Discuss the presentation of childhood in any two poems of William Wordsworth.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The most famous poem in which William Wordsworth makes a powerful statement about childhood in general is his lyric "The Rainbow."  Wordsworth was a Nature poet who worshipped Nature as his God. For Wordsworth, Nature was his main source of spirtual comfort  and escape from all the cares of this world. His association with life giving and life sustaining Nature began even when he was only a child and remained with him till his death.

In this short lyric, the 'rainbow' symbolizes the life sustaining and life nourishing goodness of Nature. The sight of the beautiful rainbow which he saw when he was only a child is deeply etched in his memory and the same joy that he experienced when he saw it as a child continues to remain with him through his adulthood. He desires that this same childhood joy should continue to sustain him even in his old age. Wordsworth says that he would rather die than not being able to experience the same joy that he experienced when he saw the rainbow when he was a small boy after he becomes an old man.

The memory of the beautiful rainbow and its pleasant associations form the link between his childhood, adulthood and his old age:past, present and future. Wordsworth concludes the poem by expressing the desire that each day of his existence be linked with the next by beautiful and simple natural sights like the rainbow.

The childhood experiences become the foundation for all adult experiences. It is the childhood of a person which shapes and thus 'fathers' or creates the mature adult.  So, "The Child Is the Father of the Man."

Another famous poem in which he discusses the theme of childhood is "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."Although Wordsworth has entitled his poem 'ode' its actually a combination of both the qualities of the ode and the elegy. Even though he says, "Heaven lies about us in our infancy!" the entire poem is suffused with an elegiac strain:

"But yet I know, where'er I go,

That there hath pass'd away a glory from the earth."

However, Wordsworth is careful enough not to allow the poem to become maudlin and concludes by reconciling both the elegy and the ode:

"What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind."

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