Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IV. The Higher Life
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IV. The Higher Life.  1904.
VII. Death: Immortality: Heaven
Ode; Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
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 the dream.        5
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.
        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;        15
    The sunshine is a glorious birth;
    But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath passed away a glory from the earth.
Now, while the birds thus sing a joyous song,
      And while the young lambs bound        20
        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,—        25
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        30
      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!        35
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,—        40
The fulness of your bliss, I feel, I feel it all.
      O evil day! if I were sullen
      While Earth herself is adorning,
          This sweet May morning,
      And the children are culling,        45
          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!—        50
      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.        55
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,        60
        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:        65
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;        70
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,        75
And fade into the light of common day.
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,        80
      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.
Behold the child among his new-born blisses,—
A six years’ darling of a pygmy 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,        90
Some fragment from his dream of human life,
Shaped by himself with newly learnèd art,—
      A wedding or a festival,
      A mourning or a funeral;—
        And this hath now his heart,        95
      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,        100
      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;        105
      As if his whole vocation
      Were endless imitation.
Thou, whose exterior semblance doth belie
      Thy soul’s immensity!
Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep        110
Thy heritage! thou eye among the blind,
That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep,
Haunted forever by the eternal mind!—
      Mighty prophet! Seer blest!
      On whom those truths do rest        115
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;        120
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?        125
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;        130
        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,—        135
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;        140
    But for those obstinate questionings
    Of sense and outward things,
    Fallings from us, vanishings;
    Blank misgivings of a creature
Moving about in worlds not realized,        145
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,        150
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,        155
        To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavor,
        Nor man nor boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!        160
    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,        165
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!        170
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        175
Be now forever taken from my sight,
      Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
      We will grieve not, rather find
      Strength in what remains behind;        180
      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,        185
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        190
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;        195
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober coloring 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,        200
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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