Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Although “Mutability” stands on its own as an inspiring rumination on change and permanence, it resonates even more powerfully when read in the context of the other Ecclesiastical Sketches. Wordsworth wrote these sonnets as an exploration of the history of the Anglican Church and a reflection on how the church had adapted outwardly to changing circumstances of history and cultural evolution. In his examination of numerous aspects of the church, from doctrinal teachings to translation of the Bible, bestowing of sacraments, and even the architecture of chapels, Wordsworth tries to uncover the unchanging foundation of the faith. “Mutability,” with its conviction of the persistence of fundamental truths, represents the culmination of his quest.

It is ironic that Wordsworth would write a poem of this kind inspired by observations of an organized religion, since he is traditionally thought of as a revolutionary and poet of the people, who found spirituality and morality not in cathedrals, but in nature and in social relationships with his fellow man. However, “Mutability” is noticeably devoid of religious allusions. Its simple observation that “Truth fails not,” even though its outward forms are forever in flux, might just as easily have been inspired by his appreciation of a work of art or his study of human behavior. Wordsworth believed that poetry could be made of “every subject which can interest the human mind,” and...

(The entire section is 491 words.)