The Stolen Boat, a poem by William Wordsworth
I. Answer briefly the following questions.
1.Who does ‘her’ in the first line refer to?
Answer: The cool summer breeze.
2.Where was the boat moored?
Answer: Inside a rocky cave, tied to a willow tree.
3.What does ‘home’ in line 3 refer to?
Answer: The place where the boat was usually moored.
4.What does ‘her’ in line 4 refer to?
Answer: The boat.
5.Why does the poet use words like ‘home’ and ‘her’ while talking about the inanimate boat?
Answer: The attraction of the boat to the boy is so much that it acquires a human presence in his mind.
6.What stealthy act does the boy commit?
Answer: The boy takes away the boat without the permission of the owner of the boat.
7.What sound is captured in lines 6 and 7?
Answer: Mountain-echoes of the sound of the oars splashing in the water.
8.What visual picture is created in lines 8 to 10?
Answer: The picture is of small ripples caused in the water by the moving oars, and their fading away to leave only a long stretch of reflected moonlight in the water in the wake of the boat.
9.What does ‘they’ in line 10 refer to?
Answer:The small ripples in the water.
10.How many peaks are mentioned in the poem? Which one is bigger?
Answer: Two peaks are mentioned: The first one is a craggy ridge, the one the boy wanted to reach; the second one is a black and huge peak which looms suddenly in front of him.
11.a) What is the boat compared to in line 19 and 20?
Answer: A swan gliding smoothly in the water.
b) The purpose of the comparison is
a. to highlight the beauty and grace of the swan
b. to highlight the beauty and grace of the boat
c. to highlight the graceful movement of the boat
Answer:(c) to highlight the graceful movement of the boat.
12.In the expression ‘troubled pleasure’ (line 6).
a) What pleasurable experience of the narrator does ‘pleasure’ refer to?
Answer: Taking the boat away all by himself.
b) The narrator’s pleasure is ‘troubled’ because
a. his conscience pricks him on his stealthy act
b. the pleasure is short-lived
c. he is scared of his stealthy act being found out
Answer:(a) his conscience pricks him on his stealthy act-
13.Read carefully lines 21 to 26
b) Pick out the details of the peak that appears fearful to the boy
Answer:Rising from behind the craggy ridge all of a sudden; Being black and huge in size; Went on growing in size till it towered between the boy and the stars; Seemed to be coming after the boy with a measured step.
c)The lines refer to the movement of the peak. Is it real or imagined by the boy?
Answer:It is the imagination of the boy who is already feeling guilty about his act of stealing the boat.
d) In the boy’s imagination, the movement is
a. threatening and menacing
b. lively and graceful
c. friendly and inviting
Answer:(a) threatening and menacing.
14.a) In the phrase “trembling oars”, who is trembling?
Answer:The boy is trembling.
b) Name the figure of speech in this expression.
Answer:The figure of speech used here is “Transferred Epithet”.
c) The boy is trembling because of
a. He is frightened by the ‘approaching’ peak
b. Of his guilty conscience
c Of cold
Answer:(a) He is frightened by the ‘approaching’ peak.
15.The episode of the stolen boat ends with the boy leaving the boat back in its mooring place (line 32). The remaining lines of the poem (lines 33 to 44) deal with
a. the lasting memory of the actual experience
b. details not connected with the actual experience
c. the mysterious shapes and images haunting him
Answer:(c) the mysterious shapes and images haunting him.
16.Wordsworth defined poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquility”. What dominant emotion of the boat experience is recollected by the poet?
Answer:Fear caused by the sight of the huge, black peak.
17.Many days after the stolen boat experience, the narrator was haunted by a mysterious presence within him. Pick out details of this mysterious presence from lines 37 to 44.
Answer:After the experience, there hung over the boy’s thoughts darkness which can be called solitude or blank desertion. There were no familiar shapes or pleasant images of trees, sea or sky. There were just huge and mighty forms that do not live like living men. These forms moved slowly through his mind by day and troubled him in his dreams.
II. Close Study
Read the following extracts carefully. Discuss in pairs and then write the answers to questions given below them.
She was an elfin pinnace
- What does ‘she’ refer to?
- What is the figure of speech used here?
- What does ‘elfin’ mean?
- What is the figure of speech used in ‘elfin pinnace’?
- What quality in the movement of the boat is highlighted in the comparison?
- The little boat.
- Very small in size.
- The smooth, pleasant and light movement of the boat.
With trembling oars, I turned, And through the silent water stole my way Back to the covert of the willow tree.
- What is the figure of speech used in the first line?
- What made the boy tremble?
- What does the boy want to do with the boat?
- Transferred Epithet.
- The sudden presence of the huge, black peak which seemed to move with a measured step towards him.
- The boy wanted to take the boat to a craggy ridge.
III. Paragraph Writing
Discuss in groups of 4 each the answers to the following questions. Note down the important points for each question and then develop the points into one paragraph answers.
1.Why did Wordsworth say that his moving the boat is an act of stealth? Why was he guilty of his act?
Answer: Probably because the boy was very young, he was not allowed to row it on his own, or probably the owner of the boat did not like anyone touching his boat. Here the boy does not inform the owner or take his permission to use the boat. Hence Wordsworth says that the boy’s moving of the boat is an act of stealth. It was an act of stealing and his joy and thrill of adventure were troubled by a sense of guilt.
2.Describe the effect that the spectacle of the peak had on the poet’s mind.
Answer: The poet wanted to take the boat near a craggy ridge, but the sudden appearance of the huge, black peak unnerved him. The more he rowed the boat, the bigger the peak seemed to become in front of him. Soon it seemed to move with a measured step like a living being towards the poet. This made the poet turn back towards the rocky cave.
3.To Wordsworth, nature was a living presence. Pick out any 5 details from the poem to support this.
Answer:‘One summer evening’; ‘small circles glittering idly in the moon’; ‘she was an elfin pinnace’; ‘my boat went heaving through the water like a swan’; ……… a huge peak, black and huge, as if with voluntary power instinct, upreared its head.’
One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon’s utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,—
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.