I now can see with better eyes
And worldly grandeur I despise
And fortune with her gifts and lies
The "Affliction of Margaret" represents a warning to value those precious to us and not to take life for granted as is detailed above. Written in 1804 by William Wordsworth, the great Romantic poet and writer of the Lake District, this poem features the suffering and affliction of a mother for her only son. It is a longing any parent can identify with making this great and thoughtful poem something which is very applicable today.
In the poem Margaret the mother in question has not seen or heard of her son for seven years having sent him away to make his way in the world. She now fully regrets her decision and the pain and bleakness is captured immediately in the opening two lines:
Where are thou, my beloved son,
Where are thou, worst to me than dead?
We can feel the pain here that her not knowing of her son is worse than the knowledge that her son is dead. She cannot grieve, she is in a constant state of turmoil as her mind paints horrible possibilities to the whereabouts of her child:
Perhaps some dungeon hear thee groan,
Maimed, mangled by inhuman men.
In particular the use of the words "Maimed, mangled" really show the depths to which her worry has taken her. Her nights are restless as she looks for the ghost of her child as can be clearly seen in the following passage:
I look for ghosts; but none will force
Their way to me: 'tis falsely said
That there was ever intercourse
Between the living and the dead.
She develops this stanza by suggesting that love and longing would bring the ghost of her son to her if he was dead. There is no way out of her suffering in wondering what has become of her son.
Wordsworth himself had known such suffering when he had to abandon his first wife Annette Vallon and their daughter Caroline whom he met during his time in France during the revolutionary years. Lack of money and ever growing tensions between France and Britain would mean that he had to return to England leaving his loved ones behind. He would not see them until years later when it was safe to return to France to visit them again. Although the marriage grew apart he and his sister Dorothy would continue to support them until late into life.
Although it is often unwise to read into poems biographical relations the depressive longings of Margaret in this poem could also be taken as being mirrored by Wordsworth's feeling just after his forced spilt with Annette and Caroline. Regardless of the connection the poem remains an interesting, if soulful little piece.
Structurally, the poem consists of eleven verses with seven lines each with a consistent ABABCCC rhyme scheme. The latter C rhymes helps to draw out the worry which Margaret is feeling throughout the poem. For example in the line three lines of the poem:
Then come to me, my Son, or send
Some tidings that my woes may end;
I have no other earthly friend!
As well as drawing out the worry and lengthening the concern the readership of the poems feel towards Margaret here we are left with the knowledge that it is her only son and relation left on earth. This element is something which has been left to the end of the poem. We realise that not only is her despair so great it can hardly be put into words, it is equally sorrowful that she has no one left to comfort her in her grief. She suffers alone.
Overall this poem presents a strong representation of the work of Wordsworth. Although the subject matter is relatively deep and morose Wordsworth manages to convey the sorrow and longing within this poem as more matter-of-fact than depressing. The reader of this poem is not left too down after reading it, instead Wordsworth manages to capture a delicate balance of emotion which is quietly reminding, as opposed to being overtly oppressive. Above all it shows Wordsworth at the height of his powers as a poet with a big reputation and remains to this day all but unbeaten in poems of this nature.