‘The Reverie of Poor Susan’ is a simple poem about a poor girl, Susan.
Wordsworth says that the idea of the poem was suggested to him by the “affecting” singing of birds in the streets of London. The purpose behind writing of this poem is to show the contrast between the life in the countryside and the life in the city. Wordsworth is able to successfully assert that the blessed sights and sounds in nature that are easily found and enjoyed in the countryside can only be discovered in the city only through imagination.
Poor Susan is an emigrant from the countryside. She passes daily by a spot where a thrush sings loudly at daylight. The thrush has been singing in the same fashion for three years. She is completely enchanted with the song of the bird. Her imagination is stirred, so stirred that she has a vision of a mountain, trees and a flowing river. She sees the green pastures where she used to walk and the cottage she lived in while she was still in the country.
‘Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Loth- bury glide.
But as she looks, in the midst of her visionary exaltation, the scenes pass away from her sight. She can no longer see what she had seen.
The poem focuses a poor country girl who has come to London to earn her living. She has been living in the countryside and very much acquainted with the natural scenes and sounds. When she hears the enchanting song of a thrush in the quiet time of morning she falls into a reverie. In her imagination appears her home district with its hills, fog and green meadows. The idea behind the portrayal of these natural scenes is to show the pleasure Susan feels when she imagines these things. Another thing presented in the poem is one’s love for one’s home.
There is an obvious opposition established in this poem between the life in the country and the life in the city. All of the beautiful sights and sounds in nature are so easily found and enjoyed in the countryside. But these can only be discovered in the city through an act of imagination. The setting and character of the village is that of openness and freedom. These qualities give one a sense of belonging and a sense of security. Such gifts are not to be discovered in the city. This sense of belonging and security is so pleasant that it takes the heart of Susan to the heaven:
And a single dwelling on earth that she Loves.
She looks, and her heart is in heaven
Wordsworth, being the highest admirer of nature, has selected as much natural images as possible, in this poem. His image of the flowing river serves his poetic purpose in conveying to the reader the feeling of space and movement. The poem is an apt example of Wordsworth theory of poetry. He speaks for a common girl in a simple language. The subject, technique, imagery and diction: everything is according the theory of Wordsworth. There is nothing ornamental or artificial in the poem.