Sunday, February 28, 2010


Mariners seem to be a common theme in the poetry we’ve been reading, and I found it interesting that this theme is connected to homelessness—or a sense of displacement and loneliness—in the poem “The Brothers.” At the beginning of the poem, the reader learns that Leonard did not enjoy his time as a mariner, but longed for his home and former profession as a shepherd—“…and he is his heart / Was half a Shepherd on the stormy seas” (ll. 42-43). He feels out of place on the sea, and longs to return to the familiar and comfortable “verdant hills” (l. 60). Later, it is revealed that Leonard and his brother, James, were orphaned first by their parents and then by their grandfather. When Leonard leaves to try his fortune as a mariner, James is passed from house to house—“…we took him to us. / He was the child of all the dale—he liv’d / Three months with one, and six months with another…” (ll. 338-340). James is traded from house to house almost like a doll. I find it ironic that the brothers are in similar situations, even if they are in two very different circumstances: Leonard is literally tossed around on the waves—an unstable, ever-changing environment—while James is also tossed around even though he is on firm, unchanging ground. Leonard does notice, however, that something is different about the landscape of his hometown, and the priest admits that one of two brother fountains was struck by lightning and has since died. This touch of the supernatural to mimic James’ death and Leonard’s continued life is interesting, but I digress… At the end of the poem, Leonard realizes that “This vale, where he had been so happy, seem’d / A place in which he could not bear to live” (ll. 421-422). Because of his brother’s death, he is once again homeless and returns to the sea as a mariner—forced to wander forever in that changing, rootless territory. This reminded me loosely of the Ancient Mariner’s need to wander and tell others about his story. There is something about the sea and a lack of firm identity or stability—both the Ancient Mariner and Leonard are nomads and unhappy ones at that.


  1. I also noticed the shift in focus to the lower class. This poem focuses on mariners and priests who are not in the high class. Like we discussed in class on Tuesday, Wordsworth illuminates our knowledge of the middle and lower class. He also focuses on the emotional suffering in both brothers and how that affects their lives. The way he uses the images of nature to highlight the emotional instability helps the reader to understand why the brothers feel this way. The writing style is simple and lends itself to the lower class.

  2. I think what you said about the sea lacking identity and stability is extremely important, and applies not only to the ocean but these mariners who wander it. Perhaps it is because of their anonymity and lack of roots or "people" that give them their low class status. This particularity of their nature also lends to their mystique. Wordsworth, seemingly, is aware of this part of a mariner's identity (or lack thereof) because his revisions appear to shift focus from class status to human nature.