Context: In this work Wordsworth makes his most notable departure from his resolution not to use abstractions as the material for poetry. Under the name of "stern daughter of the voice of God" he addresses Duty, which he says is a light to guide human beings and a rod to correct and reprove them when they err; it is a calming force. There are some people who customarily do what they should do without the need for any form of compulsion, but there are others who need the discipline of duty. Our days will be serene and bright when we all do what we should, but now we need a firm support. The poet himself has not been overly addicted to performing his duty; he has lived at liberty and has been his own guide, but he feels that too much liberty is oppressive and so feels that he will be happier if he lives a more strictly regimented life than in the past. Toward the end of the poem he equates duty with natural law: "Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong; /And the most ancient heavens, through Thee, are fresh and strong." But he calls Duty to a humbler function, that is, regulating his own private life.
Stern Daughter of the Voice of God!O Duty! if that name thou loveWho art a light to guide, a rodTo check the erring, and reprove;Thou, who art victory and lawWhen empty terrors overawe;From vain temptations dost set free;And calm'st the weary strife of frail humanity!There are who ask not if thine eyeBe on them; who, in love and truth,Where no misgiving is, relyUpon the genial sense of youth;Glad Hearts! without reproach or blot;Who do thy work, and know it not:Oh! if through confidence misplacedThey fail, thy saving arms, dread Power! around them cast.