ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

William Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy"

Updated on March 4, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

William Wordsworth

Source

Introduction and Excerpt from "The Idiot Boy"

William Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy" contains 453 lines. Each of the five-lined, rimed stanzas features a rime scheme of ABCCB, with the exception of the first stanza, with its six lines and rime scheme of ABCCDB, and the last stanza, consisting of seven lines, with the rime scheme ABCCBDD.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

"The Idiot Boy," therefore, is an innovative ballad. A traditional ballad stanza features quatrains with the rime scheme ABCB or ABAB. Wordsworth adjusted the form, adding a line and altering the rime scheme. The effect speaks to the nature of the boy, whose mind is not normal. The idiot boy is uncomplicated—even naive—yet he is quite well loved and respected by the people in his life.

Excerpt from "The Idiot Boy"

'Tis eight o'clock,--a clear March night,
The moon is up,--the sky is blue,
The owlet, in the moonlight air,
Shouts from nobody knows where;
He lengthens out his lonely shout,
Halloo! halloo! a long halloo!

--Why bustle thus about your door,
What means this bustle, Betty Foy?
Why are you in this mighty fret?
And why on horseback have you set
Him whom you love, your Idiot Boy?

Scarcely a soul is out of bed;
Good Betty, put him down again;
His lips with joy they burr at you;
But, Betty! what has he to do
With stirrup, saddle, or with rein?

But Betty's bent on her intent;
For her good neighbour, Susan Gale,
Old Susan, she who dwells alone,
Is sick, and makes a piteous moan
As if her very life would fail.

To read the entire poem, please visit "The Idiot Boy."

Reading of Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy"

Commentary

Willian Wordsworth's ballad, "The Idiot Boy," portrays the poet's dedication to establishing a poetry that involves simple, rural people in their natural environment.

Written with Glee

William Wordsworth has elucidated the genesis of his poem:

The last stanza—'The Cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo, And the sun did shine so cold'—was the foundation of the whole. The words were reported to me by my dear friend, Thomas Poole; but I have since heard the same repeated of other Idiots. Let me add that this long poem was composed in the groves of Alfoxden, almost extempore; not a word, I believe, being corrected, though one stanza was omitted. I mention this in gratitude to those happy moments, for, in truth, I never wrote anything with so much glee.

The Story

The narrative offers a straight-forward, uncomplicated story: Betty Foy’s friend and neighbor, Susan Galen, seems to be gravely ill and thus is in great need of a doctor. Betty’s husband, however, is not at home; therefore, no one can go for a doctor, expect for her retarded son, Johnny.

Betty is afraid for Johnny to make such an arduous journey because he has never done such a thing before. Nevertheless, Johnny leaves to retrieve the doctor around 8:00 p.m., but later what Betty thought should take about an hour has turned into two, three, four hours, and more. So Betty finally decides she has no choice but to go look for her son. Susan agrees even though she is still feeling poorly. Betty looks everywhere for son. She even wakes up the doctor to find out if Johnny has been there. But the doctor has not seen the boy, so Betty leaves and continues looking for the boy.

At that point, the reader might wonder why Betty does not send the doctor to Susan, and then the same thought occurs to Betty as she realizes that Susan still is without medical help. That lapse in judgment, however, reflects the importance now attached to finding Johnny. Betty soon finds her son, however. He is fine, still sitting on the pony gazing at a waterfall as the pony grazes on the grass.

The Muses

The simplicity of the story represents the simplicity of the lives about which the story narrates its events. Elucidating the story and all of its implications for humanity—the nature of motherhood, friendship, caring, and affection—the speaker invokes the muses in order to show how the ballad progresses as it contemplates how poetry works to communicate its message as it becomes a poem.

© 2015 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    3 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Kathleen. Yes, Wordsworth is one of the best. Glad you had the opportunity to visit where he lived and wrote. What a blessing for you!

  • Kathleen Cochran profile image

    Kathleen Cochran 

    3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    I just returned from a visit to the UK that included the lake district - Woodworth's area. I concluded that if I lived in such a beautiful place, I'd write poetry too! This hub is a good example of his genius. Congratulations!

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)