Ode: Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth
Ode: Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth is an eleven-stanza poem that recounts a child’s loss of purity and divine sight when he becomes engrossed in his toys from the soft lap of its mother. Wordsworth believes that even if one has a lot of duties in life, he should attempt to keep his heavenly sight. At the end of the poem, he expresses hope that if we focus on nature and our childhood memories in modern times, we can reclaim heavenly sight.
The poem exactly matches his theory of “spontaneous overflow of emotions in tranquillity”. The simple and rhythmic language of the poem makes it beautiful.
This poem is one of the widely praised poems written by a well-known poet William Wordsworth. In 1802 Wordsworth penned four stanzas of this ode, then in 1806, he added seven stanzas. As a result, this ode contains 11 stanzas. It is considered one of Wordsworth’s best odes. While residing at Grasmere, he completed this ode. The poet initially calls it an ode but then changes it to ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood. It first appeared in his ‘Poems in Two Volumes’ in 1807.
Ode: Intimations of Immortality – Summary
This is a very sad and even melancholy poem about life and its many stages and particular what is lost and left behind. According to the poet, he would see the holy light in his boyhood but does not discover it in his adult years. The poet claims that as a child, he saw the holy light in all-natural objects. But, as he grew older, the splendour of divine light faded. He claims that he used to see the heavenly light in the meadow, stream, grove, rose, moon, water, and sunshine, but that it has now vanished.
Everything appears to be cheerful in the springtime, yet the poet feels depressed. He believes that a baby is surrounded by divine splendour and delight, but that as he grows older, all of the divine splendour fades. He claims to be surrounded by the darkness of everyday worries and sorrows. As a result, he is disappointed.
He claims that nature raises humans like a mother and provides them with endless joy during his upbringing. However, when a child grows older, he forgets all of his early grandeur. The poet explains his emotions through the example of a six-year-old youngster. He claims that a six-year-old child forgets divine light and becomes preoccupied with his toys. He learns a foreign language and words such as commerce, love, and strife. The youngster is unaware of the vastness of his spirit. He claims that when a child grows, he loses sight of the brilliance of his soul and becomes engulfed by the world and its business.
He feels heavy on the inside because he has forgotten the divinity of his soul. The poet is delighted to recall his early memories. Because he preserves the heavenly glory, the poet refers to the infant as the best philosopher. The poet expresses gratitude for the blessings of his childhood when he was always joyful. The child imitates a grown-up man, but the poet tells him not to because adult life is full of troubles, and when he grows up, he will inherit them.
The poet is pleased to recall early memories. He is grateful because they are a source of natural feelings and knowledge that can enable a man to see the inner reality of earthly objects. A man, according to the poet, can travel far from his childhood. His soul has the ability to visualise the ocean of immortality. With childhood reminiscences, he can relive his childhood events. The poet requests that the birds sing joyous melodies for him, just as they did when he was a child. He also instructs the lambs to leap and dance.
He claims that he can only help them celebrate spring in their mind. The poet recognises that his childhood days are gone and will never return, but he is content to think that he has gained more experience in his adult life. Over time, his mentality has evolved into a philosophical one. It is also a significant accomplishment for the poet. According to the poet, his affection for natural objects would never end. His feelings for them have become second nature to him. For the poet, even the most insignificant flower can fill his heart with joy, whereas tears cannot communicate his feelings deeply.
Analysis of the Poem
Often termed as immortality ode or the Great Ode, this poem of Wordsworth brings out the inner philosopher that he is. Although criticized by many poets including his best friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge who writes Dejection: An Ode almost as a response to this poem. Like Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth focuses on the sublime and discovering the true nature of the human self. But unlike Tintern Abbey, this poem is written in the form of an ode, an ancient Greek classical form of poetry which was written to be sung in festivals. As the title mentions, he remembers his childhood and talks about how an individual changes over time as he ages. Written in the irregular Pindaric form of an ode, it is split into three movements: the first four stanzas discuss death, and the loss of youth and innocence; the second four stanzas describe how age causes man to lose sight of the divine, and the final three stanzas express hope that the memory of the divine allows us to sympathise with our fellow man.
The poem relies on the concept of pre-existence, that children are the best philosophers who have the most inquisitive nature and the soul existed before the creation to aid them to connect with nature. In another poem by him, he writes – “child is the father to a man” which seems perplexing at the beginning but starts making sense when we look carefully at the meaning of the very line that he wrote. Every person gets old and then he would be behaving the same way as the child. Now, the person’s child has to take care of him just like he did when the child was young. Also, it points out the nature of the child – he is inquisitive and has a lot to teach to his elders. William Blake talks about innocence and experience; if you have experience then no longer are you innocent as you now know everything that comes forward. These are the two sides of human consciousness which go hand in hand.
We also notice this by remembering our childhood, just the way Wordsworth is doing in the poem; when we are children, the days are really long but as we age, the time seems to run fast even though the measurement is still the same. Wordsworth argues that this happens because of repetition or mimesis if we like to bring in Aristotle. Empiricist philosopher John Locke argues that the human brain is in the state of “tabula rasa” or blank slate when he/she is born and then learns by experience which often is caused through imitation. He says that children lose their divine radiance and light as they grow and gain experience. But later argues that the memory now is far better than the original as we now know what it really is. In the poem, he writes about his despair that he is not able to feel the same way when compared to his childhood.
According to Wordsworth, the greatest advantage children have over adults is that they don’t know the concept of death and mortality and the moment they learn it, they start losing their divine light and become more like adults who don’t have an intimate sublime with immortality. Adults have run out of things they need to explore but children don’t have the problem. Wordsworth mentions God in the poem but he neither defines God nor tries to tell that God is separate from nature. Loss of innocence comes from experience but an imaginative recovery of what was lost and what you imagine is in some ways superior to its original experience because the original experience is unreflecting.
This poem’s narrative seems a non-Christian rendering of the Christian experience. It’s replacing creation, fall, and redemption. Overall, this poem is highly philosophic, similar yet very different from Tintern Abbey.
Q. What is the theme of ode Intimations of Immortality?
A. The key themes stressed in ‘Intimations of Immortality are man vs nature, childhood and adulthood. The poem expresses two things: the speaker’s inexhaustible love for the natural world and his concern for individuals who have forgotten the purpose of their existence.
Q. What is the significance of the title ode to immortality?
A.The poem, titled “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” expresses Wordsworth’s opinion that life on Earth is a distant shadow of an earlier, purer existence, dimly remembered as a child and then forgotten in the process of growing up. Thus the title is apt.