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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

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Analyze the seventh stanza of Ode on Intimations of Immortality. Explain words by words and line by line.

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Wordsworth's poem centers on the notion of maturation and how "the child is the father of the man."  The seventh stanza concerns the speaker, presumably Wordsworth, looking at a six year old child and envisioning the life they are going to lead:

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,     
A six years' darling of a pigmy size!     
See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,     
Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,     
With light upon him from his father's eyes!      90

A young six year old child is the focus of Wordsworth’s attention in this stanza.  He describes the child’s “bliss,” or youth.  The child is doted on and loved by mother and father.

See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,     
Some fragment from his dream of human life,     
Shaped by himself with newly-learnèd art;

This child will follow the “predictable” course that most children fit into in order to be socially accepted (“some little plan or chart.”)  This force of conformity guides individual actions and while the boy might “shape” his destiny, the force of society and the need to assimilate is undeniable (“newly- learned art.”)   There is a “rush” for the child to grow up and become an adult and Wordsworth laments this leave of “bliss.”

A wedding or a festival,     
A mourning or a funeral;      95
And this hath now his heart,     
And unto this he frames his song:     
Then will he fit his tongue     
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;     

The child, playing an adult, will tend to the socially accepted responsibilities of being an adult in going to prescribed functions.  In the desire to conform and be accepted by the social forces of his day, he will guide his actions accordingly (“Then he will fit his tongue/ To dialogues of business, love, or strife.”)  Indeed, the child has assumed all “adult” responsibilities, and as he has grown up, he has become part of the social setting, losing his individuality.

But it will not be long     100
Ere this be thrown aside,     
And with new joy and pride     
The little actor cons another part;     
Filling from time to time his 'humorous stage'     
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,     105
That Life brings with her in her equipage;     
As if his whole vocation     
Were endless imitation.

Just as the child has pretended, adults who gear their actions to social acceptance, pretend as well (“As if his whole vocation/ Were endless limitation.”)   What the child pretends to be will actually become and in doing so will lose the uniqueness of childhood, purity, and innocence.

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