Ode: Intimations of Immortality - Themes

Themes

The first version of the ode is similar to many of Wordsworth's spring 1802 poems. The ode is like To the Cuckoo in that both poems discuss aspects of nature common to the end of spring. Both poems were not crafted at times that the natural imagery could take place, so Wordsworth had to rely on his imagination to determine the scene. Wordsworth refers to "A timely utterance" in the third stanza, possibly the same event found in his The Rainbow, and the ode contains feelings of regret that the experience must end. This regret is joined with feelings of uneasiness that he no longer feels the same way he did as a boy. The ode reflects Wordsworth's darker feelings that he could no longer return to a peaceful state with nature. This gloomy feeling is also present in The Ruined Cottage and in Tintern Abbey. Of the other 1802 poems, the ode is different from his Resolution and Independence, a poem that describes the qualities needed to become a great poet. The poem argued that a poet should not be excessive or irresponsible in behavior and contains a sense of assurance that is not found within the original four stanzas. Instead, there is a search for such a feeling but the poem ends without certainty, which relates the ode to Coleridge's poem Dejection: An Ode. When read together, Coleridge's and Wordsworth's poem form a dialogue with an emphasis on the poet's relationship with nature and humanity. However, Wordsworth's original four stanzas describing a loss is made darker in Coleridge and, to Coleridge, only humanity and love are able to help the poet.

While with Wordsworth, Coleridge was able to read the poem and provide his response to the ode's question within an early draft of his poem, Dejection: an Ode. Coleridge's answer was to claim that the glory was the soul and it is a subjective answer to the question. Wordsworth took a different path as he sought to answer the poem, which was to declare that childhood contained the remnants of a beatific state and that being able to experience the beauty that remained later was something to be thankful for. The difference between the two could be attributed to the differences in the poets' childhood experiences; Coleridge suffered from various pain in his youth whereas Wordsworth's was far more pleasant. It is possible that Coleridge's earlier poem, The Mad Monk (1800) influenced the opening of the ode and that discussions between Dorothy and Wordsworth about Coleridge's childhood and painful life were influences on the crafting of the opening stanza of the poem. However, the message in the ode, as with Tintern Abbey, describes the pain and suffering of life as able to dull the memory of early joy from nature but it is unable to completely destroy it. The suffering leads Wordsworth to recognize what is soothing in nature, and he credits the pain as leading to a philosophical understanding of the world.

The poem is similar to the conversation poems created by Coleridge, including Dejection: An Ode. The poems were not real conversations as there is no response to the narrator of the poem, but they are written as if there would be a response. The poems seek to have a response, though it never comes, and the possibility of such a voice though absence is a type of prosopopoeia. In general, Coleridge's poems discuss the cosmic as they long for a response, and it is this aspect, not a possible object of the conversation, that forms the power of the poem. Wordsworth took up the form in both Tintern Abbey and Ode: Intimations of Immortality, but he lacks the generous treatment of the narrator as found in Coleridge's poems. As a whole, Wordsworth's technique is impersonal and more logical, and the narrator is placed in the same position as the object of the conversation. The narrator of Wordsworth is more self-interested and any object beyond the narrator is kept without a possible voice and is turned into a second self of the poet. As such, the conversation has one of the participants lose his identity for the sake of the other and that individual represents loss and mortality.

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