Ode on Intimations of Immortality

Ode on Intimations of Immortality

Q. Explain Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood by William Wordsworth.

The Ode on Intimations of Immortality was completed in 1804 and published in 1807 as part of Wordsworth’s collection, “Poems, in Two Volumes.”

Explanation of Ode on Intimations of Immortality
Stanza 1

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.

In this part of the poem, William Wordsworth describes how he used to see the world around him—fields, forests, and rivers—as if it were shining with a heavenly light, making everything look beautiful and fresh, like in a dream.

But now, things have changed for him. No matter where he looks, whether day or night, he can’t see the world in that magical way anymore. The sights he once saw with so much wonder, he can no longer see in the same way.


A field of grass, often with wildflowers, that is not used for farming.


A small group of trees.


A small, narrow river.

Apparelled in celestial light

It is described as being clothed or covered in heavenly or divine light.

This phrase suggests that the natural world appeared to the speaker as gloriously bright and beautiful as if shining with a light from beyond the earth.

The glory and the freshness of a dream

This phrase suggests something incredibly beautiful and fresh, like the vividness and newness we might feel in a dream. It implies a sense of perfection and wonder.

It is not now as it hath been of yore

This means that the speaker’s current experience of the world is not as it used to be.

“Yore” refers to an old-fashioned way of saying “long ago” or “in the past.”

Turn wheresoe’er I may

This means no matter where the speaker goes. “Wheresoe’er” is a poetic way of saying “wherever.”

By night or day

This phrase means at all times, whether it’s nighttime or daytime.

Stanza 2

The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.

The speaker talks about the beauty of nature. He mentions the rainbow and the rose. He describes the moon’s delight on clear nights. The waters look beautiful under the stars.

The sunrise is described as glorious. Despite acknowledging these natural beauties, the speaker feels that something special has been lost from the world.

This sense of loss suggests that the speaker believes the earth once had a certain kind of beauty or magnificence that it no longer possesses, regardless of where he goes or what he sees.

Stanza 3

Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
And while the young lambs bound
As to the tabor’s sound,
To me alone there came a thought of grief:
A timely utterance gave that thought relief,
And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep;
No more shall grief of mine the season wrong;
I hear the Echoes through the mountains throng,
The Winds come to me from the fields of sleep,
And all the earth is gay;
Land and sea
Give themselves up to jollity,
And with the heart of May
Doth every Beast keep holiday;—
Thou Child of Joy,
Shout round me, let me hear thy shouts, thou happy Shepherd-boy.

The speaker hears birds singing happily. Young lambs jump around as if dancing to drum beats. During this, the speaker feels sad. Expressing this sadness out loud makes him feel strong again.

Waterfalls seem to make loud, echoing sounds like trumpets. The speaker decides not to let his sadness affect his enjoyment of the season.

He hears echoes in the mountains and feels like the wind brings him peace from quiet fields. The whole earth seems happy. Both the land and the sea appear to be celebrating.

Everything in nature, including animals, seems to be enjoying a holiday in May. The speaker calls to a joyful child, asking to hear his happy shouts.

Tabor’s sound

A tabor is a small drum. The sound mentioned here refers to the rhythmic beat of this drum, suggesting a lively atmosphere.

Thought of grief

This means a sad thought or a moment of sorrow.

Timely utterance

Speaking out at the right moment. This phrase suggests that expressing his feelings aloud helped the speaker feel better.


In this context, cataracts refer to large waterfalls or strong flows of water, not the eye condition.

Blow their trumpets from the steep

This metaphorically describes the loud, powerful sound waterfalls make, likened to trumpets being played.


To gather in a large group. When saying “Echoes through the mountains throng,” it means echoes fill the mountains densely, creating a lively sound environment.

Fields of sleep

It is a poetic way of describing a peaceful, quiet place, possibly suggesting fields that are calm and serene, like in a dream.


In this context, it means happy or full of joy.


The state of being merry or full of joy.

With the heart of May

Symbolizes the essence of spring, which is often associated with renewal, growth, and happiness.

Keep holiday

To celebrate or take part in a festival or a day of festivity.

Thou Child of Joy

It refers to a joyful person, in this case, a shepherd boy, who embodies happiness and innocence.

Shout round me

The speaker asks to be surrounded by the shepherd boy’s shouts or joyful sounds, seeking to share in his happiness.

Stanza 4

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.
Oh evil day! if I were sullen
While Earth herself is adorning,
This sweet May-morning,
And the Children are culling
On every side,
In a thousand valleys far and wide,
Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the Babe leaps up on his Mother’s arm:—
I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
—But there’s a Tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have looked upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone;
The Pansy at my feet
Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?

The speaker feels connected to the joy and celebration of nature and its creatures. He notes that feeling sad would be out of place on such a lively May morning, with the world brimming with vitality and children gathering flowers.

The evident happiness from the sun’s warmth and a baby’s contentment in its mother’s embrace reinforces this sentiment. He happily tunes into the lively sounds around him.

However, he notes that among all this, there is a tree and a field that remind him of something lost. Even the pansy at his feet seems to tell a similar story.

He ends by questioning where the world’s magical vision and dreamlike quality have gone, implying a sense of loss or change from a once-perceived perfection.

Blessèd creatures

Refers to animals or beings in nature considered to be fortunate or happy.


A special anniversary or celebration, often marked with joy and festivity.


A day or period of celebration, typically for religious or cultural reasons.


A crown or a wreath worn on the head is often used symbolically to represent honor or celebration.

Fulness of your bliss

The complete or total happiness being experienced.


Bad-tempered or gloomy.


Decorating or adding beauty to.


Picking or gathering.


Low areas of land between hills or mountains, often with a river running through them.


A baby or young child.

Leaps up

Jumps up or springs up

Visionary gleam

A visionary gleam refers to a bright or shining light that is often associated with imagination, dreams, or inspiration.

Glory and the dream

Towards the end, the speaker reflects on a loss, questioning where the magical, dream-like vision of the world has gone.

These phrases suggest a nostalgia or longing for a once-perceived mystical quality of life that seems to have faded, indicating a change in how the speaker perceives the world compared to a past sense of wonder and perfection.

Stanza 5

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.

These lines suggest that when we are born, we wake up from sleep and forget about our previous existence. Our soul, which guides us like a star, has its origins in another place before this life.

We don’t arrive in this world completely forgetting or without anything; instead, we bring with us a kind of heavenly splendor from our true home, which is with God.

When we are infants, the world feels like heaven. However, as we grow, it feels as though we are entering a darker, more confined space.

Despite this, a child can still see and appreciate the light and joy in the world, understanding its source.

As we become youths, we might move further away from our spiritual beginnings, but we still remain closely connected to nature, guided by magnificent visions. Eventually, as adults, this vision seems to fade, and the extraordinary becomes ordinary.

Life’s Star

A poetic way of describing the guiding force or inner light within us.

Setting and cometh from afar

These phrases suggest that our souls have their origins or beginnings in a place far from the physical world we are born into.

Entire forgetfulness and utter nakedness

These terms mean complete memory loss and total vulnerability or lack of possessions (not physical nakedness, but a metaphorical sense of coming without material or remembered ties).

Trailing clouds of glory

This imagery suggests that we bring with us a remnant of divine or heavenly beauty and splendor from a spiritual realm or God.

Heaven lies about us in our infancy

It suggests that in early childhood, the world seems perfect and blissful, much like heaven.

Shades of the prison-house

It is a metaphor for the restrictions, limitations, and loss of freedom that come with growing up and losing childhood innocence.

Nature’s Priest

It is a metaphor for someone who deeply appreciates and is in tune with the natural world, almost in a spiritual or sacred role.

Vision splendid

Refers to the beautiful and profound way young people can see and understand the world.

Perceives it die away

As one grows older, the ability to see the world in this beautiful, profound way fades.

Fade into the light of common day

As one ages, the unique, magical perception of the world becomes replaced by a more ordinary and mundane view.

Stanza 6

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

The Earth provides her own happiness and desires, which are natural to her. She acts with a motherly intention and a noble goal.

Like a caring nurse, the Earth does everything she can to help humans, who are like her foster children, forget the magnificent experiences they once had and the grand origin from which they came.

This effort aims to help humans adapt to life on Earth, focusing on the joys and experiences available here rather than longing for a past they cannot return to.


Strong desires or feelings of longing for something.

Natural kind

This refers to the Earth’s inherent or innate characteristics and ways of being.

Mother’s mind

It suggests thinking and acting with care, love, and protection, similar to a mother’s instincts towards her child.

Unworthy aim

A goal or intention that is not low or demeaning; rather, it is noble or of good purpose.

Homely Nurse

An affectionate term for the Earth, portraying it as a nurturing figure that provides care and support in a simple, comforting way.


A child who is temporarily cared for by someone who is not their parent indicates that humans are not the Earth’s original children but are still cared for by her.


Here, it suggests someone who resides within a particular place, emphasizing the close relationship between humans and the Earth.

Stanza 6

Behold the Child among his new-born blisses,
A six years’ Darling of a pigmy size!
See, where ‘mid work of his own hand he lies,
Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses,
With light upon him from his father’s eyes!
See, at his feet, some little plan or chart,
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly-learn{e}d art
A wedding or a festival,
A mourning or a funeral;
And this hath now his heart,
And unto this he frames his song:
Then will he fit his tongue
To dialogues of business, love, or strife;
But it will not be long
Ere this be thrown aside,
And with new joy and pride
The little Actor cons another part;
Filling from time to time his “humorous stage”
With all the Persons, down to palsied Age,
That Life brings with her in her equipage;
As if his whole vocation
Were endless imitation.

In these lines, the poet observes the child in his early happiness, a beloved six-year-old of small stature.

He notices how the child is surrounded by his own creations, occasionally disturbed by his mother’s affectionate kisses, and bathed in the light from his father’s gaze.

At his feet lies a simple drawing or plan, a piece of his imagination about life crafted by his own hands. This could represent a celebration, a wedding, a period of mourning, or a funeral.

Currently, this project interests him, and he shapes his songs around it. Soon, he will adapt his speech to mimic the conversations of adults, whether they are about work, love, or conflict.

However, this phase will quickly pass. He will soon find new excitement and take pride in adopting another role, continually changing the characters he portrays on his imaginary stage, covering every stage of life from youth to old age.

It’s as though his main activity is to endlessly replicate the various roles and phases people go through in life.

Creating something by hand

Using his hands to make or construct objects, drawings, or plans that reflect his ideas or dreams.

Thoughts about life

The child’s simple understanding or reflections on different events or stages in human life, like celebrations or mourning.

Hold his attention

Keep the child focused or interested in his creations or activities.

Childhood is spent in imitation

A significant portion of the child’s early years is dedicated to copying or reenacting the actions, speech, and roles he observes in adults around him.

Stanza 8

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!

This passage addresses a child, whose simple appearance does not reflect the vastness of his soul.

The child is praised as a great thinker, still in possession of his natural wisdom, likened to a seeing person among those who cannot see.

In silence and without speaking, this child understands deep, eternal truths that adults spend their entire lives searching for, truths often obscured by the metaphorical darkness of ignorance or death.

The child is seen as a powerful prophet and blessed visionary, upon whom profound truths rest, truths that remain elusive to many.

Despite the child’s immortality and the protective, ever-present nature of his youthful innocence and freedom, it is questionable why he would hasten towards adulthood, which brings inevitable constraints and responsibilities.

These constraints, likened to a heavy burden, will soon make the child’s soul feel the weight of human customs and responsibilities, as heavy as frost and as significant as life itself.

Exterior semblance

The child’s outward appearance doesn’t fully show the vastness or depth of his inner soul.


To contradict or give a false impression of something. If someone’s appearance belies their soul’s immensity, it means their external appearance doesn’t accurately reflect the vastness or depth of their inner being or soul.

Soul’s immensity

The great size or extent of the child’s soul suggests depth and capacity for understanding beyond what might be expected from his appearance.


It refers to someone who seeks or values knowledge and understanding, even if the child is not a philosopher in the traditional sense.


The qualities, traditions, or characteristics passed down through generations, which the child still possesses.

Eternal deep

Deep, everlasting truths or principles that underlie existence or the universe.

Haunted by the eternal mind

Continually influenced or accompanied by a profound, timeless consciousness or understanding.

Prophet, Seer blest

These terms suggest the child has a special insight or foresight into truth or the future and is blessed with wisdom.

“Blest” is an older or poetic form of the word “blessed,” which means to be favored by God or the divine.

Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave

It suggests a dominant, ever-present control or influence, like daylight over darkness, but here it refers to the child’s innate freedom and purity.

Heaven-born freedom

The natural freedom and innocence the child is born with are viewed as coming from a divine or pure source.

Inevitable yoke

The unavoidable burdens or responsibilities that come with growing older and losing some of that freedom and innocence.

Earthly freight

The burdens, responsibilities, or challenges that one must carry in life.

Custom lie upon thee with a weight

The ways of the world, societal norms, and responsibilities will press down heavily upon the child as he grows.

Heavy as frost, and deep almost as life

It is a metaphor for the profound and sometimes burdensome responsibilities that life entails.

Stanza 9

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.

This passage expresses joy that our fading vitality still contains a living essence. Nature has not forgotten this essence, even though it was fleeting. Reflecting on past years brings continuous blessings.

These blessings are not due to obvious joys like delight and freedom in childhood. They stem from persistent questions about the world.

They also come from experiences that fade away and the doubts we encounter as beings in unfamiliar realms.
Such experiences trigger strong instincts within us, causing awe or fear.

The speaker values early emotions and vague memories. Regardless of their nature, these memories are central to our lifetime experiences and understanding.

They support and nurture us, giving our busy lives a sense of briefness compared to eternal silence. They reveal enduring truths that remain unshaken by apathy, intense efforts, or opposition to joy.

Therefore, in times of peace, even when far from the sea, our souls can perceive the infinite. We recall our origin and envision life at its source, simple and continuously active.

We listen to the endless movement of the waters.

Fading vitality

This refers to the decrease or loss of life’s energy or strength as one ages or moves through life.

Living essence

The fundamental, vital, or inherent nature of a person that remains alive or active.


Something that is short-lived or quickly passing by.

Strong instincts

Powerful, natural feelings or inclinations that guide behavior or thought.

Enduring truths

Truths or principles that are lasting and do not change over time.

Endless movement of the waters

A metaphorical way of describing something that is perpetual, never-ending, like the ocean’s constant waves.

Stanza 10

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.
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.

The speaker invites birds to sing happily and lambs to leap joyfully.

He wishes to share in their springtime happiness. Although the speaker has lost sight of certain once-bright beauties, he does not dwell on this loss.

Instead, there’s an emphasis on finding strength in remaining connected to nature and learning lessons from human experiences of pain.

The speaker feels a strong bond with elements of nature, such as fountains, meadows, hills, and groves, and believes this connection will not end.

There’s an acknowledgment of losing access to some youthful joys but also a deeper appreciation for nature’s continued beauty and peace.

This mature viewpoint allows for enjoying simple pleasures, such as observing brooks or witnessing a new day, through an understanding of life’s temporary nature.

The poem expresses gratitude for the human heart’s ability to experience love, joy, and sadness. It highlights that simple aspects of nature can inspire deep thoughts about life, sometimes too significant for tears.

This section of the poem appreciates nature’s beauty, the human spirit’s endurance, and the intricate experience of life.

Lambs bound

Young sheep jumping or leaping playfully.

Tabor’s sound

Refers to the sound of a small drum, historically used for rhythm in music and dance.


A large group of people or, in this context, animals or natural elements gathering or moving together.

Splendour in the grass, glory in the flower

Expressions that evoke the beauty and transient nature of life’s moments and the natural world.

Primal sympathy

A fundamental or basic feeling of connection and empathy with others or with nature.

Philosophic mind

A mindset that reflects deep thinking, understanding, and contemplation about life and existence.

Fountains, Meadows, Hills, and Groves

Natural elements or landscapes like water sources, fields, elevated land areas, and small forests.

Severing of our loves

The cutting off or ending of our affections.

Habitual sway

Usual influence or control.

Brooks which down their channels fret

Small streams of water that move through their paths, sometimes rapidly or with turbulence.

A new-born Day

The pure and fresh start of a day implies new beginnings or opportunities.

Man’s mortality

The fact of human life is finite or temporary.

Meanest flower that blows

Even the simplest or most insignificant flower.

Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears

Ideas or emotions are so intense that they go beyond what can be easily expressed by crying.

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