THERE is a bondage worse, far worse, to bear
Than his who breathes, by roof, and floor, and wall,
Pent in, a Tyrant’s solitary Thrall:
‘Tis his who walks about in the open air,
One of a Nation who, henceforth, must wear
Their fetters in their souls. For who could be,
Who, even the best, in such condition, free
From self-reproach, reproach that he must share
With Human-nature? Never be it ours
To see the sun how brightly it will shine,
And know that noble feelings, manly powers,
Instead of gathering strength, must droop and pine;
And earth with all her pleasant fruits and flowers
Fade, and participate in man’s decline.
When I first read this poem, there was a whole lot about it that I didn’t quite understand. Take the first three lines, for example. Literally speaking, I’m being told that there is a form of constraint worse than being trapped in a room under the power of a tyrant. Physically, that’s a pretty constraining position to be in, I’m not sure if much can top that. Okay, so maybe this poem isn’t being discussed on a physical level. Let’s look into it more emotionally. Having your thoughts and feelings repressed by others is better than repressing your thoughts and feelings yourself. Ooh, interesting.
What I find cool here is how Wordsworth discusses the idea of how being forced to withhold your voice still allows you to have your voice, but when a person is brought to the point of suppressing their own voice within themselves, they completely lose it in the depths of themselves. (Fetters in their souls…). I was thinking of a way to relate this to a text that we had covered in class, and then it hit me: Pride and Prejudice! My critical! A whole lot of good things coming together!
See, in Pride and Prejudice, there are so many characters who are brought to the point of suppressing their own voice in favor of what might be better for them in the future. Take Elizabeth’s sisters, for example. I’m certain that they have more personality in them than they are willing to show around men. This forced resignation of their true voice comes back to exactly what Wordsworth has been talking about this whole time – how it is so much better to still have a voice, but not show it, rather than locking it away yourself, and losing it forever.
Moving on a little bit later in the poem, where it is said “Never be it ours/To see the sun how brightly it will shine”, Wordsworth talks about how it it is not in the nature of humans to appreciate things much, to only look at something as its face value, and not look any deeper. (Probably also a reason that there are people who dislike English!) This too can be seen in Pride and Prejudice, where many relationships and marriages are not built on the appreciation of one another, but people in that book are just a sum of everything they can do. It’s as though people look at each other as a checklist. Wealthy? Check. Single? Check. Comes from a good family? Check. That’s three checks in a row! Time to marry! It’s rather funny how people did this, completely underestimate everything that makes a person a person, only look at them for what they have, not who they are.
And carrying on from that last idea in the poem, it says “And earth with all her pleasant fruits and flowers/Fade, and participate in man’s decline.” I found this line fascinating, as fruits and flowers are both things that are beautiful, though they take time to develop on a plant. Before that it is just a green stem. Wordsworth is saying here that all the things underneath the surface of a person are what makes a person truly worth knowing, and to ignore that (As is done in Pride and Prejudice) is to allow those beautiful things to fade, and with them goes the things and motivations that people live for. That is why we love how the love between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth shatters the normal monotony of that atmosphere, they are not allowing the fruits and flowers to fade, rather embracing them and letting them develop, as and good relationship should do.