Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room

By William Wordsworth

a- Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room
b- And hermits are contented with their cells;
b- And students with their pensive citadels ;
a- Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
a- Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
b- High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
b- Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
a- In truth the prison, into which we doom
c- Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
d- In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
d- Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
c- Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
c- Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
d- Should find brief solace there, as I have found.




Restrictions and structure are supposed to limit the abilities of humans, specifically those who work for a living, but instead these confinements often help workers, especially writers, overcome obstacles and do their jobs to the best of their ability.


Nuns, hermits, students, maids, weavers, and bees all do their respective jobs, however tedious they may seem. Although there are restrictions in having these jobs, the subjects doing their jobs are all actually very happy. For the speaker in the poem, there are restrictions in the style he must write in (the Sonnet form), but he is grateful for this form because he believes too much freedom in writing style causes things like writer's block/the inability to write. Wordsworth enjoys using the Sonnet form because it gives peace and the ability of writing to him.


William Wordsworth uses the Sonnet form to explain why he uses the Sonnet form (that is, a poem in 14 lines with an octave and sestet, including a certain rhyme scheme. Obviously, the poem "Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room" is a sonnet, and William Wordsworth is explaining within context of the sonnet, how he uses and enjoys using the sonnet form). He explains that there are nuns, hermits, students, maids, weavers, and bees who are very content with their somewhat monotonous everyday lives and jobs. Also, he uses himself as an example in the ending couplet, saying that he has at last found solace (although "brief") in using the Sonnet form, and that he does not want the pressure of too much freedom in writing style.

In the first six~seven lines, Wordsworth is using his working class examples, saying that they are all very pleased with what they do. Given the time period (~1806, Romantic period) that "Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room" was written in, this is most likely true. Few people had aspiring dreams and ambitions, and if they did, they were noble, not "middle class" like writers and maids, etc.

At the volta (line 8~9), Wordsworth states that there is a "prison into which we doom ourselves". He's referring to vocations and how people generally view them. How often do people complain about going to work? (Several times a day, everyday) But Wordsworth realizes that no matter how much people really complain about working, in the end, people still enjoy going to work because it is something to do. It would be very problematic if people had nothing to do. Look what happens when people get bored. (Bad things happen.) Obviously, our jobs are not literally prisons, but they can be prison-like metaphorically.

In the last five lines, Wordsworth confirms that the Sonnet form, although it is extremely restrictive, is still a great way to begin a poetry writing project, and that Wordsworth himself enjoys using the Sonnet form. Wordsworth uses the phrase "sundry moods" which shows that there is a generally fickle mood in the poem. Perhaps he feels that he can use the sonnet form when he is feeling fickle, especially if he cannot concentrate. The next line "within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground" refers to the limitations that the sonnet form produces. "Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)" points out that anyone can feel the pain of writer's block, and also, anyone can use the sonnet form to produce a nice poem if they feel like it. And again, the last two lines of the poem explain how Wordsworth himself uses the sonnet form and how he is gratified by it.

Literary Devices/Tools used (they are explained in more detail within the Analysis section and links):

-Petrarchan Sonnet Form
-Dramatic Monologue


"Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room."

Picture taken from:

"Nun." Wikipedia. December 2008.