Analysis of William Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

“Heaven lies about us in our infancy” 
William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

The poet William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) believes that every human being is a sojourner in the mortal world, whereas his real home being heaven. In fact, the poet starts with the major premise that men descend form God. To Wordsworth, God was everywhere manifest in the harmony of nature, and he felt deeply the kinship between nature and the soul of humankind. Man has his soul which knows no decay and destruction. But as one is born, one begins to be confined within the flesh. The soul, bound in his body, can not liberate in his infancy. He trails the clouds of glory, the glory of heaven from which he emanates:
"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."

 Of course, as he grows up, he seems to keep away more and more from the radiance of his original home:
                        “Shades of the prison house being to clear
                          Upon the growing Boy..”

Nevertheless, he still visualizes the divine light and luster and that makes him filled with joy.

The poet is quite an old man. He recollects the experiences of his childhood. When he was a child, he was as if a sun smiling in the east. But that he is now bent with age, he seems to be a sun on the wane in the west.Though the poet stands far away from east and looks rather pale, the celestial light of heaven is perceived by him faintly. :
“The youth, who daily farther from the east
Must trail, still in Nature’s priest,
And by the vision splendid,

Is on his way attended.”
The fact is that to grow in age is to have one’s bond with heaven appears to be one of oblivion – “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.” At this, point the poet refers to a boy of six. Probably he is Heartley, Coleridge’s son. It is in the boy that the poet discovers his own childhood. The boy has his toy which he arranges in his own way, and lies asleep in their midst – “See, where med work of his own hand he lies.” His mother kisses him, giving expression her unrestrained love for the child, while the Childs father appreciates the sight with his eyes defusing the diffusing ways of joy:
“I retted by sallies of his mother’s kisses.
With light upon him from his father’s eyes.”   

The child imitates the adults around him. So, his game is concerned with the conventional functions performed by the common people:
 “A wedding or festival
A mourning or a funeral
And this now his heart
And unto this he frames his song.”

The child gradually learns the art of speaking imitating the adults being around him. Instead of singing the glory of God, the child, when grows up speaks of trade and commerce:
“Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife.”

Here Wordsworth seems of to keep in mind the Shakespearean adage that “The world is a stage.” Child is an actor imitating the gesture of his parent and other grown up person, and the acting goes on from childhood down to the old age marked by fever and fret:
“Filling from time to time his humorous stage
With all the persons down to palsied Age”

The world is not the real mother of man. She is but his foster mother. Heaven, ‘that imperial palace’ is his true mother. Since man is brought up by his foster mother who lacks refinement, though not sincerity, the material objects attract his mind and the result is that he begins to forget his divine heritage, his original abode:
“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.”

What Wordsworth says about the development of man on earth has much affinity with Blake’s division of man’s life into too phases- the phase of ‘Innocence ‘and the phases of ‘Experience’. Blake things that when one have imagination at one’s commend, one becomes visionary, and truth stands revealed to him. This is the phase of ‘Innocence’. But when imagination deserts man, he is reduced to one suffering from spiritual blinds. He becomes unable to discern the way of God to man. That the phase of ‘Experience’ Wordsworth, almost in the same vein, distinguishes between childhood and adulthood. The child is, according to Wordsworth, the best philosopher:
 “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. ”

Indeed, Wordsworth thinks that the child is the mighty prophet, the seer blessed. But Blake does not say that ‘innocence’ is the monopoly of the child. It is his idea that when man or a child or an adult, has imagination at his command, he is in a state ‘innocence’. But Wordsworth excludes those who are far beyond their childhood. Blake lays stress on imagination, whereas Wordsworth advocates the advantage of remaining a child.

Coleridge does not agree with Wordsworth on the point that a child is a natural philosopher – a phenomenon endowed with penetrating vision. Coleridge says unless one is well-read one can not be a true philosopher. But whatever Coleridge may say, Wordsworth’s ‘ode’ asserts its claim to immortality. Poetry is, says Wordsworth, the most philosophical of all writings and this ‘ode’ amply confirms the validity of the observation. It Wordsworth is a poet, he has per-eminently a leaning to philosophy, and this is what makes the ‘ode’ a metaphysical composition about man’s withdrawal from Heaven with the bass age of time.