The concept of death most frequently conveys the dark and mysterious affect. Pondering over death can be similar to stumbling down a dark passage with unstable guesses as the only guide; not only do we not know when we will die, but also what comes after death. William Wordsworth, a nineteenth-century author, was no exception to this universal dilemma of considering death as the absolute end of one¡¯s existence or the beginning of one¡¯s existence in a new setting. ¡°Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood than to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being,¡± Wordsworth frankly describes to Isabella Fenwick in 1843 about the anxiety and fear he experienced when he first understood the concept of death. However, Wordsworth solves the complexity of death in his ¡°Immortality Ode¡± by firmly confessing his belief of a brand new and eternal life after death. According to him, each of us carries an imperishable soul, which is a sign of our heavenly origin. During our early childhood, the concept of death is not present in our mind. Therefore, we are closest to God and His home when we are children who innately believe in immortality. As we accommodate to the world and realize that death and sufferings exist, however, our intimacy with God weakens to the point in which we completely forget about our divine heritage. As a result, we lose the belief that we will be immortal once again and begin to fear death. Wordsworth then concludes that our immortal souls will eventually reawaken our memory of early childhood during which we considered ourselves immortal and the world eternal and perfect like Heaven. As soon as we regain the memory of childhood and the belief that we are divine beings who will return to Heaven after death, death is no longer a threat to us.
Noticing the ¡°incarnational background¡± upon which the poem stands (Westbrook 34), one cannot overlook the importance of the ¡°religious references¡± and ¡°transcendent implications¡± of the poem (Taylor 633). Similarly, Deeanne Westbrook claims that she has found ¡°the presence of the Bible in Wordsworth¡¯s poetry¡± and this aspect deserves a ¡°richer appreciation¡± (Westbrook 1). As the title suggests, the central focus of ¡°Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood¡± is the concept of immortality, or more specifically, the faith that one will resurrect as an immortal being after death. The ¡°Immortality Ode¡± is Wordsworth¡¯s gospel message, which proclaims that death can no longer frighten us once our immortal souls bring back the memory of our true origin, eternity, and the faith in our return to Heaven.
Wordsworth declares that every human being originates from eternity, the divine realm as opposed to the mortal world. Since we come from an ¡°imperial palace¡± (6), which is located ¡°afar¡± (5) from the ¡°mortal Nature¡± (9), the earth is only our temporary home. Wordsworth metaphorically calls the earth ¡°the homely Nurse¡± and the human a ¡°Foster-child¡± (6), who, Taylor assumes, ¡°yearns for his true mother Eternity¡± (Taylor 635). Not only are we from God¡¯s family, but we also carry a sign that proves our heavenly origin; we have souls unlike any other creatures on earth. In stanzas 5 and 8, Wordsworth praises the soul by giving other names to it such as ¡°Life¡¯s Star,¡± ¡°best Philosopher,¡± ¡°Eye among the blind,¡± ¡°Mighty Prophet,¡± and ¡°Seer blest¡± that have a connotation of a guide that prevents us from complete forgetfulness of our origin throughout the temporary life¡¯s journey. More precisely, ¡°[o]ur authentic ¡®internal being¡¯,¡± the soul, ¡°assures us that we do not die¡± (Taylor 637). Our souls guide us back to Heaven, our real and permanent home. Because we are God¡¯s heirs, we possess immortal souls, which remind us of our heritage. We subsequently believe in our return to Heaven and fear death no more.
Wordsworth examines how we develop from children to adults....
Cited: Garlitz, Barbara. ¡°The Immortality Ode: Its Cultural Progeny.¡± Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 6.4, Nineteenth Century. (Autumn, 1966), pp. 639-649. 5 Oct. 2006
Raysor, Thomas M. ¡°The Themes of Immortality and Natural Piety in Wordworth¡¯s Immortality Ode.¡± PMLA, 69.4 (Sep., 1954): 861-875. 5 Oct. 2006
Taylor, Anya. ¡°Religious Readings of the Immortality Ode.¡± Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 26.4, Nineteenth Century. (Autumn, 1986), pp. 633-654. 5 Oct. 2006
Westbrook, Deeanne. Wordsworth 's Biblical Ghosts. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
Wordsworth, William. ¡°Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.¡± The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. 2. Ed. M. H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. New York: W W Norton & Co Inc, 2000. 287-292.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible: New International Version. Michigan: Zondervan, 2002.
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