Intimations of Immortality

The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream
It is not now as it hath been of yore-
Turn whereso'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 mountain 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! (part of previous line)

Ye blessed 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 fullness of your bliss, I feel-I feel it all.
Oh, 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 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?

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 newborn blisses,
A six-years' Darling of a pygmy size!
See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted be 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;
The 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 forever 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;
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!

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: truth 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.

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 today
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor 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 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 newborn Day
Is lovely yet;
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober coloring 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.

The Video:

Video: Intimations Of Immortality

The Script:


In the first stanza, the speaker says wistfully that there was a time when all of nature seemed dreamlike to him, "apparelled in celestial light," and that that time is past; "the things I have seen I can see no more."

In the second stanza, he says that he still sees the rainbow, and that the rose is still lovely; the moon looks around the sky with delight, and starlight and sunshine are each beautiful. Nonetheless the speaker feels that a glory has passed away from the earth.

In the third stanza, the speaker says that, while listening to the birds sing in springtime and watching the young lambs leap and play, he was stricken with a thought of grief; but the sound of nearby waterfalls, the echoes of the mountains, and the gusting of the winds restored him to strength. He declares that his grief will no longer wrong the joy of the season, and that all the earth is happy. He exhorts a shepherd boy to shout and play around him.

In the fourth stanza, he addresses nature's creatures, and says that his heart participates in their joyful festival. He says that it would be wrong to feel sad on such a beautiful May morning, while children play and laugh among the flowers. Nevertheless, a tree and a field that he looks upon make him think of "something that is gone," and a pansy at his feet does the same. He asks what has happened to "the visionary gleam": "Where is it now, the glory and the dream?"

In the fifth stanza, he proclaims that human life is merely "a sleep and a forgetting"--that human beings dwell in a purer, more glorious realm before they enter the earth. "Heaven," he says, "lies about us in our infancy!" As children, we still retain some memory of that place, which causes our experience of the earth to be suffused with its magic--but as the baby passes through boyhood and young adulthood and into manhood, he sees that magic die.

In the sixth stanza, the speaker says that the pleasures unique to earth conspire to help the man forget the "glories" whence he came.

In the seventh stanza, the speaker beholds a six-year-old boy and imagines his life, and the love his mother and father feel for him. He sees the boy playing with some imitated fragment of adult life, "some little plan or chart," imitating "a wedding or a festival" or "a mourning or a funeral." The speaker imagines that all human life is a similar imitation.

In the eighth stanza, the speaker addresses the child as though he were a mighty prophet of a lost truth, and rhetorically asks him why, when he has access to the glories of his origins, and to the pure experience of nature, he still hurries toward an adult life of custom and "earthly freight."

In the ninth stanza, the speaker experiences a surge of joy at the thought that his memories of childhood will always grant him a kind of access to that lost world of instinct, innocence , and exploration.

In the tenth stanza, bolstered by this joy, he urges the birds to sing, and urges all creatures to participate in "the gladness of the May." He says that though he has lost some part of the glory of nature and of experience, he will take solace in "primal sympathy," in memory, and in the fact that the years bring a mature consciousness--"a philosophic mind."

In the final stanza, the speaker says that this mind--which stems from a consciousness of mortality, as opposed to the child's feeling of immortality--enables him to love nature and natural beauty all the more, for each of nature's objects can stir him to thought, and even the simplest flower blowing in the wind can raise in him "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."


Wordsworth's Immortality Ode, as it is often called, is written in eleven variable ode stanzas with variable rhyme schemes, in iambic lines with anything from two to five stressed syllables.

The rhyme occasionally alternate lines, occasionally falls into couplets, and occasionally occurs within a single line. In the second stanza , for example; "But yet I know, where'er I go"


external image empty.gif If "Tintern Abbey" is Wordsworth's first great statement about the action of childhood memories of nature upon the adult mind, then "Intimations of Immortality" ode is his mature masterpiece on the subject. The poem, whose full title is "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," makes Wordsworth's belief that life on earth is a dim shadow of an earlier, purer existence, dimly recalled in childhood and then forgotten in the process of growing up. (In the fifth stanza, he writes, "Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.../Not in entire forgetfulness, / And not in utter nakedness, /But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home....") While one might disagree with the poem's metaphysical hypotheses, there is no arguing with the genius of language at work in this Ode. Wordsworth consciously sets his speaker's mind at odds with the atmosphere of joyous nature all around him, a rare move by a poet whose consciousness is so habitually in unity with nature. Understanding that his grief stems from his inability to experience the May morning as he would have in childhood, the speaker attempts to enter willfully into a state of cheerfulness; but he is able to find real happiness only when he realizes that "the philosophic mind" has given him the ability to understand nature in deeper, more human terms--as a source of metaphor and guidance for human life. This is very much the same pattern as "Tintern Abbey"'s, but whereas in the earlier poem Wordsworth made himself joyful, and referred to the "music of humanity" only briefly, in the later poem he explicitly proposes that this music is the remedy for his mature grief. The structure of the Immortality Ode is also unique in Wordsworth's work; unlike his characteristically fluid, naturally spoken monologues, the Ode is written in a lilting, songlike cadence with frequent shifts in rhyme scheme and rhythm. Further, rather than progressively exploring a single idea from start to finish, the Ode jumps from idea to idea, always sticking close to the central scene, but frequently making surprising moves, as when the speaker begins to address the "Mighty Prophet" in the eighth stanza--only to reveal midway through his address that the mighty prophet is a six-year-old boy. Wordsworth's linguistic strategies are extraordinarily sophisticated and complex in this Ode, as the poem's use of metaphor and image shifts from the register of lost childhood to the register of the philosophic mind. When the speaker is grieving, the main tactic of the poem is to offer joyous, pastoral nature images, frequently personified--the lambs dancing as to the tabor, the moon looking about her in the sky. But when the poet attains the philosophic mind and his fullest realization about memory and imagination, he begins to employ far more subtle descriptions of nature that, rather than jauntily imposing humanity upon natural objects, simply draw human characteristics out of their natural presences, referring back to human qualities from earlier in the poem. So, in the final stanza, the brooks "fret" down their channels, just as the child's mother "fretted" him with kisses earlier in the poem; they trip lightly just as the speaker "tripped lightly" as a child; the Day is new-born, innocent, and bright, just as a child would be; the clouds "gather round the setting sun" and "take a sober coloring," just as mourners at a funeral (recalling the child's playing with some fragment from "a mourning or a funeral" earlier in the poem) might gather soberly around a grave. The effect is to illustrate how, in the process of imaginative creativity possible to the mature mind, the shapes of humanity can be found in nature and vice-versa. (Recall the "music of humanity" in "Tintern Abbey.") A flower can summon thoughts too deep for tears because a flower can embody the shape of human life, and it is the mind of maturity combined with the memory of childhood that enables the poet to make that vital and moving connection.

Californian Group (9/16)

Analysis - Intimations of Immortality is a long ode by William Wordsworth. It is deeply philosophical and discusses how children see the world as new and exciting, but over time adults see it as tiresome and sad. Some themes are inspired by Platonic Philosophy (Wikipedia), specifically the idea of pre-existence and an afterlife. The work is written with Iambic stresses, which gives it a rhythmic feel and as a result it has been applied to music several times.

In the first stanza, Wordsworth describes how when he was young e saw everything as beautiful and magical. In the second he reminds himself that rainbows and roses are still beautiful but then says that he feels they have lost some their magic. In Stanza 3, he feels that no grief can destroy the beauty of nature. He briefly glimpses nature's beauty in Stanza 4, but it seems to fade beyond that.

In stanzas 5 and 6, Wordsworth looks deeper. He says that 'Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting...', meaning that people descend from heaven when they are born. At first they remember the glory of heaven, but they begin to forget, and by the time they are young adults they have lost this understanding in trifling themselves with more earthly matters.

In stanza 7 Wordsworth observes a child mimicking an adult, and in stanza 8 and 9 he asks the child why he imitates that which he will have to become someday, losing his precious childhood innocence.

In the ninth stanza Wordsworth celebrates childhood and his memories of it. He says that they continue to inspire him to study the world with a philosopher's eye.

In the tenth stanza, he is realy, really, really happy. He calls out animals to share his joy. In the eleventh stanza, he says that his adult mind enables him to love nature and natural beauty, and contemplate on how wonderful these things seem to children.

Intimations of Immortality has been called Wordsworth's 'mature masterpiece'.

Title - The title indicates closeness with immortality. This is oxymoronic because immortality is a very alien concept to humans. This returns back to inspiration from Platonic philosophy, where there is a pre-existence and an afterlife.

Situation/Setting - Wordsworth's mind, and an unidentified natural setting (where he sees the child and is reminded of his childhood curiosity).

Themes - growing up, wisdom of children, Platonic philosophy, loss of innocence and appreciation of nature and natural beauty.

Tone/Connotation - At first the poem is positive, but then its sad, and then philosophical, and then happy again. Wordsworth uses complex and 'glowing' language to add a magical emphasis to that which he describes as beautiful.

Form/Rhyme - It is an ode, in iambic stress pentameter, which gives it a rhythmic feel, which may be the reason it has been put to music on several occasions.

Symbolism/Imagery - Wordsworth uses quite a bit of imagery in this poem. He creates a vision of nature through the innocent eyes of a child. Wordsworth uses symbols of the rainbow and the rose to represent the beauty of nature which is often overlooked by adults.

Response - This poem made us all reflect deeply on the loss of innocence at the dawn of adulthood. We were all impressed by the depth and length of Wordsworth's wisdom and poetic communication. Upon close examination it becomes clear that Wordsworth's poems are more than a jumble of big words.