A special contribution by David Grossman
ODE: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
William Wordsworth. 1770–1850
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (also known as "Ode", "Immortality Ode" or "Great Ode") is a poem by William Wordsworth, completed in 1804 and published in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). The poem was completed in two parts, with the first four stanzas written among a series of poems composed in 1802 about childhood. The first part of the poem was completed on 27 March 1802 and a copy was provided to Wordsworth's friend and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who responded with his own poem, "Dejection: An Ode", in April. The fourth stanza of the ode ends with a question, and Wordsworth was finally able to answer it with seven additional stanzas completed in early 1804. It was first printed as "Ode" in 1807, and it was not until 1815 that it was edited and reworked to the version that is currently known, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality".
Ode: Intimations of Immortality is about childhood, but the poem doesn't completely focus on childhood or what was lost from childhood. Instead, the ode, like The Prelude and Tintern Abbey, places an emphasis on how an adult develops from a child and how being absorbed in nature inspires a deeper connection to humanity. The ode focuses not on Dorothy or on Wordsworth's love, Mary Hutchinson, but on himself and is part of what is called his "egotistical sublime”. Of his childhood, Wordsworth told Catherine Clarkson in an 1815 letter that the poem "rests entirely upon two recollections of childhood, one that of a splendor in the objects of sense, which is passed away, and the other an indisposition to bend to the law of death as applying to our particular case.... A Reader who has not a vivid recollection of these feelings having existed in his mind in childhood cannot understand the poem." Childhood, therefore, becomes a means to exploring memory, and the imagination, as Wordsworth claims in the letter, is connected to man's understanding of immortality. In a letter to Isabella Fenwick, he explained his particular feelings about immortality that he held when young: "I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature." These feelings were influenced by Wordsworth's own experience of loss, including the death of his parents, and may have isolated him from society if the feelings did not ease as he matured.
For more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode:_Intimations_of_Immortality
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
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.
Dreams should never fade …..
Children are excellent philosophers and have a basic but clear understanding of their dreams and objectives, unconditioned as they, from the outset of their growth to adulthood, are. Children’s unmatched link with their surroundings, love for nature, openness and honesty is something “grown-ups” can only wish for. Kids have no issue in following their passion and aspirations.
As adults we are supposed to be educationists and perhaps we should put more effort into the realization of those precious dreams, in order to always maintain, quoting William Wordsworth’s poem …
… The glory and the freshness of a dream
In this SPECIAL edition of PUBLIC EYE, David Grossman, inspired by Wordsworth’s poem, catches EIGHT dreams of our youngsters and if you look carefully will recognize them.
Being a parent as well as having had many photo assignments in schools and other situations involving children , I’ve had the inspiring good fortune to observe their natural curiosity, their voracious appetite to know why(?) and why not? Children when free from the sometimes overly structured directives by adults exude wonder, spontaneity, amazing creativity and joy. They often exhibit an innate sense of fairness and justice amidst their peers. Of course at times “boys will be boys.”
Do those caught by David’ s lens want to be 1. A JUDGE?, 2. A DRUMMER IN A ROCK-BAND ?3. ENGINEERS?, 4.A PILOT?, 5 A TEACHER?, 6. A CONCERT VIOLINIST?, 7. A PRIMA-BALLERINA?, 8. WORLDTRAVELLERS?, 9. MEDICAL DOCTORS?
All photos © David M. Grossman