Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality

Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality

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Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality


The fifth stanza of Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” is especially interesting to me because of the images it presents. It is at this point in the poem that Wordsworth resumes his writing after a two-year hiatus. In the fourth stanza, he poses the question, “Whither is fled the visionary gleam?” Stanza five is the beginning of his own answers to that question. Contrary to popular enlightenment ideas, Wordsworth suggests that rather than become more knowledgeable with age, man if fact is born with “vision splendid” and as he ages, that vision “dies away” and he left empty.

This stanza is dominated by the Christian ideas of being made in God’s image. However, man does not remain in that image. His “birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,” and as his life progresses he moves farther and farther from the glorious ideal he had in childhood. Throughout much of his poetry, Wordsworth asserts that in childhood, one can “see” but is unaware of that ability, whereas in adulthood, one cannot see and is painfully aware of his situation. It is only through conscious thought and reflection that man can begin to find a state similar to his original one. The question, then, is why children, who take nature for granted, are given the opportunity to connect so closely with it. It would appear that the fact that children do not realize what they have is the very reason for their having it. Thus, the losing of that knowledge with age allows man to feel the loss, and forces him to find a solution, just as Wordsworth has done. In stanza ten, he tells the reader that the true essence of humanity is the ability to feel pain and have memories of better times. Through these painful or happy memories, man is able achieve the philosophical state of mind, and in the end to love nature “even more” than he did in youth.

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As Wordsworth works through his ideas in this ode, the message becomes clear: he would have never been able to reach the ideal of a philosophic mind hade he not first had a connection with nature and then lost it. It is only through dealing with the loss that he is able to fully appreciate what he had in the first place.
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