Lyrical Ballads - The Female Vagrant Analysis

brief analysis of wordsworth's 'the female vagrant', broken down by assessment objectives

HideShow resource information

Summary of the poem (AO1)

  • Vagrant: a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging
    • She is recounting her story
  • Made homeless by urbanisation - father would not take bribe
    • ‘All, all was seized’, ‘We sought a home where we uninjured might abide’
  • Move in with the girl’s lover (eventually husband), lack of work in rural communities, father dies
  • War = job opportunity
  • Husband + children lost to war, disease + famine
    • ‘Husband and children! one by one, by sword / And ravenous plague, all perished’
  • Lived 'Three years a wanderer'
1 of 5

Language analysis (AO2)

  • Written in the first person: allows for extended sympathy
  • ‘Dried up, despairing, desolate’ - alliteration, ‘thudding’ sound of her journey and heavy impact of events
  • ‘Here will I weep in peace’ - lost ambition and hope, can only weep over losses
  • ‘my ready tomb the ocean-floor’ - meditating on death, ready to leave pain behind
  • Significance of last lines:
    • ‘She wept; - because she had no more to say / Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay’ - overcome with grief, experience has harmed her both physically + spiritually, she has endured too much
2 of 5

Links to other LB poems (AO3i)

  • The Thorn
    • Abandoned mothers + those who have suffered extreme hardship, telling a tale
  • The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere
    • Enduring hardship, however the ‘female vagrant’s’ is purely unfortunate circumstance and the mariner’s is intended punishment
      • Further links to The Convict
  • The Dungeon
    • Spiritual misery - ‘till his very soul / Unmoulds its essence, hopelessly deformed’, the weight of enduring pain
  • Old Man Travelling
    • Theme of grief + outer tranquility while experiencing physical and mental deterioration/decay
3 of 5

Critical analysis (AO3ii)

  • Feminist interpretation:
    • A demonstration of how heavily women relied on men during this time - ‘the female vagrant’ is not self-sustaining and always needs a man (her father → her husband)
  • Romanticism and the Rural Community, Simon White
    • ‘The two places (Salisbury Plain and the female vagrants Cumberland) are connected through the motif of a dead or dying countryside.’
      • Wordsworth spent two days wandering on foot over Salisbury Plain - source of inspiration for the setting of The Female Vagrant
    • ‘The only robust community represented in the poem is one that exists outside of mainstream society.’
      • A criticism of capitalism, in Britain she is taken in by gypsies
  • ‘Advertisement’ to the first printing of ‘Guilt and Sorrow’, 1842, William Wordsworth
4 of 5

Contextualising 'The Female Vagrant'

  • Industrialisation and Urbanisation:
    • Reduced work opportunities in rural areas, forced people to move ‘to a distant town’ to pursue jobs
    • Forced rural folk out of their homes
  • The Enclosures Act of the 18th Century
    • Led to many rural dwellers being forced to give up their conventional land to the wealthy who had bought it
    • Series of UK acts of Parliament that enclosed open fields + common land in the countryside, creating legal property rights to land previously considered common
  • Wordsworth’s travels
    • Experienced ‘a long residence in revolutionary France’, surrounded by radicals + learnt to feel great sympathy for abandoned mothers, beggars, and victims of war
5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all William Wordsworth resources »