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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

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Why does the speaker in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" stop grieving over his lost divinity?

Quick answer:

In Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," the speaker decides not to grieve any more for his loss of divinity because he is rejuvenated by the divinity he sees in children.

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At the beginning of the poem the speaker laments for the loss of his divinity, or for the loss of the divinity he used to be able to see and hear everywhere around him. He declares at the end of the second stanza, "There hath past away a glory from the earth."

In the third stanza, the speaker indicates that his grieving was brought to an end by a "timely utterance." This "utterance," he says, gave him "relief." At the end of the same stanza we discover that this "utterance" took the form of a "shout" from a "Child of Joy."

In the fourth stanza, the speaker intimates that this sound of joy from the child completely rejuvenated him and, accordingly, brought his grieving for the loss of his own divinity to an end. He exclaims, "I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!" In this exclamation we can hear the sheer joy of one who has rediscovered something precious which they had believed to be lost forever.

The idea that children encapsulate God's divinity is a common motif of Romantic poetry. To the Romantic poet, like Wordsworth, the child is a symbol of God's purity, goodness, and innocence. The Romantic poet also often proposes that the purity, goodness, and innocence of a child is slowly corrupted—and eventually lost—as the child grows older. In the fifth stanza of the poem the speaker says,

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

upon the growing Boy.

Thus in "Ode: Intimations of Immortality," the adult speaker at first grieves because he believes he has lost the divinity he once had, or could see, as a child. He then decides to stop grieving for his own loss when he realizes that he can witness the same divinity in the children he sees and hears around him.

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