5/23/2019

"Intimation of Immortality ode" by Wordsworth : Critical Appreciation.


Introduction: Wordsworth's View of Nature
The theme of the poem is the contrast between the rapture of the poet's earlier contract with nature, and his more sober and meditative enjoyment of her in his maturer years. The poet begins by telling us that he used to enjoy the various objects of nature through the senses in his childhood. This is to say, that he appreciated the familiar objects of nature, like the meadow, the grove, and the steam for their sound, colour or sight. Referring to this he says:

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 dream.

The poet, during his childhood, did not read any deeper or inner meaning into nature. He loved and admired nature for its external
beauty or outward loveliness. He had not experienced any human suffering; nor had he developed a serious and sober attitude towards life then. He was content to take delight in the sound and colour of beautiful objects of nature.

He began to Enjoy Nature in a more Sober and Reflective Manner when he Advanced in Years
The poet began to enjoy nature in a more sober and reflective anner as he advanced in years. Instead of appreciating nature sensuously (through the senses) he began to read a moral and a spiritual meaning into nature. This is to say, he felt that nature had a message for him. Nature could convey to him great truths which had remained hidden from him during the period of his childhood. Referring to this fact, he says in the last stanza of the poem.

I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your habitual sway.
…………………...………………….
……………………………………….
The clouds that gather the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eve
That hath kept watch over man's mortality
Another race hath been, and other palms are own.

In the above-quoted lines, the poet refers to the difference between his enjoyment of nature in his earlier and maturer years. He
suggests that in his manhood he goes to nature in a different mood. His appreciation of nature is more sober, refined, and restrained. He has been pondering over the fact that man is mortal and thus, the setting sun reminds him of the mortality of man.

A little further in the same stanza (XI) he says that he can perceive something nobler or and wiser even in the humble andncommon-place objects of nature.

To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

Its Central Idea and its Lack of Universal Appeal
The poem contains a metaphysical doctrine, i.e., the theory that the memories of our childhood inform us of a life before birth and therefore of the immortality of soul. The truth of the doctrine cannot be verified by us from our experiences. Thus the poem lacks that universal appeal which is necessary for its enjoyment by the average reader. It may be mentioned, however, that Wordsworth himself does not assert doctrine of reminiscence to be true. He took hold of it as having sufficient foundation in humanity and therefore worthy of being used by a poet.

The Idealization of the Child
idealization of the child though defensible on the ground of the purity and innocence of childhood is not justified on the ground of its spirituality or prophetic quality, To address the child as a 'mighty prophet', 'seer blest ', 'best philosopher' is too much. Coleridge also criticized the poem on this account. The address to childhood, though full of sincerity and feeling, has no reality about it.

The Psychology of the Child
Wordsworth has very vividly described the psychology of the child. The child is an imitator, an actor who performs all parts, who
copies every action and gesture that he sees.

Autobiographical Element

The poem is mainly autobiographical and reminiscent of the poet's past life. The radiance and glory of nature, which he declares as having seen in his childhood, were a part of his own personal experience, while he also felt the unreality of the outward objects to which he refers. We have his own statement in support of this.

Lyrical Element
Although the Ode contains a metaphysical doctrine, yet there is in it a deep and sincere personal emotion which gives it a lyrical character. The first four stanzas in which the poet expresses his sense of loss and the last two stanzas where he refers to the compensations which make him happy are intensely emotional and possess a musical quality. Thus the Ode becomes a happy blending of thought and emotion, of doctrine and poetry and of meditation and melody. Metaphysical poetry reaches its height here because of its singing quality and lyric intensity. "In this Ode, the author's gifts for lyrical and for metaphysical verse become perfect and are for once united". Notice the melody, emotion, sincerity and simplicity of the following lines:

It is now as it hath been of yore
Turn wheresoever I may
By night or day
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.

A Moral View
A moral view has been expressed in the Ode. The poet refers to human suffering which he has witnessed and the sympathy which he feels for his fellow human-beings.

The Sober Close
The sober close of this great Ode has been compared to the close of a splendid evening. In other words, the reflective mood of the poet deepens in the last stanza. No one, can remain untouched by the restful and soothing effect of the music at the close.

Style
The poet has used such rhythmic and effective phrases that many words of the poem are now commonly employed in the English language. A really gifted author alone can make such phrases-'the glory and the freshness of a dream', 'shades of the prison-house', 'our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting’, 'the light of common day", 'custom heavy as frost and deep as life', thoughts too deep for tears'. As a matter of fact, the words used to express thoughts and emotions in this poem are very appropriate. The grander of language befits the grander of the theme. There is, thus, a perfect harmony between thought and expression. "Words, thought and music are woven into a perfect whole". The poet has cast aside the artificial, stale language of the eighteen century.

Defects in the Poem
According to some critics, the poem suffers from four defects:

(1) There is a sudden transition in thought after the first four stanzas of the poem. The reason is obvious because the first four stanzas were written in 1803 whereas the last seven in 1806.

(2) The poem verges on the sentimental where the poet idealizes the child by calling him "mighty prophet" and "seer blest".
Very few thinkers now-a-days agree with the poet in the truth of this statement. It appears very absurd to believe that a child has a deeper insight into external nature and understands its significance better than a grown-up person.

(3) The poem dwells too long on the idea of pre-existence. This fact mars the unity of thought.

(4) The poem is out of harmony with the spirit of true nature.

Conclusion
Whether we agree or not with the philosophical views expressed by the poet in this poem, we have to admit that this Ode is his supreme lyrical achievement. His personal feelings find a natural inspired, and spontaneous expression in this Ode. According to Saintsbury, "this poem is, if not in every smallest detail, yet as a whole perfect and immortal. It could not have been written better”.

Emerson called this poem, "the high water-mark of poetry in the neteenth century". C. H. Herford says about this poem: "In this Ode he wrestles with the fact that the rapturous vision of his own childhood has faded; but finds that maturity has its compensation in the obstinate questionings, in quickened human sympathy, and in the growth of the philosophic mind". Douglas Bush makes the following ment on this poem: "The poet begins with a lament for his loss of sensuous experience, a loss that seems to leave him a dead thing in a world of life and beauty; but he goes on to recognize compensation age has brought his growth in maturity and humanity, his deeper understanding of man's joys and sorrows and of the oneness of man and nature"

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