person smiling and standing with arms and legs outstretched surrounded by colored shapes

Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

Start Free Trial

In the “Intimations Ode,” Wordsworth attempts to reconcile the loss of the “visionary gleam” of childhood with the growth of the “philosophic mind” of adulthood. 

  • Are there ways in which this theme helps readers understand other poems we have read from Wordsworth?
  • Ultimately is this described reconciliation convincing and consistent as Wordsworth presents it? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In a sense, Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" is a prelude to "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" as from the recognition of the child's instinctual wisdom of the "visionary gleam" that is lost as one matures, the speaker attains insight from with his experience of grief and the human condition and the "philosophic mind" develops that permits him to understand nature in deeper terms. This is expressed in lines 184-191:

We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

This poem also invokes the line from "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold," "The child is father of the man," as the speaker learns from the "visionary gleam" of the child his wisdom.

2. This reconciliation of the instinctual knowledge of the child with the gained "philosophic mind" of the adult is, indeed, convincing and consistent as Wordsworth presents it. For, the experiences of pre-birth and the child have given to the man the "intimations of immortality." That is, these "intimations" are passed from the child who "frames his song" (l.97) that lives in the "embers" (l.134) of man "That nature yet remembers" (l.136) and from which the man raises his "song of thanks and praise." (l.145) The childhood experiences are, thus, manifested in new experiences and there is a transcendent connection between the child and adult as a result. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team