The poem, “The Reverie of poor Susan” has undertones of the “urbanisation phase” that London was passing through in the last years of the 18th century. There is only one character in the poem, Susan, who probably belongs to a small town in England. She belongs to the ‘destitute’ working class.This is suggested through the line, “….it has sung for three years;
Poor Susan has passed by the spot…” She must be passing the spot daily when she goes to work. The poem has been divided into three portions, each one having 5 lines. The first portion is a sketch of the melancholic atmosphere not only of the scene in London but also of the poem itself. Through Susan’s eyes, Wordsworth is able to see the transition in London (Wood Street). The second portion (line 6-10) establishes the scene of trance that Susan visualises. This trance–like mood though pure imagination, yet has a touch of reality in it as London was before the ‘urbanisation’. While the third and last part of the poem is complete picture of the disappointment, destitution and emotional transformation of Susan.
The basic idea in the poem is urbanization and the effect of industrialization on different individuals. The people who were most effected were the down-trodden people of the society who used to live in the countryside. Instead of financial and domestic concerns that people had in those days, in this poem Wordsworth has managed to etch the aesthetic concerns of one of the many individuals. The landscape that has changed by the changes in civilization has become the setting scene for the poem. Apparently this poem discusses effects of industrial revolution on a rustic mind.
The phrase, “Hangs a Thrush” depicts loneliness of the thrush that is isolated from all the birds. It is alone and is ‘loudly’ singing. Though the bird has been singing for three years, Susan can still feel its isolated “songs”. The moment she hears the song, she goes into the trance–like sequence because the song has a connection with the real landscape of London that is replaced by the industrial revolution. She is transported to the past through the sound of the voice. She sees mountains and trees.
Yet the vapours can be depicting pure dew drops or even the mistiness of her imaginary scene. This moment of ‘Reverie’ has clearly drawn a contrast between the two phases of her home town that Susan has seen. First there was the beautiful countryside filled with the splendours of Nature while the other one is the desolate Thrush singing on the branch of a tree. The gait in which Susan ‘tripped’ in the old days has also transformed for her. After the revolution, Susan instead of happily tripping, merely ‘passed’ from the spot.
Wordsworth captures all the reverie of the downtrodden as well as the transitional phase of civilization in a small town of England. Wordsworth also makes it a point in the poem that the ‘single collage’ left is secluded, quiet and peaceful. Her world after the revolution was restricted to her collage alone. Before the urbanization process, her world was extended out to the landscape and scenic atmosphere all around her. Her private world is now invaded by the rush of urbanization. Her love now is limited to her home and the rest to her is an alien-land where she feels herself out of place.
While the poet makes the readers visualize the scene along with Susan, he also brings both the readers and Susan back into the real life where the picture fades away. Susan is deprived of the privileges. It is only the reverie through which Nature can be kept alive otherwise, the visual perceptions do not allow Susan to feed her eyes on mountains, trees or the river flow.
William Wordsworth, hence in the poem describes the mental and psychological state of the downtrodden in England after the Revolution. The ideas in this poem that make the poet a ‘Champion’ of the cause of such people is a peep into their souls.
It was not only economic or domestic transformation that was troubling the people. It was also the aesthetic conflict as well as a sense of alienated atmosphere that troubled the people. Wordsworth in the poem paints the whole picture, thus eyeing the world from the eyes of a commoner.