How does Wordsworth glorify childhood in the ‘Immortality Ode’?
Discuss about Wordsworth’s treatment of childhood.
Answer: In the spring of 1802 Wordsworth, to his utter grief, felt an inner crisis. He was a man of thirty two and found that his inspiration in writing was not what it had once been, and that its flow was not the same as it was in his early years. Wordsworth was a worshiper Of Nature which was the source of his creative power and which opened the world of imagination to him.
So it was a matter of great anxiety to him when he realized that this source was in some ways drying up in him. Wordsworth, while trying to compensate for this loss, glorified childhood by saying that ‘a child is nearer heaven than, a man’, a child is the best philosopher’, etc.
Wordsworth has devoted stanzas v-viii to his special idea of childhood. This is a period when ‘the vision splendid’ is normally with us. The poet explains his theory of prenatal existence. In childhood he sees the imagination at work as he has known it himself in his finest, most creative moments. To explain the presence of this power in childhood and its slow disappearance with the coming of maturity, he gives his account of recollections from a celestial state before coming to this earth. According to the poet, before our birth our soul lives in heaven in intimate touch with God, the Creator, and this is proved by the innocent smile of a baby who seems to be somewhat Divine. But the vision of heaven becomes more and more dim as he advances in life and attains maturity. Wordsworth draws the picture of the child playing with his toys which represented the plan of his things. His activities are nothing but the endless imitations of the manners and whims of men. But his business with the worldly affairs gradually turns him from the heavenly bliss and makes him forget his original home from where he comes.
The poet places the child in a very high position, saying that ‘he is the best philosopher, ‘the Eye among the blind’, ‘Mighty Prophet. Seer blest’, etc. He means to say that the outward appearance of a child fails to reveal the immensity of his soul. He is the best philosopher in the sense that he still retains his spiritual inheritance. While the grown up people are spiritually dead or ignorant, the child still remembers his real home, Heaven and can understand the mysteries of Eternity, because he is constantly visited by the vision of God. The child is the possessor of real truths which grown-up people try all their lives to discover. The poet is happy that he still has some ‘shadowy recollections’ of his childhood and this inspires him to think of Heaven which is our real home. So he is grateful to the period of childhood, because it is the source of all our joy and the only guiding star of our life.
Wordsworth finds the explanation of his imaginative power in the capacity of a child to create and to imagine. While doing so, he has no sense of time or of the limitations of our human state. He wishes to explain something very special and unique, and the best way in which he can make himself clear is to point out the example of childhood.