Timeline 1770             Timeline 1850

Ode on Intimations of Immortality

 From Recollections of Early Childhood (William Wordsworth)

    The Child is father of the Man;
     And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.



                     I

 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.


                     II

     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.


                     III

 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 Shepherd-boy!


                     IV

 Ye blesse`d 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.
     Oh evil day! if I were sullen
     While the 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 looked 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?


V

 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.


VI
 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.


VII

 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.


                     VIII

 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 do 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 or sight
     Of day or the warm light,
 A place of thought 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!


                     IX

     O 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 realised,
 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 endeavor,
       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.


                     X

 Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
     And yet 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.


                     XI

 And O, 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 relinquished one delight
 To live beneath your more habitual sway.
 I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,
 Even more than when I tripped 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.

                        (Published 1807)