Comparison of the Boat Stealing Episode and The Rainbow


Wordsworth is well known for using his poetry to celebrate and express his opinions on nature. The two poems by Wordsworth that I decided to compare are The Boat Stealing Episode and The Rainbow. I chose these because I thought that they illustrate the contrasting sides of nature: The Rainbow shows the blissful side, whereas The Boat Stealing Episode portrays the darker aspects. They also demonstrate Wordsworth’s versatility as a poet, as despite some similarities, they portray substantial stylistic differences.


The Boat Stealing Episode is about an occasion where Wordsworth went out one night, guided by nature to a lake. He saw a small boat tied to a willow tree and stole it, he then took it out onto the lake. The poem describes all of the different feelings going through him during this event; excitement, fear and guilt. This poem is about the darkness of the cliffs shadows, “The bound of the horizon, a huge cliff” and the light of the moon shining on the lake, “small circles glittering idly in the moon”. Nature has a very important role in this poem, nature is his companion which leads him across the lake.


The Rainbow poem is one of Wordsworth’s shorter poems but very effective. He repeats the word “So” three times in the middle of the poem, at the start of each sentence. “So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old.” This repetition is rather like the repetition in prayers for example, “Lord of the loving heart, may ours be loving too. Lord of the gentle hands, may ours be gentle too. Lord of the willing feet, may ours be willing too.” This gives the reader the idea that The Rainbow is a form of prayer, reminding the reader that, according to the Old Testament, the rainbow is a gift from God.


Although these two poems are very different, there are some points of similarity. Most obviously, is the strong effect of nature on man, the running theme through much of Wordsworth’s poetry. “My heart leaps up when I behold A Rainbow in the sky.” The opening line of The Rainbow shows that nature has a very pleasant effect on Wordsworth as he claims that his “heart leaps up” when he sees a rainbow in the sky. The Boat Stealing Episode begins with “They guided me: one evening led by them I went alone into a shepherd’s boat.” Wordsworth personified nature in the use of the pronoun “They” showing the trust he placed in nature, as well as its influence over him. Nature must have had a great effect on Wordsworth for him to trust it to such an extent of being led by it alone.


Both poems are based on real events in Wordsworth’s life. The Rainbow is about when he saw a rainbow and was reminded of when he saw a rainbow for the first time in his childhood, therefore linking his past to the present and even to his future. The Boat Stealing Episode describes the experience of him stealing a boat in his childhood. Although The Boat Stealing Episode is a much longer poem than The Rainbow they are both only one stanza long. The Boat Stealing Episode is only one stanza because it is describing one event and to split it up into two stanzas would be breaking the event in two which isn’t the effect Wordsworth wanted.


Rhythm is very important in Wordsworth’s poetry, as in many of his poems he has used rhythm to help the reader to feel what is happening. The Boat Stealing Episode is a good example of this use of rhythm, as in this poem the rhythm of the oars going in and out of the water is felt in the rhythm of the words, “I struck, and struck again, And, growing still in stature.” This is also an instance of alliteration, the “st” being repeated four times. The emphasis is placed on the sound of the oars dipping into the lake. Wordsworth’s use of rhythm can also be seen in The Rainbow, in the prayer-like style already referred to above, “So was