18 pages 36 minutes read

William Wordsworth

A Complaint

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1807

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Symbols & Motifs

A Fountain

The fountain “whose only business was to flow” (Line 4) symbolizes the powerful, urgent energy of the poet’s friendship with this Other. To a contemporary audience, the symbolism may seem a bit oblique, even obscure. To Wordsworth’s audience, however, fountains were an element of embellishment, a way to decorate homes with elegant style. Fountains were an essential expression of both taste and decorum. They had the ability to identify homes—unlike more practical expressions of waterworks that were part of homes, fountains were a luxury, a way to please the eye, the soul, rather than quench the thirst.

Thus, the speaker suggests that the friendship between him and this Other brought pleasure to him, delighted him with its effervescence and its animation. Much like the dancing and sparkling waters of a fountain, the love between the two appeared ceaseless—after all, who delights in the waters of a fountain and thinks the water might somehow, someday, someway turn off. The very kinetics of the water implies they will defy exhaustion. The water will play forever.

And for the poet, the waters of the fountain are consecrated, which ties the fountain of their love to the spiritually invigorating waters of Christian baptism.

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