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William Wordsworth’s poem, “Simon Lee” is a reflection on the course of life. No real action is contained in the 12 stanzas, just a description of the decline Simon Lee has experienced since his youth. The poem is lyrical and the eight line stanzas have a rhyme scheme of ABABCDED that causes the lines to flow lightly. Simon Lee was an old man Wordsworth had met and through the poem his feelings about Simon can be understood.

The first stanza of the poem sets the scene and the next two detail Simon Lee’s youthful days. In the first stanza the reader is introduced to Simon and is told where he can be found. The lines “An old man dwells, a little man, - / ‘Tis said he once was tall.” put the reader into the mood of the rest of the poem. The mood is slightly sad and helpless as the reader sees what has become of Simon Lee. A happy, youthful Simon Lee is seen in stanzas two and three. Being described as the greatest huntsman and faster than men and horses Simon is in the prime of his life. He is a healthy, happy huntsman and as for the dogs, “He dearly loves their voices!” In the next stanza, the fourth, Simon’s life is winding down and he is completely unlike the young, vigorous man of the poem’s beginning. “But, oh the heavy change! –bereft / Of health, strength, friends, and kindred, see!” This line draws the reader quickly through Simon’s transformation into an old man at the end of his life. Illustrating what has become of Simon, this stanza and the next four make the reader sympathize with this old man. The Simon who is now more weak than his also weak wife contrasts sharply with the vibrant man he was at the peak of life and plays on the reader’s fear of aging. At the end of the last stanza in this section Wordsworth writes directly to the reader.

In that last stanza and the next, ninth overall stanza Wordsworth tells the reader not to expect any action. Ordinarily, a reader would expect a tale to break out at this point because of the buildup created by the description of Simon. Wordsworth closes the door on this expectation in these stanzas before the final three. Interesting enough in those final stanzas there is a tale and the only action seen in the poem. The reader is forced to reflect on the first, descriptive, part of the poem by Wordsworth’s words. The last two lines in the ninth stanza are “It is no tale; but, should you think, / Perhaps a tale you’ll make it.” What follows actually is a tale, but with these lines Wordsworth makes it clear that the action to follow is meant to further describe Simon Lee and not to tell a story of an encounter with him.

In the last three stanzas of the poem our narrator lends Simon a hand. He sees Simon hard at work hopelessly trying to dig out an old root. When he offers to help Simon the help is greatly appreciated. It was no trouble at all for our narrator to chop the root, he accomplished in one strike what Simon couldn’t do all day. Simon’s response to the good will is contained in the last stanza of the poem:
The tears into his eyes were brought,
And thanks and praises seemed to run
So fast out of his heart, I thought
They never would have done.
-I’ve heard of hearts unkind, kind deeds
With coldness still returning;
Alas! the gratitude of men
Hath oftener left me mourning.
Simon’s reaction is overwhelming. The “thanks and praises” were too much for our narrator to feel comfortable receiving. This is a heartbreaking end of the poem in which Simon has gone from vital to feeble.

“Simon Lee” is not about the life of Simon Lee as much as it is about the fear of getting old. The contrast between young and old is seen in Simon throughout the poem as well as between Simon and our narrator at the end of the poem. Wordsworth uses the poem as a chance to consider aging and the trip through life. The “heavy change” from a joyful prime to the last, hard years of life and the feelings the change invokes is “Simon Lee”.

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