What Is Wordsworth's Poem "Nutting" About?

"Nutting" by William Wordsworth recalls a day spent gathering nuts in the woods as a boy. The boy revels in his surroundings, enjoying the beauty of the forest--but before he leaves, he drags a tree branch crashing to the ground to harvest the nuts. This violation of the pristine grove ruins the whole scene, leaving the poet feeling troubled and guilty.

The key to "Nutting" lies in the change that occurs after the boy harvests the nuts. Up to that point, the poem is a simple remembrance of a tramp through the woods, especially "one dear nook unvisited," a grove with mossy stones and wildflowers and nut trees. After the harvest, the boy leaves feeling "a sense of pain" when he sees "the silent trees and the intruding sky." The last three lines of the poem address a young woman, who the poet tells to move among "these shades in gentleness of heart" and to touch "with gentle hand," because "there is a spirit in the woods." While some critics read "Nutting" as an allegory of sexual defloration, this is only one possible meaning. The poem can also be about how taking anything by force can strip it of its value, and about how the ultimate price of greed is often guilt and disillusionment.