Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Poem of the Day: "Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part V" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 24, 2014, we move on to Part V in our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality
William Wordsworth

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. 

This piece is comprised of one stanza of nineteen lines--an unusual length for Wordsworth.  The rhyme scheme is a complex ababccddefgfghhiijj.  The ninth line does not rhyme with any other, and, as we have seen in some of his other poems, Wordsworth uses apostrophe here, deliberately setting the line apart for emphasis.

The theme is also one that we have seen many times in Wordsworth's poetry--that the magic of life disappears as we reach adulthood.  The loss of one's exuberant sense of wonder at the natural world starts early, as "Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing boy"--a foreboding pair of lines if ever there were any.  Here again, Wordsworth urges his readers to resist this jading process, to capture as much of that youthful perspective as possible, and to hold on to it.

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