Study of a Poem
Now that my younger daughter is at the junior high/middle school level, I've begun to combine her with my older daughter in our studies in Shakespeare and poetry. In poetry, we read a couple of poems from a selected book and then lightly discuss them together. Their varied thoughts about the poems make this time so very interesting and enjoyable for all of us.
Recently, my daughters and I read and examined "Ode: Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth from a collection of his poems. Being one of Wordsworth's more studied poems, we spent a great deal more time on this one poem than we had on others.
Here is how we approached this reading:
First, I read the poem in its entirety once through. I then asked both girls for their general first thoughts and impressions.
Second, I began to read over sections of the poem and we discussed them in greater deal by section.
Third, we discussed some themes and figurative languge.
Fourth, I asked the girls to freely choose favorite quotes or themes from the poem and write about them. I gave them a great deal of freedom in what way they wanted to share in writing their thoughts about it.
I thought that I would share their narrations here. Overall, I was extremely pleased with how perceptive and thoughtful their responses were. These are typed as they were written, errors and all, as this was the first and only draft.
Response Number 1:
William Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality of Early Childhood
"Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The youth, who daily farther from the east must travel,
Still is Nature's priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day."
To me, this is a clue to many points the poem presents. One of them being that as a child we are more in tune with heaven, the natural world, the innocent light in which a child sees the untainted life. Another being that as we grow older , we stray farther from these idealistic views of the Earth, but Nature, and, perhaps God himself, still gives the growing young adult some experiences of the perfect world. But as an adult we lose most of these--calling them memories.
"See, where 'mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses,
with light upon him from his father's eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart
some fragment of his dream of human life,
shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
a wedding or a festival,
a mourning or a funeral;..."
This part describes a child's pure image of their life to come, and here we see that as children we must live, laugh, love and run free:
"Oh, evil day! If I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide, fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm
And the babe leaps up on his mother's arms:..."
And at the end of the poem the author comforts us by saying that even though we may grow up and lose sight of the heavenly light we will always be able to tune back into it, whenever we need it, and wherever we are.
Response Number 2:
Intimations of Immortality
"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting,..."
This line sums up the theme of this poem very well. It expresses the long held belief that people when they are born lose memories of their immortal soul. You could read life as a living dream where everyone's soul slumbers here on earth until it is released once more in the afterlife.
"See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment of his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learned art;
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;..."
This line expresses very well how a child's seemingly meaningless scribbles can really be a recollection of something so profound it can no longer be understood by adults.
"The little actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his humorous stage"
This line shows that people can take on many roles in their lives depending on the circumstances but a child in his purity has no need for any pretense and behaves only as theirselves. The poet firmly believes in the innocence and sanctity of childhood but believes also that the spark in all of us, our inner child still lives on if we only could discover it.