The Idiot Boy

The Idiot Boy

The Idiot Boy is a lyrical poem by William Wordsworth.


The poem, of some four hundred and sixty three lines, is written in five-line stanzas with a varying rhyme scheme. It was first published in the "Lyrical Ballads" of 1798, where it appeared between "The Mad Mother" and "Lines Written Near Richmond".

The poem is narrative in form. Set in the countryside, it tells the story of Betty Foy and her mentally handicapped son. Foy's neighbor Susan is sick; Foy has no choice but to send her son into the nearby village to fetch the doctor. She places him on her pony and sends him on his way. When he has not returned after several hours, she grows worried and sets off to find him. The doctor has not seen the boy; finally, she finds him placidly astride his pony, who is grazing near a stream. As they are walking home, they encounter Susan, who has, as it were, worried herself well and come in search of her friend.

Theme and Style

In the Preface to the 1800 "Lyrical Ballads", Wordsworth remarks that the purpose of this poem, as of "The Mad Mother", is to trace "the maternal passion through many of its more subtle windings." It is, then, one of the volume's poems concerned with mothers, and Betty Foy, in her love and care, may be considered a natural foil to the bad mothers of "The Mad Mother" and "The Thorn". The poem is also a clear demonstration of the principles Wordsworth laid out in his prefaces; it is a poem illustrating common emotions in a rural setting, using plain language and eschewing the formality of most eighteenth-century verse.

Wordsworth is concerned mainly with psychological experimentations, using speakers who are very much like himself. These speakers do not connect with the characters portrayed in the poems beyond the simple stereotypes that the narrators provide as characterization. The impotence of the poet-narrator in the presentation of the poem prevents him from harnessing the creative power that Wordsworth identified as a "spontaneous overflow" of joy within a man of genius: the poet. In "The Idiot Boy," both the mother Betty and her idiot son, Johnny, achieve the spontaneous overflow that characterizes a successful creation, but the poet cannot, and repeatedly laments his inability to describe in poetic form what the story contains. This poem, like many in "Lyrical Ballads" also concerns itself with the psychological insights of the mother of the idiot boy showing her clear concern for her child.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jimmy The Idiot Boy — is a cartoon character created and voiced by John Kricfalusi and is the official mascot for Kricfalusi s company Spümcø. He is a mentally retarded boy. He appears in the Spumcø logo at the end of pre 1993 The Ren and Stimpy Show episodes.Jimmy… …   Wikipedia

  • The Idiot (album) — The Idiot Studio album by Iggy Pop Released March 18, 1977 (1977 03 18) …   Wikipedia

  • The Idiot's Lantern — Infobox Doctor Who episode number=177 serial name= The Idiot s Lantern show=DW caption=The Wire claims Mr. Magpie, the owner of a shop which sells the televisions she inhabits. type=episode doctor=David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) companion=Billie… …   Wikipedia

  • The Idiot Box (MTV) — Infobox television show name = The Idiot Box caption = The opening credits of The Idiot Box format = Sketch comedy runtime = 30 minutes creator = Alex Winter Tom Stern Tim Burns starring = Alex Winter Tom Stern country = USA network = MTV first… …   Wikipedia

  • Idiot Boy — Alfred 1908 Alfred in der Prä MAD Ära Alfred E. Neumann (auf Englisch Alfred E. Neuman mit nur einem „n“) ist der Coverboy der Satirezeitschrift …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Peter the Wild Boy — (fl. 1725 1785) was a mentally handicapped Hanoverian of unknown parentage, who was found living wild in the woods near Hanover in 1725. Living off the forest s flora, he walked on all fours, behaved like an animal and could not be taught to… …   Wikipedia

  • The Ren & Stimpy Show — Title card Also known as Ren Stimpy Genre Black comedy …   Wikipedia

  • Idiot — For other uses, see Idiot (disambiguation) and The Idiot (disambiguation). An idiot, dolt, or dullard is a mentally deficient person, or someone who acts in a self defeating or significantly counterproductive way. Archaically the word mome has… …   Wikipedia

  • The Ripping Friends — infobox television show name = The Ripping Friends caption = rating = USA:TV 14 / USA:TV PG (original rating), Canada:TV8 format = Animated series runtime = approx. 30 minutes creator = John Kricfalusi and Jim Smith starring = Harvey Atkin (Crag …   Wikipedia

  • The Goddamn George Liquor Program — infobox Television show name = The Goddamn George Liquor Program caption = George Liquor format = Internet Cartoon creator = John Kricfalusi starring = Michael Pataki John Kricfalusi country = flagcountry|United States first aired = 1997 last… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”