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
, 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
“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”.