‘She was a Phantom of Delight’

In order to practise for the upcoming Literature IGCSE exams, we have been asked to choose one of the poems which we found most difficult. Then, we would be given an essay question for us to answer. I chose ‘She was a Lhantom of Delight’ by William Wordsworth.

How is William Wordsworth admiring the beauty and appearance of his lady love in his poem “She was a Phantom of Delight”?                                                                                                      

        In the poem “She was a Phantom of Delight”, William Wordsworth manages to express his thoughts of his breathtakingly beautiful lady, from his perspective. He does this by depicting her looks comparing them to supernatural, natural, and, as he gets to know her, more human elements.

        For a start, in the first stanza, Wordsworth relates how it was love at first sight the very second he saw her. From lines one to four, he portrays her appearance as an unnatural “apparition”, an unearthly figure which was “sent to be a moment’s ornament”. She was an illusion that was meant to come to this world to improve his life and fill it with love. As for the following six lines left from the first stanza, the woman is compared to more lifelike elements. For instance, two different similes compare the beloved’s eyes and hair to the beauty of “Twilight”. Besides, in the last two lines of the stanza, he shows how amazed he was after seeing her; “To haunt, to startle”. Such was her physical attractiveness that her image kept coming to his mind, not able to forget it.

        On the contrary, in the second stanza, the author grants more humanistic manners to the lady by getting to know her better. Instead of being a “Phantom” which hovers around, now she is a “Woman” who gives “steps”. Not only does she is so graceful as regards her foreignness from this world, but also respecting her terrestrian looks. In the first stanza, Wordsworth refers to the woman’s “gleam”; a brightness which can be damagingly blinding after some time. However, in the second stanza, he mentions how it is not “too bright”, meaning not bad. Unlike her haunting, startling and way-laying of before, her “praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles” are distinguished. He notices that she has a human and regular allure as well.

        Finally, in the third stanza, the poet analysis how she is actually perfect in her whole and own humanity, not only physically but in her spirit. He realises that with her “endurance, foresight, strength and skill” she makes him happy. Thanks to these qualities she becomes the “pulse of the machine”. The metaphor implies that she is the “Being” which, although went through difficult times, makes their relationship be alive. Moreover, he comes to the conclusion that she blooms as a special creature and as a human being: “And yet…bright with something of an angel light”. Her beauty depends on both, the familiar and unfamiliar sides.

        In conclusion, in his poem “She was a Phantom of Delight”, William Wordsworth is able to reflect on the physical and spiritual artistry of her beloved. He scrutinizes it through the different stages of the relationship; the first time he saw her, once he got to know her and as wife; as well as he depicts her in her incredibility and humanity.

By Anouk de Laferrere

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