MS A Micro-Analysis

Column 1

Immediate Correction in Copying


Wensleys long{vale and Sedberghs naked heights

Stern was the face of Nature we rejoiced

The frosty wind as if to make amends

For its keen breath was aiding to our course


And drove us onward [?as]} ke two ships at sea

Stern was the face of nature we rejoiced

(Column 1b223-227 NOTE: The wrong line is crossed out in the Cornell edition).

The crossed out line 227 (below 223) is an example of immediate revision in fair copy with "Stern was the face of Nature we rejoiced" re-entered four lines further on, below. If we had the previous draft of this text we would be able to clarify and confirm the nature of the error.

There are a number of possible explanations, depending on the prior material. It could be a simple error so that Wordsworth accidentally omits the three lines describing the frosty wind. It could be that it was a point of overlap or shift from one prior draft to another to which the three lines had been added. In copying the text out here, it could be the case that Wordsworth accidentally followed an earlier text, then realised his error. It is possible, though highly unlikely, that he added the lines spontaneously at this point within the fair copy text but the regularity of the entry on the page suggests otherwise.

Micro-analysis: Column 2

Half Line Revision

It loves us now this vale so beautiful

Begins to love us by a sullen storm

Two months unwearied of severest storm

It put us to the proof two months of storm

It put the temper of our minds to proof

And found us faithful through the gloom . . .

(Column 2, 269-272)

This is a good example of small-scale acts upon the page which we can reconstruct with some accuracy. The base text is entered and then revised (we cannot tell if revision is immediate or later). The poet decides to "unpack" the line which contains two ideas: that the new arrivals in the valley have been tested ("It put us to the proof") and that the bad weather lasted for two months ("two months of storm"). Wordsworth expands each half of the line into a full iambic line of its own and enters the two new lines around the original one. It is common for the iambic line to be thought of as having two halves to it (with an implied mid-line pause), and Wordsworth employs "half-line" revision elsewhere.

Change of Hands

Silent to any gladsomeness of sound


But the storms {are [?over]

With all their Shepherds. –

But the gates of Spring


Are open'd churlish {Spring hath given leave

this [?soft]

That she should entertain for^ one sweet day

(Column 2b, 276-279)

At the bottom of Column 2b the copyist changes from William to Mary. Why does it occur at this point? If we had previous surviving materials we would find the explanation there, but without them we can only surmise from the evidence on the page. In terms of content, the lines clearly describe a shift within the text, mood and season: both the deleted line "But the storms are over" and its replacement "But the gates of Spring/ Are open'd" signal this. Wordsworth enters the crossed out line, to begin the new movement of the poem.

Perhaps, again, this also represents a shift from one previous draft to another. Thus one possible link was wrongly entered, but when he turned to the next draft text another was presented. "But the storms are over" is highly likely to be entered before "But the gates of Spring" because the sense runs on from the latter line, but not the former. (I.e. If "But the storms are over" were a later addition its sense would run on into the ensuing line). It is still slightly odd that Wordsworth begins writing the new section and then hands over to Mary. We would expect her to start with, "But the gates of Spring". Perhaps this is simply an example of human contrariness. Wordsworth began copying out the new material and then thought, "No, I've had enough of this", and handed it over.

Microanalysis Column 3

Copyist Error (Mary)

They are pleas'd

With the mild summons inmates tho' they be

But most of all the birds that haunt the flood

With the mild summons inmates tho' they be

(Column 3a, 281-283)

Here, Mary, as copyist makes an error. It is easy to see how, since the sense of the line runs directly on from 281 to 283 ("They are pleased . . . With . . ."). However, Mary has accidentally omitted line 282. She therefore crosses out the misentered line and continues correctly below, writing it out again.

Change of Hands: Mary back to William

When Mary's copying finishes and William takes over again, a new pen is used with a much finer nib and darker ink than before. This suggests a temporal break, though we cannot know how long. It may also suggest a shift from one prior manuscript to another. The content changes at this point to focus on the pair of swans, so that it is possible that MS A is drawing on a different prior draft. It also shows the way in which MS A is probably constructing a continuous narrative out of different prior blocks of work. The description of the birds may be written separately from the analogy of the pair of swans. The latter does not automatically follow on from what precedes it but marks a shift of mood and tone.

Microanalysis: Column 4

Wordsworth Copying Error


we saw them {by by day

(MS A Column 4, 329)

Here, Wordsworth makes a copying error. Originally he probably enters "we saw them by", perhaps because he was about to write "we saw them by day" which would make grammatical sense. However, he was supposed to be entering "we saw them day by day". He therefore writes "day" over the first "by" and then adds a second "by day".

The error could also bear a Freudian reading. Anticipating the loss of the birds, which is what the entire passage is centred on, perhaps "by by" could be understood as "bye bye". However, the repetition of "by" is deliberate not accidental.


Inseparable not for these alone

thei}{stso much

But also that ou}r { [?]ate^ resembled ours

They also having chosen this abode

They strangers & we strangers they a pair

And we a solitary pair like them.

(MSA Column 4a 337-340)

This extract describes the parallel relationship of the pair of swans to Wordsworth and Dorothy. The closeness of the two is emphasised by the rewritten entry of "their" over "our" -- although perhaps the line was originally being entered as "our state resembled theirs". The slight ambiguity over "State" also allows the possibility that a word such as "fate" might have underlain it originally. The error draws attention to the repeated "their-our" and "they-we" clauses in this section as Wordsworth makes the comparison absolutely explicit. The changes above the line and the crossing-out of "also" probably happened at the same time, when Wordsworth returned to this passage. Having added "so much" he deletes "also" so that the line is still metrical. "So much" also works to justify the clauses which follow.

Half Line Composition

I cannot look upon this favoreed Vale

by harbouring this thought

But that I seem to wrong it


To wrong it such ill recompense

To that discordant thought such recompense

(MS A Column 4b 358-360)

This is another example of Wordsworthian "half-line" composition. The original line "But that I seem to wrong it" is not a full iambic line and the original entry of it in this shortened form places considerable weight upon it. This is as it should be, in terms of content, since it describes, and strongly emphasises, a mental act against the Valley and its people by the poet (a "discordant thought"). However, it is unusual for Wordsworth to give a shortened line, especially within the flow of verse (rather than at the start of a block). At some point then, he later returns to this section and, in much lighter ink, plays with half-line options. This resolves things so that "To wrong it" is moved to the start of a new line and "by harbouring this thought" replaces it on the previous line. The poem is now metrically regular, although the emphatic statement of the poet's sense of wrong is weakened.

Microanalysis: Column 5

Sewn-in Slip

Numbers/ Line counts

Column 5: "400" crossed out and rewritten

The Cornell edition points out that the line counts for MS A must have been added at quite a late stage. However, the correction at the bottom of Column 4 also suggests that there must have been at least two stages of entry. Wordsworth here corrects the count to allow for an added line at 377 and it is then correct from this point onwards. He must therefore have stopped the line count entry at the crossed-out 400 first, then begun again at a later time for the correctly counted lines from the second entered 400 onward.

Half Line Composition


To find in midst of so much loveliness

Love purest

Nothing but love the persons like the place

Nor from such hope or aught of such belief

Hath issued any portion of the joy

Which I have feltt this day.

Love purest Love of so much majesty

A Like majestic frame of mind in those

Who here abide the persons like the place

(MS A 5b, 401-404)

Another example of half-line composition. Here the crossed out section is effectively rewritten underneath. Wordsworth uses the first three half lines ("of so much majesty"/ "Love purest love"/ "the persons like the place") but recombines them with new material. As an interesting quirk, when he re-writes the line "Which I have feltt this day" (at line 407) Wordsworth misspells "feltt" again for the second time.

Microanalysis: Column 6

Half-Line Composition

A human Voice how awful in the gloom

when sky is dark & earth

Of coming night amid the noise of winds

Not dark nor yet enlighten'd but by snow

Made visible amid the noise of winds

(MS A Column 6a, 414-417)

Another example of half-line composition. Wordsworth creates an option for the second half of line 415 (amid the noise of winds/ when sky is dark & earth) and this then allows him to re-use "amid the noise of winds" in the revision below the line.