Introduction

A young self of the poet once purloins a boat and takes it for a ride, however, things change with the sudden appearance of a “mountain” and the merry ride soon turns sour.

The poem is written in free verse.

Lines 1-16

One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth            

And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track                           

Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon’s utmost boundary; far above              
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.

One summer evening nature led the poet to a willow tree where a boat was tied. The boat was alluring and the poet decided to take it for a ride. The experience was thrilling but the poet could not spurn the fact that what he was doing was wrong, he called it a troubled pleasure. 

As the poet propelled forward, the stars and moon casted their glistening glow on the water’s surface and they all melted into a single track of sparkling light. Rowing forward, he fixed his view on the highest point of a rocky ridge to move in an unswerving and straight track. 

Lines 17-31

She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;                  
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon’s bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape                     
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way                     
Back to the covert of the willow tree;

The environment created beautiful scenery and the poet could not help but think of the boat as a fairy. As the boat heaves through the water, the poet compares it to a swan gliding gracefully. The poet’s buoyant ride was sailing smoothly until a black and huge mountain appeared and obstructed his view of the stars. 

As the poet rowed forward, the mountain seemed to chase him. It frightened him and awakened his conscience. No longer able to enjoy the ride and disregard this feeling of guilt and fear, the poet with trembling oars turned and wandered back to the willow tree’s covert.

Lines 32-44

There in her mooring-place I left my bark,—
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain                         
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o’er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,                           
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.                       

He left the boat back in its place and set off towards his house in a grave and serious mood. The sight that he had witnessed haunted his nightmares and replaced were the pleasant images of trees and coloured green fields with the huge and mighty forms of the mountain. This mountain was his conscience, he was plagued by guilt and that very emotion overpowered all his thoughts and solitude. 

Conclusion

Even after indulging in sinful pleasure, the poet could not disregard his conscience and the following guilt that surfaced so strongly that it appeared in the form of a daunting mountain chasing him. This one event stirred a significant change in him and reformed his personality.