We are Seven by William Wordsworth

Introduction
“We are Seven” is one of the beautiful poems by William Wordsworth which was published in his Lyrical Ballads. The subject of life and death is the main theme of the poem. The poem speaker meets a child in rural areas and asks her how many siblings she has. She claims, “Seven in all,” which implies she’s one of seven children. However, it comes to light that two of the seven siblings were dead but the girl counts them as well.

About the Poet:

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was one of the greatest poets of the country and of natural life. He regards nature as a great teacher and his poems seek to establish
an intimate relationship with it. He also depicts simple rustic life in a number of poems.

He is the author of several memorable lyrics such as “Daffodils”, “The Solitary Reaper”and “Lucy Poems”.

Summary of We Are Seven

This poem was inspired by the poet’s meeting a child near Goodrich Castle in

Wales in 1793. The poem begins with an enchanting image of childhood which is marked by simplicity – a life free from tension, full of spirit and vigour and unclouded by the knowledge of death. The poet meets an eight-year-old charming rustic girl and enquires
about her family. She replies that she lives with her mother and they are seven brothers and sisters out of whom two are in the grave. The poet gets puzzled and insists that they are only five brothers and sisters since two of them are already dead and buried.

But the girl says that their graves are close to her home. She emphasises her association with the two dead brothers and sisters, telling the poet that she often knits her stockings and hems kerchiefs by their graves and sitting there sings a song to them and also takes her supper there. The poem ends with the child’s moving and innocent statement that they are seven brothers and sisters.

Analysis of We Are Seven

A simple poem recounts a meeting between the poet and a rustic woodland girl. The girl was young and beautiful. She was just eight years old. She ‘d got curly hairs. Her face was fair. With happiness, she enjoyed life. The poet asks her how many brothers and sisters she has. She replies they are seven brothers and sisters. She says, on additional inquiry, that two of her brothers are staying in Conway, two are sailors, one sister and one brother lying in the churchyard next to their cottage from their graves.

The poet asks her that if two of them have died then they’re solely five sisters and brothers. But the little innocent lady doesn’t agree with him. She insists that they’re seven brothers and sisters. The little lady doesn’t see death as grownup people see it, as the ultimate divider between the living and the dead.

Her dead brother and sister have turn out to be a necessary a part of her reminiscence and even death can’t make her forget them. Their green graves in a weird manner strengthen her ties with them. After sunset, she plays by the graves and sings a song to them. She eats her meals there. Her 4 brothers stay very far from her but she doesn’t really feel their absence.

The dead sister Jain and the dead brother John are in a way much less absent than her other four brothers, for their graves are ‘beside her cottage. She has not yet come to realize and accept the inevitable truth of death. She considered her dead brother and sister among the living. In this poem, the poet says that he tried to persuade the lady that her one brother and one sister had been dead. They weren’t living. Their souls had been in heaven. So they were five and not seven. But it was ineffective to argue with that lady. She insisted that they had been seven brothers and sisters.

Notes and Glossary:

cottage: usually a small, modest house of one storey; a country residence

clustered: a number of things of the same kind growing or joined together

rustic: rural

woodland: pertaining to the woods

air: the apparent character assumed by a person, character, situation, etc

wildly: in a disorderly manner;carelessly
clad: clothed; covered; dressed

fair: beautiful; pretty

maid: a girl

wonder: to express surprise, amazement

dwell: live; inhabit; reside

church-yard: a burial ground adjoining a church

stockings: close-fitting coverings, usually knitted for foot and part of the
leg

knit: to interweave with needles

kerchief: a cloth worn by women as a head-covering or scarf

hem: to fold back and sew down the edges of cloth, garment, etc.

porringer: a small dish for soup, porridge, etc.

moaning: uttering a prolonged, low and inarticulate sound expressing
physical or mental suffering

released: relieved; set free

slide: to pass along smoothly

spirits: souls

Important Questions and Answers

1. What notable features of a simple child does the poet describe in the first stanza?

In the first stanza, the poet describes an enchanting childhood image that is characterized by simplicity – a tension-free life, full of spirit and vigour and unclouded by the fear of death.

2. What does the poet write about the habitation and the appearance of the girl?

About the habitation of the girl, the poet writes that she was a rustic woodland girl that means the girls lived in the countryside covered with trees. About her appearance, the poet says that the girl was young and beautiful. She was just eight years old. She had got curly hairs. Her face was fair. With happiness, she enjoyed life.

3. How does the poet start the conversation with the girl and what does the girl say in reply?

The poet starts the conversation with a question asking her about her family members. The girl replies that she lives with her mother and they are seven brothers and sisters out of whom two are in the grave.

4. What answer does the girl give to the poet relating to her brothers, sisters and mother?
Answer: She answers that she lives with her mother and they are seven brothers
and sisters out of whom two are in the grave.

5. Why does the answer given by the girl puzzle the poet?

The poet gets puzzled because they are actually only five brothers and sisters since two of them are already dead and buried.

6. What arguments does the girl put forth to prove that her two dead brothers and sisters have not been separated from her?
Answer: Thee girl argues that the graves of her two brothers and sisters are close to her home. She stresses her relationship with the two deceased brothers and sisters, telling the poet that by their graves she often knits her stockings and hems kerchiefs and sits there singing a song to them, and taking her supper there as well.

7. How does her sister suffer before her death?
Answer: Her sister was perhaps suffering some painful disease. She was moaning on her bed before her death. The poet says:

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed, she moaning lay,”

8. How does God release Jane from her suffering?
Answer: God released Jan from her suffering by taking away her life. The poet says this these lines:
“Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.”

9. What did she and her brother use to do round her sister’s grave when the grass was dry?
Answer: She and her brother used to play around her sister’s grave. Here are the lines in which it is mentioned:

“Together round her grave, we played,
My brother John and I.”

10. At what time of the year did John die?
Answer: John died when it was severe winter as the ground was covered with snow.

“And when the ground was white with snow
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

11. How does the poem end?

The “We Are Seven” culminates in confusion. Either we side with the man or the little cottage girl, whether the dead are gone or whether they remain — if the deceased still “count” or not. What do you think: count them or not?In the ending line the girl says about the death of John who is laid beside her dead sister.

Let’s appreciate the poem:

1. What does the second line of the first stanza: “that lightly draws its breath” suggest?

The line suggest that the girl was vivacious and innocent

2. Explain the meaning of the third line of the first stanza: “And feels its life in
every limb”

In this line the poet wants to say that the little girle is able to run around actively, playing and interacting with others in physical form.

3. What does the poet write about a child’s knowledge of death?

4. Describe the surroundings in which the poet finds the girl.

5. Why does the girl look “wondering” at the poet after answering his questions about her family?

6. What does the line, “Their graves are green.”, imply?

7. How is the time after sunset described by the poet?

8. What does the line “And when the ground was white with snow”, suggest?

9. What does the expression, “Twas throwing words away.” mean?

We are Seven: Summary and Question Answers

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