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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.


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 froin 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.


And O, ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves,
Forebode not any severing of our loves !1
Yet in iny 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.

The edition of 1807 concluded with this poem, which Wordsworth simply named Ode, prefixing to it the motto, “ Paulò majora canamus.” In 1815, when he revised the poem throughout, he named it, in the characteristic manner of many of his titles-diffuse and yet preciseOde. Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood; and he then prefixed to it the lines of his own earlier poem on the Rainbow (March 1802) :

The child is Father of the Man ;
And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.
This longer title and motto it retained in all the subsequent editions.

1 1836.

Think not of any severing


No poem

In edd. 1807 to 1820, it was placed by itself at the end of the poems, and formed their natural conclusion and climax. In edd. 1827 and 1832, it was placed, inappropriately, amongst the “Epitaphs and Elegiac Poems." The evident mistake of placing it amongst these seems to have suggested to him in 1836 its having a place by itself,—which place it retained in the subsequent editions of 1842 and 1849,—when it closed the series of minor poems in vol. V., and preceded the Excursion in vol. VI. The same arrangement was adopted in the double-columned single volume edition of 1845.

The Ode on Immortality was written at intervals, between the years 1803 and 1806; and it was subjected to frequent and careful revision.

of Wordsworth's bears more evident traces in its structure at once of inspiration and elaboration ; of original fight of thought and afflatus on the one hand, and on the other of careful sculpture and fastidious choice of phrase. But it is remarkable that there are very few changes of text in the successive editions. Most of the alterations were made before 1815, and the omission of some feeble lines which originally stood in stanza viii., in the editions of 1807 and 1815, was a great advantage in disencumbering the poem. The main revision and elaboration of this Ode, however—an elaboration which suggests the passage of the glacier ice over the rocks of White Moss Common, where the poem was murmured out stanza by stanza—was all finished before it first saw the light in 1807. In form it is irregular and original. And perhaps the most remarkable thing in its structure, is the frequent change of the keynote, and the skill and delicacy with which the transitions are made. “The feet throughout are iambic. The lines vary in length from the Alexandrine to the line with two accents. There is a constant ebb and flow in the full tide of song, but scarce two waves are alike." (Hawes Turner, Selections from Wordsworth.)

In the “notes” to the Selections just referred to, there is an excellent commentary on this Ode on Immortality, almost every line of which is worthy of minute analysis and study. Several of the following are suggested by Mr Turner.

(1.) The winds come to me, from the fields of sleep, The morning breeze blowing from the fields that were dark during the hours of sleep. (2.)

But there's a tree, of many, one, Compare Browning's May and Death

Only one little sight, one plant

Woods have in May, &c. (3.)

The pansy at my feet

Doth the same tale repeat, French “Pensée." Pansies, that's for thoughts.” Ophelia in Hamlet.

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Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting, This thought Wordsworth owed, consciously or unconsciously, to Plato. Though he tells us in the Fenwick note that he did not mean to inculcate the belief, there is no doubt that he clung to the notion of a life pre-existing the present, on grounds similar to those on which he believed in a life to come. But there are some differences in the way in which the idea commended itself to Plato and to Wordsworth. The stress was laid by Wordsworth on the effect of terrestrial life in putting the higher faculties to sleep, and making us “forget the glories we have known." Plato, on the other hand, looked upon the mingled experiences of mundane life as inducing a gradual but slow remembrance (årduinois) of the past. Compare Tennyson's Two Voices, and Wordsworth's sonnet

“Man's life is like a sparrow, mighty king.” (5.) Filling from time to time his humorous stage

With all the persons, 2.C., with the dramatis persona.


Thou oye among the blind, That, deaf and silent, reaďst the eternal deep, There is an admirable parallel illustration of Wordsworth's use of this figure (describing one sense in terms of another), in the lines in Aira Force Valley

“A soft eye-music of slow waving boughs.”

(7.) 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! Compare with this, the lines in the fourth book of The Excursion, beginning

Alas! the endowment of immortal Pain

Is matched unequally with custom, time. (8.)

Fallings from us, vanishings, The outward sensible universe, visible and tangible, seeming to fall away from us, as unreal, to vanish in unsubstantiality. See the explanation of this youthful experience in the Fenwick note. That confession of his boyish days at Hawkshead,“ many times, while going to school, have I grasped at a wall or tree, to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality” (by which he explains those

fallings from us, vanishings, &c.), suggests a similar experience and confession of Cardinal Newman's in his Apologia. (See p. 67.)

The Rev. Robert Perceval Graves, late of Windermere, now of Dublin,

wrote thus in 1850. “I remember Mr Wordsworth saying, that at a
particular stage of his mental progress, he used to be frequently so
rapt into an unreal transcendental world of ideas that the external
world seemed no longer to exist in relation to him, and he had to
reconvince himself of its existence by clasping a tree, or something that
happened to be near him. I could not help connecting this fact with
that obscure passage in his great Ode on the ‘Intimations of Immor-
tality,' in which he speaks of -

Those obstinate questionings,
Of sense and outward things;

Fallings from us, vanishings ; &c."
Professor Bonamy Price farther confirms the explanation which
Wordsworth gave of the passage, in an account of a conversation he
had with the poet, as follows. It was an experience, however, not I
think as Mr Price imagines, peculiar to Wordsworth—and its value
would be much lessened if it were so—but one to which (as the poet
said to Miss Fenwick) "everyone, if he would look back, could bear

“OXFORD, April 21, 1881. “MY DEAR SIR,-- You will be glad, I am sure, to receive an interpretation, which chance enabled me to obtain from Wordsworth himself of a passage in the immortal Ode to Immortality.

“It happened one day that the poet, my wife, and I were taking
a walk together by the side of Rydal Water. We were then by the
sycamores under Nab Scar. The aged poet was in a most genial mood,
and suddenly occurred to me that I might, without unwarrantable
presumption, seize the golden opportunity thus offered, and ask him to
explain these mysterious words. So I addressed him with an apology,
and begged him to explain, what my own feeble mother-wit was unable
to unravel, and for which I had in vain sought the assistance of others,
what were those “fallings from us, vanishings,” for which, above all
other things, he gave God thanks. The venerable old man raised his
aged form erect; he was walking in the middle, and passed across me
to a five-barred gate in the wall which bounded the road on the side of
the lake. He clenched the top bar firmly with his right hand, pushed
strongly against it, and then uttered these ever-memorable words :
“There was a time in my life when I had to push against something
that resisted, to be sure that there was anything outside of me.
sure of my own mind; everything else fell away, and vanished into
thought.' Thought, he was sure of; matter for him, at the moment,
was an unreality-nothing but a thought. Such natural spontaneous
idealism has probably never been felt by any other man.

Professor Knight.

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