Ode: Intimations of Immortality - Poem

Poem

The ode contains 11 stanzas split into three movements. The first movement is four stanzas long and discusses the narrator's inability to see the divine glory of nature, the problem of the poem. The second movement is four stanzas long and has a negative response to the problem. The third movement is three stanzas long and contains a positive response to the problem. The ode begins by contrasting the narrator's view of the world as a child and as a man, with what was once a life interconnected to the divine fading away:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more. (lines 1–9)

In the second and third stanzas, the narrator continues by describing his surroundings and various aspects of nature that he is no longer able to feel. He feels as if he is separated from the rest of nature until he experiences a moment that brings about feelings of joy that are able to overcome his despair:

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; (lines 22–26)

The joy in stanza III slowly fades again in stanza IV as the narrator feels like there is "something that is gone". As the stanza ends, the narrator asks two different questions to end the first movement of the poem. Though they appear to be similar, one asks where the visions are now ("Where is it now") while the other doesn't ("Whither is fled"), and they leave open the possibility that the visions could return:

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? (lines 52–57)

The second movement begins in stanza V by answering the question of stanza IV by describing a Platonic system of pre-existence. The narrator explains how humans start in an ideal world that slowly fades into a shadowy life:

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; (lines 58–70)

Before the light fades away as the child matures, the narrator emphasises the greatness of the child experiencing the feelings. By the beginning of stanza VIII, the child is described as a great individual, and the stanza is written in the form of a prayer that praises the attributes of children:

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 for ever 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; (lines 108–117)

The end of stanza VIII brings about the end of a second movement within the poem. The glories of nature are only described as existing in the past, and the child's understanding of morality is already causing them to lose what they once had:

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! (lines 129–131)

The questions in Stanza IV are answered with words of despair in the second movement, but the third movement is filled with joy. Stanza IX contains a mixture of affirmation of life and faith as it seemingly avoids discussing what is lost. The stanza describes how a child is able to see what others do not see because children do not comprehend mortality, and the imagination allows an adult to intimate immortality and bond with his fellow man:

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. (lines 164–170)

The children on the shore represents the adult narrator's recollection of childhood, and the recollection allows for an intimation of returning to that mental state. In stanza XI, the imagination allows one to know that there are limits to the world, but it also allows for a return to a state of sympathy with the world lacking any questions or concerns:

The Clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won. (lines 199–202)

The poem concludes with an affirmation that, though changed by time, the narrator is able to be the same person he once was:

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. (lines 203–206)

Read more about this topic:  Ode: Intimations Of Immortality

Famous quotes containing the word poem:

    The poem is the cry of its occasion,
    Part of the res itself and not about it.
    Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)

    The poem of the mind in the act of finding
    What will suffice. It has not always had
    To find: the scene was set; it repeated what
    Was in the script.
    Then the theatre was changed
    To something else. Its past was a souvenir.
    Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)

    This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
    Look at it talking to you.
    John Ashbery (b. 1927)