illustrated portrait of English poet WIlliam Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

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In "Anecdote for Fathers" by William Wordsworth, please explain the last two stanzas.

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"Anecdote for Fathers" has an interesting subtitle ("showing how the art of lying may be taught") that references how this poem explores the ways in which adults can actually make their children lie. This is shown through the various objections that the adult in this poem raises to the child after the child has answered honestly a question posed to him by the adult. When he is pressed for a reason why he prefers Kilve to Liswyn farm, the boy, struggling to come up with a rational reason that will satisfy the adult, picks something tangible that he can point to and says his decision is made because Kilve does not possess a weather-cock. Of course, the poem suggests that this is not the real reason at all, and that the boy has been forced into lying through the need imposed on him by the adult to come up with a rational explanation for his intuitive feeling. Note how this is referenced in the final stanza:

O dearest, dearest boy! my heart
For better lore would seldom yearn,
Could I but teach the hundredth part
Of what from thee I learn.

The speaker recognises that actually the boy in his youth and innocence "knows" far more than the adult, who has lost something as he has aged. Wordsworth suggests that children are somehow more able to be intuitive and responsive to deeply felt inner-feelings rather than closed down to them, as adults are. The speaker in this final stanza recognises that it is actually he who needs to learn from this child, and that the process of education and "teaching" children actually diminishes their capacity to be open to their intuition.

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