Critically Analysis of 'Ode to Intimations of Immortality' by William Wordsworth, and Literary Devices with Textual References.



William Wordsworth (1770-1850) is one of the most famous poets of the romantic era. He was a poet of the Lake District and a 'Poet of Nature'. Wordsworth's "Ode to Intimations of Immortality" was written in 1804 and published in 1807. This poem is consisting of 208 lines which are divided into eleven stanzas of various lengths and rhyme schemes. This poem is about growing up and losing one's connection to nature. The poet has a changed tone in every stanza. At some points, the poet is joyously celebrating the life around him, at other points, he is mourning what he lost and cannot find again.

Critical Analysis

In the first stanza, the poet begins with the description of the childhood world when all of nature seemed like a dream to him. To him, everything seemed to be covered in heavenly light. Those sights were wondrous for him. Nature appeared mystical to him but now that feeling has disappeared. He is lamenting the loss. He is unable to see the glory and freshness of his childhood dream. Now, the world is not so glorious and fascinating as it was in past. He has tried to experience the same feelings as he had in childhood but in no vain. The things which he used to see in the past can see no more now.

In the second stanza, the poet realizes that all the divine glory of nature has not left him, he can still experience the feelings of love towards nature. He confesses that though the natural objects like the rainbow, the rose, the moon, and the sun is still visible to him and he accepts that they are still beautiful but something is missing which does not seem like what he felt in the past.

The third stanza is seventeen lines long and makes use of a more complicated rhyme scheme than the first two stanzas. The poet says that the singing of the birds and the jumping of the lambs make him sad but this sadness does not last long, because the soul of nearby waterfalls, echoes of the mountains don't let him be sad. He is determined not to be depressed because it will spoil the beauty of nature in this season. In the end, he says that all the earth is happy because of that he urges strongly a shepherd boy to shout around him.

In the fourth stanza, the poet says that he has heard the call of blessed creatures; how they shout to one another, and how the world and heavens participate in the joy they create. He is fully ready to participate in the joy created by the blessed creatures. In lines seven and eight he declares that it would not be right if he keeps himself aloof in that season. He continues to be a part of the delight of the season. He declares it is impossible to feel sad on such a beautiful May morning, with children playing around him among the flowers. Although he is sharing the joys of the season, he says that when he sees a tree and a field which said to each other that something has gone. The same thing is made by a flower at his feet, he again feels that something is wrong. He wants to enjoy the beauty of nature but there is still something missing that keeps him from fully committing.

The fifth stanza is highly significant because it has the most emphatic and famous line of the poem: "Our birth is but asleep and a forgetting”. He says that in our infancy we have some memory of heaven but with our growth, the connection is lost. He adds that growing up is like entering into prison. The "Shades of the prison-house begin to close" as one leaves one's youth. The young man must travel closer from the east to the west (a metaphor for death). As the man gets older, the splendor of heaven disappears and fades in the light of common day.

In the sixth stanza, Wordsworth turns his attention to the earth and how it works as a mother to humankind. The earth is pure in its pursuits, none of its aims are unworthy. Besides being a mother, the earth is also a nurse to humanity. The poet says that as soon as we get to earth, she does all she can to make her foster child, an inmate man to forget the place they came from which; heaven.

In the seventh stanza, Wordsworth is looking at a six-year-old boy and imagines his life and the love that his parents feel for him. He describes how a young boy leaves nature because he has to deal with adulthood and a whole different kind of life. That is reflected when he sees the boy playing with some imitated fragment of adult life. He says that the child will learn from his experiences, but that he will spend most of his effort on imitation," and with new joy and pride, the little actor cons another part". In the end, the writer says that all life is an imitation.

In the eighth stanza, the poet continues to discuss the boy. He speaks directly to the child calling him a philosopher. He addresses the child as if he was a prophet of the lost truth.  It is only this boy and the others of this age, who have access to those truths which the older ones are toiling to find that time before birth in which everything was illuminated.  Besides, the poet cannot understand why the child, who is too close to heaven is restless to become an adult, why he is trying to provoke pain. It is going to be very soon in which this child completely loses access to the joys of the world. The poet is trying to warn him that soon his soul is going to weigh the world.

 The ninth stanza is the longest in the poem. It consists of thirty-nine lines. The speaker thinks of the past at the start of this stanza which he has lost and how intends to move forward. His past is remembered in nature. According to the poet's declaration, he experiences immerse joy, realizing that through memory he will always be able to connect to his childhood and through his childhood to nature. He says that we should be thankful to God for all the blessings we have. In the last part of the stanza, the speaker adds that nothing can abolish the soul, it is eternal, no matter what is the season or difficulty of the present, no matter how far there is a connection to the pre-life world of heaven. Our souls have sight of that immortal sea that brought us here to live on earth. In the end, he asks to see the children playing on the seashore and listen to the burbles.

In the second last stanza, the speaker is happy, because of that he urges the birds to sing a song of joy and urges all the creatures to participate in what he says to feel the gladness of the May. He confesses that growing out of his childhood, there is some loss of the glory of nature but he feels comfort due to the thought that he has been with nature all the years because he has a lot of recollections of his childhood with nature so he can feel the joy like he felt before.

The last stanza of the poem starts with an address to the landscape. He feels the might of these places and loves them for it. He knows now so much than he did as a child. The speaker accepts that nature gives support to everything in his life. It is the stem of everything. It brings him insight and fills his memories and his belief that his soul is never going to die, it is immortal.  Wordsworth claims that he will in love with it until he dies. The last lines are a lovely conclusion. The meanest or smallest and least significant flower and stir up in him deep and moving thoughts.

Literary Devices

Wordsworth makes use of several literary devices in 'Ode to intimations of immortality'. These techniques include assonance, anaphora, alliteration, consonance, imagery, symbolism, metaphor, personification, and apostrophe.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel or diphthong sounds in one or more words found close together. There are numerous examples of assonance in this poem, a few of them are; the sound of /I/ in, "In years that bring the philosophic mind"(stanza 10, last line), the sound of /au/ in, " Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy"(3rd stanza, last line), the sound of /I/ in, "Doth the same tale repeat:"(stanza 4,3rd the last line), etc.

Wordsworth also makes use of anaphora in this poem. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines usually in succession. There are several examples in the poem such as lines that begin with "My"(4th stanza, 4th and 5th lines), "A"(stanza7, 2nd couplet), "And"(6th stanza's 2nd couplet, 7th stanza's 3rd couplet and stanza 9 last lines), "Ye" (4th stanza's 1st couplet and stanza 10 5th,6th lines), "Are yet"(stanza 9,12th couplet) and "In"(stanza 10, last lines). There is also a great example at the end of the poem where the two lines start with the phrase "Thanks to".

Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of multiple words in a series. For example, the sound of /s/ in, "Then sing, ye birds, sing, sing a joyous song"(Stanza 10, 1st line), the sound of /h/ in, "My head hath its coronal"(stanza 4, 5th line), the sound of /t/ in, "Filling from time to time his humorous stage"(stanza 7,13th line), and the sound of/f/ in, "Some fragment from his dream of human life,"(stanza7,1st line), etc.

Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. This device has been used many times in this poem such as; sound of/n/ in, "The innocent brightness of a new-born Day"(stanza11,8th line), the sound of /t/ in, "Waters on a starry night"(second stanza's 5th line) the sound of/r/ in, "where it is now, the glory and the dream?"(Stanza4, last line), etc.

Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Similarly, the poet of this poem has also used imagery in various stanzas to make readers perceive things. For example," The Rainbow comes and goes,"(2nd stanza,1st line), "Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own,"(stanza 6,1st line), "Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower”, (stanza10,11th line), "There was a time when meadow, grove and stream"(stanza 1, line1) and “waters on a starry night are beautiful and fair"(stanza 2, line 5 and 6)  

Symbolism is used to convey the hidden meaning to the writer or listener. It suggests more than the literal meaning. William Wordsworth has also used symbolism to convey his message to his readers. For instance, Shades (stanza5, line 10) is a symbol for darkness and evil, and "Farther from the east"(stanza 5, line 14) is a symbol for life because the sun rises in the east and sets in the west which is the end of a day, just like the youth turns into old age.

 The metaphor has also been used in this poem. A metaphor is a comparison between two unlike things without using "like", "us" or "then". A few examples of metaphors used in this poem are; "The sunshine is a glorious birth"[stanza2, line7] ( comparison of sun's beauty to birth), "Cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;"[stanza3,line7](comparison of the waterfall to musicians),  " The soul that rises with us, our life's star"[stanza5,2nd line](comparison of the soul to a guiding star), " The youth who daily farther from the east"[stanza5, line14](comparison of youth to death )

Personification is another important literary technique that has been used in this poem to enhance the meaning of the poem. It attributes human-like qualities to things that are non-human such as animals or inanimate such as books and stones etc. For instance, " The moon doth with delight"[stanza2, line 3] (Poet compares the moon to a person who experiences delight), "Land and sea Give themselves up to jollity"[stanza3, line12,13] (these lines compare the land and sea to a jolly person). Similarly, in stanza 6 (lines1-8) earth has been compared with a woman in particular with a mother and nurse.

An apostrophe is a device in which the poet addresses an absent person, an abstract idea, or a thing as in this poem (stanza11, line1);" And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves," the poet addresses the fountains, meadows, hills, and groves.

Writer, Itrat Batool


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