I have recently annotated "Boat Stealing" (page 20 of this PDF) and when looking online, I have found that my interpretation of the poem in some aspects is a bit different to most others. I just want to make sure that my interpretation of this poem is also valid.

Basically, up till line 25, the tone is quite serene (which I agree with) but in addition, I also feel there is a bit of sense of foreboding involved because of a few things. The moon is out, so the events are occurring in the midst of night, which connotes evil. Also, the mountains are described as "hoary" - which means greyish-white - and the colour grey has connotations of a lack of emotion, so therefore this portrays the mountains as ruthless and evil. The "mountain echoes" are also following the poet, therefore hinting at the possibility that something might happen.

Is this interpretation valid?

  • 3
    I think 'hoary' in this instance is more likely to carry the meaning ' Ancient; venerable from age, time-honoured.'. Why do you say that night connotes evil?
    – Spagirl
    Jan 13, 2020 at 10:34
  • Note to closevoters: this is a question about interpretation, which is allowed here, even though it is inherently to some extent based on opinion.
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:22
  • @bobble Yes, I meant closevoters. I have edited my comment.
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:31
  • @Tsundoku well, my closevote is because I saw this question as asking "is this interpretation ok?", which is more explicitly opinion-based than "provide an evidence-based interpretation of X"
    – bobble
    Dec 5, 2021 at 21:48
  • @bobble I read "Is this interpretation valid?" as "Does the text support this interpretation?", not as a request for "opinions".
    – Tsundoku
    Dec 6, 2021 at 16:54

2 Answers 2


After line 25, the poem turns dark and troubled, as

                                            the huge cliff
Rose up between me and the stars, and still,
With measured motion, like a living thing
Strode after me.

Before that, you notice the careful way the writer creates a sense of unease within a moment that should be pure pleasure. But instead, as the poet notes (ll. 10–11),

                                     It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure.

So you are right to identify the other elements that create this note of "trouble" within this scene of "pleasure." Within the larger context of the Prelude (in all versions), this incident is one in which the young Wordsworth has not wholly learned the lessons from nature, and his sense of guilt at taking the boat manifests itself in his fear of the ominous cliff chasing after him.

Your analysis is spot on. So, my question is: why did you doubt yourself?


We discussed this in class today. It's also about the taboos of society and masturbation. 'troubled pleasure' refers also to where he feels guilty about masturbation as it's seen as sinful. Some of the quotes which support this idea are 'pinnace' which sounds like something else, 'I dipped my oars into the silent lake', 'I rose upon the stroke', 'went heaving through the water', 'a huge peak', 'upreared, its head. I struck again'.

I mean it's kinda hilarious thinking of it like that but sadly if it's for the GCSE poetry anthology; you're not meant to write that.

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