual and it always strikes with a greater force. The majestic becomes monstrous due to change in perception. The means become more important than the end. Poet surrenders his inner 'Self ' which is molded by outer forces. He is compelled to retreat. Even the retreat is not graceful as the ‘way back’ to ‘covert of the willow tree’ also appears ‘stolen way’. The poet is now ‘in grave and serious mood’. The ‘familiar shapes’ become scary and pleasant images of trees, sea, sky, green fields and majestic mountains are vanished. Now a ‘grim shape’ that keeps on ‘growing stature’ stands between him and stars symbolic of ‘material self’ and ‘pure self’. Every experience teaches a lesson. The poet gets a peep into ‘unknown modes of being’ a ‘darkness’, ‘solitude’ or ‘blank desertion’. Those parts of his existence were hidden somewhere in depth, hitherto.

Travelling at sea was never a smooth sailing for mankind. Even the veterans had many kinds of illusion and hallucination in the calm of the sea during a voyage. The adolescent mind of the poet is quite imaginative. An ‘optical illusion’ is easily transformed into ‘fear of unknown’ which is an integral part of the human psyche. Society exploits this fear to frame the structure and framework of institutions.

© Vipin Behari Goyal

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  1. That was a great analysis. Yes, teenage is an interesting time where we experiment. However, the pleasure and guilt combination stays with us for a life time. Innocence lost in myriad hues


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