Saturday, June 28, 2014

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

For the Songs of Eretz Poem of the Day for June 28, 2014, we will continue with our study of "Ode on Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth, Poet of the Month.  Today we examine Part IX.

Ode on Intimations of Immortality, Part IX
William Wordsworth

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 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.

I find it easier to understand Part IX by setting aside the nineteen lines that are not presented in iambic pentameter and considering only the twenty lines that are comprised of iambic pentameter.  This creates a standard fourteen-line sonnet, complete with an ending heroic couplet, with a six-line introduction appended:

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:--

Moving about in worlds not realized,
High instincts, before which our mortal nature
Did tremble like a guilty thing surprised:
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,
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
And see the children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

In this edited version of Part IX, it should be easy--or easier--to see that Wordsworth once again reminds us that we all are conceived in heaven and arrive at birth in possession of the bliss and beauty of the divine, and that it is this that is at the root of the joy that children find in nature and in life--and it is this, therefore, that adults should reach for to "uphold us--cherish" in "our noisy years."

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