Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
By William Wordsworth
(Note: this is a much longer poem than I usually write about. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, you can get the flavor of it in the boldened stanza below. However, I do hope you read the whole thing sometime. It’s worth the read. Promise.)
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;–
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the rose;
The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare;
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong.
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep,–
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong:
I hear the echoes through the mountains throng.
The winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every beast keep holiday;–
Thou child of joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy
Ye blesséd Creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel–I feel it all.
O evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning
This sweet May-morning;
And the children are culling
On every side
In a thousand valleys far and wide
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother’s arm:–
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
–But there’s a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look’d upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
The pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
To make her foster-child, her inmate, Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.
Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his ‘humorous stage’
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
Thy soul’s immensity;
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep
Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted for ever by the eternal Mind,–
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!
On whom those truths rest
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;
Thou, over whom thy Immortality
Broods like the day, a master o’er a slave,
A Presence which is not to be put by;
To whom the grave
Is but a lonely bed, without the sense of sight
Of day or the warm light,
A place of thoughts where we in waiting lie;
Thou little child, yet glorious in the might
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height,
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?
Full soon thy soul shall have her earthly freight,
And custom lie upon thee with a weight
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
0 joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The thought of our past years in me doth breed
Perpetual benediction: not indeed
For that which is most worthy to be blest,
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:–
–Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings,
Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us–cherish–and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence, in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither;
Can in a moment travel thither–
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.
Then, sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound!
We, in thought, will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts to-day
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.
And 0, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves!
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish’d one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway;
I love the brooks which down their channels fret
Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new-born day
Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
Do you remember when you realized that the world was not all a perfect place, and our lives, at least our earthly lives, have ends?
Luckily, I do not remember.
Obviously it happened at some point, but it must not have seared an indelible brand on my memory. Maybe it’s hidden deep in there somewhere, but really, I don’t care to look around and find it. One thing is definite; it was nowhere near as horrific for me as it was for many of the youngest kids in our country today.
That evil, evil man not only took babies away from their mothers and fathers and teachers away from their students and families, he also destroyed that fleeting innocence of six-year-olds everywhere. (As Wordsworth details in the seventh stanza in the Ode.)
He explains how the very young are innately joyful because before they were born they were with God. Through this closeness to the divine, children have a natural ability to see the beauty in the world. As we age, we become more and more “humanized” and the world becomes merely ordinary, or in worse cases, evil.
Wordsworth says that at times, through a communion with nature, he is able to get his childlike joy back for a moment or two, but it is not the same. He says, “ But yet I know, where’er I go,/That there hath past away a glory from the earth.”
All over the country and probably even the world, little kids are hearing the news of the massacre, even if their parents think they are trying to shield them. Kids have ways of finding out these things, didn’t you? They know, and their innocence is gone, all because of this one evil person. Many kids are waking up without seeing the “celestial light” in the world.
Instead, they are scared to go to school.
We want answers.
Our brains can’t comprehend an evil mind who would do this; our brains crave order and good, so we have to turn to something that makes us feel better.
We cast blame.
We blame the guns, the mental health care system, poor parenting, security at the school. . . the list is endless. I’m sure blame will continue get spread around pretty liberally for a long time over this.
And YES, all these things deserve to be a part of the discussion. As a nation, we can make improvements in all these areas, but none will not stop evil from existing.
Wordsworth’s lines , We will grieve not, rather find/
Strength in what remains behind; stick out for me. What is the strength that remains behind today? That is a real question. I don’t have an answer, but
We need to teach peace and respect for all life.
Here are some ways we can be more peaceful with very little effort. I’m sure there are at least a million more ways, but these are just off the top of my head.
- I will not watch violent shows, especially the ones that claim to be reality shows where they do evil things to each other.
- I will not let the little ones play violent video games. People become so saturated with violent role play, that it makes sense to me that the mentally fragile could easily get lost in the fantasy.
- I will not play them myself.
- I will try to give my children the gift of faith by going to church and trying to live a good life.
- I will not watch television shows that, while not technically violent, belittle and exploit those who are different from myself, like Honey Boo Boo, for example.
- I won’t seek the drama of little catty fights with anyone. If I don’t like someone, I will just leave him alone as much as possible and limit my exposure to him.
- I will live in a way that makes it clear that I believe every single person on this planet has worth.
- I will teach by action and words that every single person on this planet has worth.
- I know that every single person on this planet has worth.
- I know that my life is important, but it is only one
And I have no right to bring pain to anyone else,
How will you be peaceful and show respect for all life?
Merry Christmas to you all.