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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

This poem shows how permeable the wall between life and death is to a young child--and perhaps to all of us, if we could learn from her.

The characters are the narrator, who has a dialogue with a young girl of eight living in a cottage nearby. The girl is described as "very fair," and as having

a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad

She tells the narrator that she lives with her mother and has six brothers and sisters, noting that two, Jane and John, are in buried in the "church-yard." She says "we are seven."

Jane got sick and died, then John followed her in the winter.

The narrator tries to tell her that she only has four siblings--that there are only five of them-- if two have died, but the little girl will have none of that. She insists that John and Jane are as woven into her life as her other brothers and sisters, for she sings to them at their graves and sew and knits by their graves.

From this innocent child of nature, the narrator learns that the dead are ever present. The child has a wisdom about life that the narrator has lost.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The narrator of this poem, potentially Wordsworth himself, describes an encounter he has with a "cottage girl." Very little is shown about the narrator, who he is, or what he does, other than that he is concerned about the level of death with which children are made familiar in his society.

The cottage girl is eight years old, with curly hair. She is not named. Most of the poem is comprised of the story she tells the speaker about herself and her six siblings. The girl appears the picture of innocence, being "fair" and having an aspect of the "woodland" about her. She is dressed "wildly." She tells the poem's speaker that she is one of seven siblings, of whom two live in Conway, two have gone to sea, and two are buried in the churchyard. When the speaker tells the little girl that this means there are only five siblings, the little girl disagrees, saying that she often sits upon the graves to eat her supper or do her knitting. She names the two dead children as Jane, who died first, and John.

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