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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

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What does Wordsworth refer to as "life's star"?

Wordsworth argues that children are born with a divine spirit and this has been lost by adults.

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The life's star is the "Soul" or spirit of the divine that resides in all of us at birth. As Wordsworth puts it in a very famous series of lines:

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home
He is stating in this verse that we are not born as tabula rasas, or blank slates, as many rationalists argued. In fact, we are born trailing clouds of glory: there is a divine holiness that accompanies us as we come into the world as new life.
This is a very important tenet of Romantic thinking. Traditionally, we were born either as philosopher John Locke's tabula rasas, knowing nothing, or as sinners, stained from birth with the original evil of Adam and Eve's fall from grace. In both cases, the infant and child must be molded, either to form the blank slate of their lives into something worthwhile, or to have the wickedness trained out of them. In both cases, the child is lesser than the adult, because it has not yet been properly formed.

Wordsworth is asserting, however, that neither of these ideas is correct. He is arguing that the child, as he will say elsewhere, is the "father" of the man. Children are superior to adults because they have not yet lost their divine spirit or "life's star," an innocence that gradually fades as children grow into adulthood and are corrupted by the world.

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