She was a Phantom of Delight by William Wordsworth: Summary and Critical Analysis

In the poem 'She was a Phantom of Delight' Wordsworth describes his wife and his reaction to her. He chooses to depict three points in their developing relationship: when they first met; as they began to know each other better; and now that they are married. When he saw her for the first time the poet felt that Mary Hutchinson was a spirit of happiness.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

She was lovely and he felt that she had been sent to make him proud of her even for a short time. Her eyes were as beautiful as the star in the evening and her hair also was as dark as the evening. In order to create her, nature might have collected all the beautiful things from the spring seasons and the cheerful morning. Her shape was like that of a graceful dancer and her attractive mental picture would always be in the thoughts of the poet and sometimes he would be surprised and frightened. When the poet was doing something or going somewhere her thought would disturb him.

The poet was in close contact with her and he realized that she was still a spirit, but he also felt her womanly qualities. She would move here and there in his home lightly and freely doing household work. Her freedom showed that she was still virgin. The poet could see sweet remembrances and sweet promises on her face. She was not excessively bright or good for many of the things which one had to face in everyday life. She was an ordinary woman. She would inspire the poet. She had all the following human qualities to a moderate degree transient sorrows, simple, vile, praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles.

And now when the poet watched her calmly, he felt the very pulse of her whole being. All her actions were reasonable. Her interests were divided between spiritual and worldly things. She could argue reasonably and her desires were mild, not excessive. She was wise enough to tolerate many unpleasant things in life. She was equally concerned with the future. She was strong and skillful. She was a perfect woman, whom God created grandly. She would make him alert and soothe and direct him properly. In spite of all this, she still looked like a spirit because of her bright beautiful light.

In this poem, Wordsworth portrays his wife, Mary Hutchinson. He describes her first as an ideally beautiful woman, then a pleasant companion and a housewife and finally as an intellectual and moral being who is capable of guiding him. Beginning with a distant view that offers an illusion, he closes up to a more realistic and spiritual view of his wife.
In the first stanza she is described as a phantom, which is an illusion. Her eyes are compared to the evening stars, which are impossible to obtain. Similarly, her hair is also described as dark as the dusk. It highlights her mysterious quality. Then the poet idealizes her. In order to create her beauty the creator collected all things “From May time and the cheerful dawn”. Like a phantom she haunts, startles and waylays the poet.

After their marriage, the poet gets a nearer view of her. He finds her to be a good house wife. She works hard and satisfies her husband. She is not an extraordinary person. She possesses all the human qualities, but not to an extreme degree. Finally, she proves herself to be a perfect woman. She is said to be a machine because the several aspects of her personality (The reason firm, the temperate will, endurance, foresight, strength, and skill) work together efficiently. Because of these qualities she is capable of guiding the poet.

There are three stanzas in this poem. Each stanza has ten lines and its rhyming scheme is aa bb cc dd ee. The poet has used similes and metaphors to describe her more clearly. “A phantom of delight” “a lovely apparition”, “the machine” and “a traveler between life and death” are examples of metaphor and "her eyes as stars of twilight fair, like twilight’s too, her dusky hair” are examples of simile.

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Sharma, K.N. "She was a Phantom of Delight by William Wordsworth: Summary and Critical Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 20 Nov. 2013,