Wordsworth writes about his changing perspective on his wife, Mary Hutchinson, who he describes as the “Phantom of delight.” At first he sees her as he did as a youth, as a spirit “to haunt, to startle, to way-lay,” but by the third stanza, he sees her with mature eyes. She has become a real woman with “reason firm, the temperate will,/Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.
2. Rhyme Scheme: Wordsworth utilizes a consistent rhyme scheme throughout the poem. The scheme is AABBCCDDEE in each ten-line stanza. The rhyme scheme unifies the poem and emphasizes the beauty of the woman through the natural beauty of the rhyme. The use of rhyming couplets may reveal a simplicity of purpose as well.
3. Alliteration: Wordsworth uses alliteration for aural effect in the poem. For example, he repeats the soft “s” consonant writing “For transient sorrows, simple wiles,” possibly to slow down the speaker and affect the speed at which the poem is read aloud for emphasis of his wife’s real qualities. Also, the soft “s” sound likely reflects the softness of the woman, a quality Wordsworth is trying to demonstrate in the poem.
She was a Phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely Apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of Twilight fair;
Like Twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn
From May-time and the cheerful Dawn;
A dancing Shape, an Image gay,
To haunt, to startle, and way-lay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A Spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin-liberty;
A countenance in which did meet
Sweet records, promises as sweet;
A Creature not too bright or good
For human nature’s daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A Being breathing thoughtful breath,
A Traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect Woman, nobly planned,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.