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Analysis of Ode of Intimations of Immortality by William Wordsworth

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The Romantic period was a strong literary movement characterized by new ideas and thoughts. Poems played a large role during this time as a route for individuals to present their beliefs through an elevated level of writing. The main themes portrayed in the poems included nature and beauty, revolutionary movements, and the power of imagination and personal ideas. Following the Enlightenment period, this was quite a contrast. The previous movement had been centered around knowledge and philosophical teachings. It was dominated by the desire for new ideas and reasoning behind the world and the way in which everything is. The Romantic Era focused on the flaws that the Enlightenment looked past. Prior to this period, people were filling their minds with books and knowledge thinking that this was the goal of man to learn all he can of the world. However, individuals began to realize that not everything in life can be taught through books, but a person must experience it for themselves. The main theme of the Romantic Era was striving for opportunities and goals, even ones that are impossible to accomplish. Many individuals chose to express themselves through poetry that brought out their ideas. One of these elegantly written poems was an Ode on Intimations of Immortality written by William Wordsworth. The poem aptly fits during the time period it was written in because it expresses meaning and insight about the changes from youth to manhood through metaphors and devices.

William Wordsworth was a famous Romanticism author that wrote many well-known poems including the Ode of Intimations of Immortality. He received a high level of education at a young age but was most impacted by the amount of time spent outdoors. In the Romantic Era, nature represents a source of rejuvenation and restoration of the soul, which Wordsworth experienced in his life and used in his poetry. Wordsworth concentrated greatly on his surroundings, as is seen in his in-depth details of nature throughout his poems. In his early years, he was a strong sympathizer towards the French even though his native country was England, which spurred his poetry towards rebellious topics. His topics switched whenever he became partners with Samuel Coleridge and began writing more meaningful poems. He “is a poet who radicalized the poetic experience in its content, method and purpose, and who posited truth as the ultimate raison d’etre of thought and of the poetic act: ‘poetry is the most philosophical of all writing’” (O’Dwyer). He lived during a time when revolutions and desires to change the norm of society took place. The church, that had been in control for so long, was crumbling because people wanted a voice and different rules governing them. People questioned everything around them due to their desire of making the world a better place and replacing the old ways with new and improved methods. Throughout this transition, Wordsworth desired to show that philosophy and poetry go hand-in-hand. “Focusing upon personal experience and an increase in self-consciousness, Wordsworth’s poetry is an analysis of the past by the present” (O’Dwyer). He wanted to use his poetry to show the heart of man and what desires and beliefs are held inside. Wordsworth believed that external experiences played a large role in the mental and spiritual aspect of a person. “Such an alliance of the inner life with the outer world is at the heart of Wordsworth’s descriptions of nature” (Nichols). Because of this, he used nature all throughout his works.

The Ode of Intimations of Immortality is a poem about childhood from a man’s perspective. He is looking back on life concerning all the beliefs and connections he held once, but are gone now. The poem starts off bright as seen in his childhood, but becomes dark and dreary referencing his life and having to grow up. His connection with nature as a child was strong, due to the fact that he spent most of his days outdoors, but growing up, he gradually stopped. This ultimately severed a small tie with nature he once held. Throughout the poem, the author uses many details and imagery in order for the reader to feel like they are in his shoes and going through his life story. This particular poem of Wordsworth’s, is written in the format of a song with altering lines and stanzas that rhyme. The desire of the speaker is to return to his youth and uncover immortality along with it, “That man will discover his immortality by remembering aspects of his childhood” (Davidson). There are many religious ties in the poem based on the author’s beliefs and upbringing. The speaker refers to the baby being close to God and coming from “clouds of glory” which was our previous home. When the child is born, the world begins to feel like a prison, where it is entrapped and unable to go back to its previous life in Heaven. “The poem contends that infancy is also closer to a prior heavenly existence, the memory of which will fade as the infant develops” (Freer).The poem continues by explaining that the mother attempts to clear the baby’s mind of the things that it used to know before being born, including its Heavenly home, because otherwise it would long for the things unseen. These bright beginnings follow the child from birth through childhood, but gradually they fade away as adulthood draws nearer. The speaker introduces each new stage of life for a child but in a negative tone as though they limit the person and eventually imprison them. Through each new step, the speaker goes through trials but is focused on his previous state and attempting to return to it. The entire goal for the individual is to find himself and go through life strong with his beliefs. He must leave behind the foolishness of childhood, but also bring along the memories of simpler, brighter times. The name of the poem is important because Wordsworth wanted to convey the idea the immortality is not achievable but only an intimation or allusion. At a point, the speaker desired to go back to his infant ways of childhood, but in the end realizes that is necessary for the experiences of adulthood to go through growing up. From early ages, children desire to be all grown up and everyone has an internal notion to learn and mature, “the child strives for development” (Freer). Everyone goes from birth to death and completes the cycle of life, with no possible ways to alter reality. Spiritual things will not perish but remain with him and stay constant all throughout the speaker’s life. This is important because everything else in his life changed except for his beliefs, which upheld him. He ends the poem in a joyous manner of praise and exaltation. “To me the meanest flower that blows can give thoughts that do often be too deep for tears.” The poem is wrapped up with the speaker finding strength in nature. The importance of this is that as a child, people are closer and connected with nature, but the struggles and difficulties of life begin to pull them away as they age. However, the speaker noticed the detachment from nature the older he got, but in the end he went back to his roots.

The poem’s central focus is on the youth of a man and how everyone must go through life, especially the difficulties, and leave behind childhood regardless of whether it is desired or not. It is necessary to go through trials because it teaches individuals. Life may seem to start of bright and eventually turn dark, but it is a different perspective and trying to keep the innocence and beliefs of a child. There are many references to nature in the poem, tying it back to the Romantic Era. This poem accurately depicts the movement of Romanticism because it depicts nature as a source of renewal and life. The speaker is also striving for immortality, which is beyond anyone’s reach or abilities. It goes further to show that life is not just about the knowledge attained by books but through real life experiences and falling in order to know what works so the individual can get back up and try harder. Throughout the poem, readers can see examples from the Romantic Era along with personal beliefs from the author elegantly written so as to bring to the surface a specific point desired. 

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