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Studying Wordsworth: Ode Intimations of Immortality

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

In the name of God, Compassionate, Merciful بسم الله الرحمن الرحيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

In the name of God, compassionate & merciful بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ | Peace be with you السلام عليكم

I studied William Wordsworth's poetry for English Literature in college. Since we were in a Muslim school we often analysed the spiritual and religious contexts of literature more than others; Wordsworth's devout Christian messages were not lost on us, most of which are a vague memory of ...opium and ...picturesque moors and ...truckloads... of daffodils of innocence.

My education in England has been a mix of public schooling (the kind that make Stephen Fry very, very geeky) and private faith schooling. Interestingly I found Wordsworth in an Islamic environment. Our English lit. group went through a succession of enlightening teachers. Firstly Ms. Naznine whom incidentally I still see alhamdulillah, then a Ms. Bashir who left to becpme Mrs. Bashir, then the American Ms. Stratford - she and I saw eye to eye, I mimicked her accent and she took to my British humour - and finally the Atheist Mrs. G McCauley. I include here that she was a non-believer because her interaction in a Muslim school filled 99% of believers lead to some intense philosophical discussions.

Mrs. G McCauley - Gilly - became a good friend, she taught me Coleridge and Wordsworth, why science was more valid for her because she could 'see' it, while God she could not 'see', and I taught her of Prophet Muhammad's iconic leadership, humanity and teachings and why my religious beliefs freed my mind so that I could believe in a ghaib (unseen) God rationally, and believe in the science that God made. Sidenote - I designed some artwork for Gilly which is now hanging happily in a Whitby apartment.


Anywho, this poem by Wordsworth struck. Excerpts only.

Ode Intimations of Immortality (1803-6)
(V)   
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:         
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,         
Hath had elsewhere its setting,                 
And cometh from afar:               
Not in entire forgetfulness,               
And not in utter nakedness,           
But trailing clouds of glory do we come               
From God, who is our home:           
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!           
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.
...
(VIII)  
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie               
Thy Soul's immensity;           
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep           
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind,           
That, deaf and silent, read'st the eternal deep,           
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind,--               
Mighty Prophet! Seer blest!               
On whom those truths do rest,           
Which we are toiling all our lives to find,           
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave;           
Thou, over whom thy Immortality           
Broods like the Day, a Master o'er a Slave,           
A Presence which is not to be put by;           
Thou little Child, yet glorious in the might           
Of heaven-born freedom on thy being's height,           
Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke           
The years to bring the inevitable yoke,           
Thus blindly with thy blessedness at strife?           
Full soon thy Soul shall have her earthly freight,           
And custom lie upon thee with a weight           
Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life!
...
O joy! that in our embers               
Is something that doth live,               
That nature yet remembers               
What was so fugitive!           
The thought of our past years in me doth breed           
Perpetual benediction: not indeed           
For that which is most worthy to be blest--           
Delight and liberty, the simple creed           
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,           
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast:--               
Not for these I raise               
The song of thanks and praise;             
But for those obstinate questionings             
Of sense and outward things,             
Fallings from us, vanishings;             
Blank misgivings of a Creature           
Moving about in worlds not realised,           
High instincts before which our mortal Nature           
Did tremble like a guilty Thing surprised:               
But for those first affections,               
Those shadowy recollections,             
Which, be they what they may,           
Are yet the fountain light of all our day,           
Are yet a master light of all our seeing;             
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make           
Our noisy years seem moments in the being           
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,               
To perish never;           
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,               
Nor Man nor Boy,           
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,           
Can utterly abolish or destroy!               
Hence in a season of calm weather               
Though inland far we be,           
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea               
Which brought us hither,               
Can in a moment travel thither,           
And see the Children sport upon the shore,           
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.                                     
...
(X)            
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!               
And let the young Lambs bound               
As to the tabor's sound!           
We in thought will join your throng,               
Ye that pipe and ye that play,               
Ye that through your hearts to-day               
Feel the gladness of the May!           
What though the radiance which was once so bright           
Be now for ever taken from my sight,               
Though nothing can bring back the hour           
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;               
We will grieve not, rather find               
Strength in what remains behind;               
In the primal sympathy               
Which having been must ever be;               
In the soothing thoughts that spring               
Out of human suffering;               
In the faith that looks through death,           
In years that bring the philosophic mind.                                     

(XI)            
And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,           
Forebode not any severing of our loves!           
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;           
I only have relinquished one delight           
To live beneath your more habitual sway.           
I love the Brooks which down their channels fret,           
Even more than when I tripped lightly as they;           
The innocent brightness of a new-born Day                       
Is lovely yet;           
The Clouds that gather round the setting sun           
Do take a sober colouring from an eye           
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;           
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.           
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,          
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,  
To me the meanest flower that blows can give  
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears. 

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