Wordsworth Lyrical Ballads (1798)


Student Presentations


At the beginning of class today, you will have thirty minutes to get together with your teammates and prepare to report on your poem during our class discussion. Be prepared to answer the reading comprehension questions, and then be ready to answer the discussion questions.


Reading Comprehension Questions: (Ten Minutes)


“Goody Blake and Harry Gill”


1.      What is the problem that afflicts poor Harry Gill?

2.      What drove Goody Blake to trespass upon Harry Gill’s hedge?

3.      What curse does she call down on him when he finally catches her?

4.      What is Wordsworth’s point? Why does the curse work?


“The Mad Mother”


1.      What struck Wordsworth about this woman and inspired him to go home and write this ballad?

2.      Are there any hints in the poem as to why this mother has fallen into such a desperate state?

3.      How does she consider resolving her dilemma as she sits in the ditch and suckles her child? (l.31-50)

4.      What kind of life in the woods does she also contemplate?

5.      What chance do they have of survival?


“The Idiot Boy”


1.      Why has Betty Foy sent her idiot boy out riding alone at night?

2.      What noise does the boy make as he rides off toward town?

3.      What events does she fear has befallen her child when he does not return?

4.      What does she forget to do when she reaches the doctor?

5.      Where does she find him?

6.      What cures her friend, Susan Gale?

7.      What is the idiot boy’s answer when his mother asks him where he has been?


Group Work: (Twenty Minutes)




  1. What story does the ballad tell? Describe its actions in a BRIEF paragraph.






  1. What are the three key moments in the poem? Quote the text.





  1. What are the key symbols in the poem?






  1. How does the ballad form of the poem (the sound of the poem) relate to Wordsworth’s poetic purpose? Quote the text to support your point.





  1. Why did Wordsworth choose this story? What interests him about it? How does the poem’s theme relate to Wordsworth’s larger interests about human nature and the path to God? What makes this poem Romantic?





  1. At the end of class, be prepared to write a thesis statement which relates all       

      three poems: