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Michael and the land

Professor Keith Hanley reads passages from Wordsworth's "Michael", describing his relationship to the land.
Upon the Forest-side in Grasmere Vale there dwelt a Shepherd, Michael was his name, an old man, stout of heart, and strong of limb. His bodily frame had been from youth to age of an unusual strength– his mind was keen intense and frugal, apt for all affairs, and in his Shepherd’s calling he was prompt and watchful more than ordinary men.
And grossly that man errs, who should suppose that the green Valleys, and the Streams and Rocks were things indifferent to the Shepherd’s thoughts. Fields, where with cheerful spirits he had breath’d the common air– the hills, which he so oft had climbed with vigorous steps; which had impress’d so many incidents upon his mind of hardship, skill or courage, joy or fear; which like a book preserved the memory of the dumb animals, whom he had sav’d, had fed or shelter’d, linking to such acts, so grateful in themselves, the certainty of honourable gains; these fields, these hills which were his living Being, even more than his own Blood– what could they less?
had laid strong hold on his affections, were to him a pleasurable feeling of blind love, the pleasure which there is in life itself.

We hope you enjoyed the discussion of ‘Michael’ in the setting of Greenhead Gill and now have some idea of what the poem is about.

Next, listen to these passages from the poem, read by Professor Keith Hanley, that describe Michael’s relationship to the land in greater detail.

Open up the transcript located in the downloads section below, as you will need to refer to this in the next step.

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William Wordsworth: Poetry, People and Place

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