“We Are Seven” is a 1798 poem written by William Wordsworth, published as a part of his collection of poems titled Lyrical Ballads. It consist of 69 lines which are separated in 17 stanzas. The poem depicts the conversation between the narrator and a “little cottage girl”, who talk about the little girl’s six siblings. We learn that two of her siblings have died. However, the girl firmly believes that her siblings live on because she still loves them. Just because there are no longer seven children in the house, doesn’t mean that there’re not together.
At first we believe that perhaps the little girl is in denial, and can’t accept or cope with her siblings’ deaths. But, as we continue reading, we see that the narrator begins to realize that the girl is, in fact, very wise and knows much more about life and death than him, or any other adult for that matter. The speaker realizes that the girl, whom he deemed foolish and illogical at first, is very mature for her age, and didn’t allow her siblings’ death to sadden or depress her; instead, she continued to love them and feel for them, as if they were still alive.
The main theme in the poem is, obviously, the love all siblings share. An interesting element about the poem is that the fact that the girl is certain and confident that she will see her siblings again. She fondly remembers the times she spent with them, and joyfully expects the moment in which she will meet them again. Thus, life after death is perhaps a secondary theme of “We Are Seven”.
“We Are Seven,” written in 1798, is a short poem of sixty-nine lines divided into seventeen stanzas. It relates the story of a narrator meeting an eight-year-old girl who tells him about her family. (According to William Wordsworth, the poem was suggested by a real child he had met near Goodrich Castle in Wales five years earlier.)
Stanza 1 asks a broad question that points to the theme of the poem: What can a lively child “know of death”? In stanzas 2 and 3, the narrator sets the scene. He is presumably walking in the country when he encounters an eight-year-old “cottage Girl,” the kind of ordinary lower-class child he might have expected to meet there. He is struck (“madeglad”) by her beauty, in particular by her thick curly hair and “very fair” (blue?) eyes, by her strange clothes (“she was wildly clad”), and in general by her rural “air.” He pauses and, in order to make conversation with her, asks ordinary questions: How many sisters and brothers do you have? Where are they?
The girl gives him an extraordinary answer: How many siblings? “Seven in all.” There are herself, two living in Conway (a seaport in Wales), two at sea, and two others who “in the church-yard lie.” In short, of the seven, two are dead. She and her mother live in the churchyard cottage near the two dead children—a sister and a brother. Even though it is obvious to the narrator (and to the reader) that these two are dead, the girl tenaciously insists that “Seven boys and girls are we.”
The narrator seems amused. He points out gently that the two who are buried in the churchyard are significantly different from her: “You run about” and live, whereas they simply lie. In sum, he concludes, “ye are only five.” The child is obstinate and describes how she frequents the two graves near the cottage door. She knits and sews by the graves; she eats her supper there; she sings songs to the occupants of the graves. She tells the narrator how she had played with her sister and brother and describes the days when they were laid side by side in the churchyard.
What had first seemed a pleasant chat with a pretty child has turned into a contest of wills. “But they are dead; those two are dead!” cries the narrator, but he concludes that he is only “throwing [his] words away” when the girl willfully insists: “Nay, we are seven.”
Forms and Devices
Wordsworth wrote most of this poem during the spring of 1798 while walking...
(The entire section is 1,205 words.)