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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

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How does "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" reveal Wordsworth's mysticism and beliefs?

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In this poem, Wordsworth expresses his belief that life on earth is but an echo of a more pure and profound heavenly experience we had before birth and that we remember vaguely as children. Later, as we mature, we forget his experience and move further from the divine source. He writes in the ode that

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting . . . / Not in entire forgetfulness / . . . But trailing clouds of glory do we come / From God, who is our home.

This connects to Wordsworth's belief stated in "My Heart Leaps Up" that

The child is father of the man

because the child has a "natural piety" that adults lose as the cares of the world press on them.

Mysticism means a direct, unmediated experience of God, one that does not rely on the intercession of priests or religious institutions. Wordsworth says in this poem that he had such mystical experiences as a child interacting with nature. He writes that:

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light
Wordsworth once saw God in all the natural sights around him. He can't feel the divine in nature the way he did as a child, and this is a loss to him. As he says, as a mature person,
there hath past away a glory from the earth.
Nevertheless, as is often the case with Wordsworth, memory keeps him connected to the divine source and offers solace. His memories of childhood, when God infused the landscape, are a balm as he grows older:
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day
Wordsworth both mourns the passing of his childhood connection with the divine but is immensely grateful for the memory of it as it keeps him, in a mystical way, connected with the godhead.

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