Why does the poet use a dash at the start of the first stanza in "We Are Seven"?

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Wordsworth had a distinct style in which he tried to inspire feeling in the reader by using visual markers to control how the reader read the poem. The poem “There was a Boy” in Lyrical Ballads thematizes this concept, featuring a boy who experiences “pauses of deep silence” in nature. This theme of silence is developed in Lyrical Ballads as something which brings men into communion with other men and nature. Wordsworth thus showed through his poetry the profound effect of a pause on the person experiencing it, which a poet can himself replicate by representing pauses on the page. Wordsworth himself used dashes to bring the reader to pause, bringing the reader to pay closer attention to particular lines and, in turn, have a closer sympathy with the narrator's perspective in the poem. In the first line of “We Are Seven,” we can read the elongated dash as something which, by bringing the reader to pause before reading the first line, dramatically sets it apart from the other lines. It is a dramatic opening, bringing us to pause and focus on three simple words: “A simple Child.” The simplicity of the phrase alone, demarcated from the other three lines, emphasizes through style what the narrator is describing: a simple child. Similarly, the second pause at the end of the third stanza is a visual marker which makes us pause when reading it, bringing a poetic emphasis to that line. Even though the poem is written in trochaic meter and it would be easy to rush through that last line because rhythmically it is undifferentiated from the other three lines in the stanza, the dash brings us to pause and revel in the beauty the subject of the poem is describing to us rather than speed through the poem.

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Why does the poet leave a dash in the first stanza of the poem "We Are Seven"?

It is unusual to begin a poem with a dash, and it is easy to jump over the dash and straight to the words. Therefore, it's helpful to have our attention drawn to this dash so that we can think about what it might mean.

A dash indicates a break. In this case, it could mean the speaker is taking a long, deep breath before he launches into his longish narrative about the little girl who counted her dead brothers and sisters among her living siblings. It could also suggest that there is a part to the story—a preamble—that the speaker is leaving out, deciding instead to start here.

In either case, it gives us pause and puts more emphasis on the three words in line one: "A simple child." This is a key line, as the speakers wishes us to understand that the wisdom he gains come from a child. Wordsworth often asserted that children had an insight and purity of vision that adults have lost.

The word "simple" has two meanings: it can mean plain and clear or it can mean not very intelligent. As the poem begins, we don't know which the speaker means, and it only becomes evident to us that the speaker means the first as the poem unfolds.

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