Literature Study GuidesPoems Of William Wordsworth SelectedIt Is A Beauteous Evening Calm And Free Summary

Poems of William Wordsworth (Selected) | Study Guide

William Wordsworth

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It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of William Wordsworth's poem It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free.

Poems of William Wordsworth (Selected) | "It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free" | Summary



This sonnet, with the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDE CED, first appeared in Poems, in Two Volumes. In the first octet, the classic sonnet format presents the scene of man and girl walking by a calm and gentle sea in silence. The child is very dear to the speaker. He relishes every moment being spent with her, "quiet ... and breathless," so that the majesty of God can make itself known. The next six lines address the child directly and provide assurance to her that although she is young and perhaps naïve in formal worship, she is close to God at all times.


Wordsworth was the biological father of a nine-year-old girl, Caroline, whose mother was a Frenchwoman he had a romantic affair with during his time in Europe. He had to return to England before Caroline's birth in 1792, but he maintained a close and affectionate contact with her mother, Annette Vallon, who raised the child in France. In the summer 1802 the poet went to the French coast with his sister to meet his former lover and their child. They spent peaceful times becoming acquainted, especially walking in the evening at the seashore near Calais on the Channel. Until the end of his life Wordsworth contributed significantly to Caroline's raising; she eventually married and had two children. He later married a childhood friend and had five children, three of whom grew to adulthood. His wife and family, his sister and their friends, all knew of Caroline, and her own children are French descendants of the poet.

The poem expresses his deep love for the child in significantly religious terms. Wordsworth greatly valued all family relations as part of the human condition. They reflected man's ties to the divine and were a source of familial wisdom and strength. Raised as an English Protestant, Wordsworth was not formally religious as an adult. Annette and Caroline were French Catholics at a time when the branches of Christianity were very distinct and not particularly tolerant or accepting. He and Annette would have had difficulty in marrying, and political and geographic distances kept them apart all their lives. Yet the power of love is so apparent in the poem that it takes on religious overtones, showing the depth of Wordsworth's feelings. He does not "convert" his daughter or ask anything of her, but accepts her nature as it is.

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