Ode on Intimation of Immortality

Posted: July 21, 2006 in Literature

“The child is the father of the ManAnd I could wish my days to be
Bound each my natural piety”

Wordsworth, the high priest of nature in his one of the master works ‘Ode on Intimation of Immortality’ deals with the immortal memoirs of childhood. The poem is considered as one of the finest odes ever written in English literature. The majesty, the grandeur and the serenity of poem have been the objects of admiration and wonder by all the readers who have read this piece-de-resistance. The gentle melancholy on the past days leave a pleasing pain of nostalgia in listeners’ heart. On running after the lines, we reach somewhere in past; holding the hands of memories, we go back to the innocence and each mind would say ‘we had a nice time’. Now “The things which I have seen I now see no more”.Now that the spring is in the air.The ode unfolds into two parts–the first four stanzas seem to stand apart from the rest of the poem.



There was a time in Wordsworth’s child hood when to him every ordinary object of nature appeared clad in heavenly luxe. In the period of childhood the feeling of spirituality and divinity is pretty high. As man grows in years in feelings of spirituality disappears gradually and man is lost in materialism.

“As length the man perceives a dies away
And fade into the light of the common day”

The poet regrets that those glorious imprints are not so fresh and same existing beauty in the object of Nature. During his childhood all the beauties of the nature the meadow, the woods, the streams, thrilled him with joy and they all seemed to be enveloped in ethereal beauty. But now at his advanced age he misses it. All the things are same and as beautiful as ever but the charm has lost to the poet. Though he hears the voice of nature which invite him to join the feast, the over ruling sadness through which he sees that the particular tree and the field are now like the seasons have all gone, presents him with a sense of lost.


“I hear, I hear, with joy I hear…
…speak of something that is gone”

There is a certain abruptness in the opening of the V stanza. Here the poet abruptly turns into the philosophy of reminiscence. This abruption is because of the four years of intervell he had taken to come back to this poem. He says the the child has a more exalted vision than man. The baby brings with a heavenly glory that would totally fade away for the time being. In childhood we are nearest to the heaven and in manhood farthest away. Even the earth herself does her best to make him forget the glories of heaven. The child keeps a communion with the celestial light. Here he is considered as a mighty Prophet-“Mighty poet! Seer blest!/On whom those truths do rest”-whose glorification and association with the divine spirit is purely grounded in Platonism which says that the human soul before it comes to the earth lived in glorious heaven of ideas and that it loses the memory of heaven when it is born on earth.

“Our birth is but a sleep and forgetting
The soul that rises with us , our life’s star,
Hath had else where its setting
And cometh from afar”

The poem is psychologically composed. Here Wordsworth tells us that God is our home and we had come from this home. We all, in the form of the child bring with us the heavenly glory. This glory gets fainter and fainter in the boyhood. It gets still more fainted in our youth and it finally altogether fade away in the manhood.

“Shades the prison house begin to close
Upon the growing boy”

The child retains something of his heavenly heritage. Hence he is the best philsopher the Eye among the Blind, the seer, and the prophet. The sense of immortality is present in the child and in the livest manner. It broods over him like a spiritual influence. How strange it is that the same child gives up this heavenly bliss amid freedom and blindly enters into the struggle for existence.

It gives joy to Wordsworth that in our ashes there still exists some spark of heavenly flame and that we still remember the experience of childhood. The poet is a blest when he meditates on his past years because he is conscious of the existence of spiritual things. The vision of spiritual things helps us to realize that the years we spend on the earth are only moments in the vast space of eternity.

“Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither”

The poet feels that his joy is as genuine as that of other created things he blended with sorrow. And as his joy is accomplished by a philosophical note, it is a joy of a higher quality. Though far from loving the Objects of Nature, the poet feels their sovereign power over his heart. He has relinquished only one delight namely the glory and the dream of boyhood, but he has lived in a constant communion with nature, to him the brooks, the dawn, the sunset are as beautiful as ever and even the obscurest in nature has the power to move the poet to his inmost depths.

“To me the meanest flowers that blow can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears”

The poem represents two stages in Wordsworth’s attitude towards nature. In the IV stanza the poet feels a sense of lost for nature. It seems to him that nature has lost glory for him.The mood is represented in the following four lines:

“The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat;
Wither is fled the visionary gleam?
Wither is it now, the glory and the dream?”

The loss of the vision is restored in the concluding stanza of the poem where the poet says:

“I love the brooks which down their channel fret,
Even more than when I triped lightly as they;
The innocent brightness of a new born days is lovely yet;
To me the meanest…”

The presentation of child life in the Ode is psychologically true though its philosophical aspect may not be admitted by many readers. The imitative instinct in child life is presented by the poet in the VII stanza of the poem. The child is interested in a variety of things connected with human life. It was pointed out that the poet had presented an idealistic picture of childhood which could not be warranted by facts of expereience. Wordsworth examines this criticism and in the concluding part of the poem he brought some modifications in the theory that the life of the child was one of the glories which advance human beings could not enjoy. He made concessions for old age and the philosophic mind that comes to them. Though the old recollections of spirituality, which a child enjoys, cannot be enjoyed by a grown up persons, yet they need not be sorry for all that, because in advanced age we can have advantage which are denied to child in his infancy, the philosophic aspect of human life which cannot be found in the period of childhood. The Ode summarizes briefly the essence of Wordsworth’s philosophy. Earthly interests drive us farther and farther from the divine home from which we have come. But in calm moments we have a vision of the source of beauty and power, from which we have come. The child has more of the glimpses of the divine home than the adult man. The child is thus wiser than man; and we should therefore endeavour to continue to partake in child’s simple joys and delights.

Arnold critisises Wordsworth’s immortality ode as wanting in poetic truth. He considers that theory which Wordsworth propounds in that famous ode however, true of himself as a child, is in itself extremely doubtful.

The work is no doubt philosophic in its intend but it should not be judged purely from its philosophic object. It is a great work of art. Its majesty and dignity are unsurpassed. The diction like the meter is not with the note of majesty and dignity. The varied language of the ode as touches of splendour and of magic about them. In this ode the poet’s gift for lyrical and so metaphysical verse becomes perfect. It is rightly considered as one of the finest odes that Wordsworth has contributed to English poetry. While going through this poem one feels that Wordsworth may be trying to reveal mankind the essence of childhood. In short it enshrines the teaching of Christ “Suffer not the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven;Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. Hence the significance of this poem is also clarified in biblical terms.

Copyright ©2007 Arun Chullikkal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

  1. ELIZABETH says:

    Hi da

  2. kilikkunju says:

    enthinum oru limit ille

  3. smith a n says:

    really great……!!!

  4. IeriWinner_56

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  5. sky says:

    Thank you for this comment….you’re great!!!

  6. Very useful and informative blog. Recommended for all to see.

  7. shunammite says:

    I just fell in love with Wordsworth today. I’m American and of course heard of him in school. Sometimes I think what you hear in school is intended to make sure you never seriously consider a thing. Just as what you hear in religion is intended to be sure you never think of God. Your comment is the closest I have read, after searching diligently online…to what I felt…when I read the Ode. Amazing how the Soul can cross any boundary. I wish I could read other languages.

  8. […] back ground. All I had was my flavor to language and literature. My first article was on “Ode on Intimation of Immortality” by William Wordsworth, which was inspired by the response received to Blessens “Are your […]

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