Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” explores the concept that children are connected with the divine and with an idealised outlook on the world. Although, according to the poet, people lose both of these qualities when they enter adulthood, the memory of such times allows them to sympathise with others.
The first four stanzas are of a nostalgic tone and childhood is certainly mentioned. The nostalgia isn’t for childhood itself, however, but for certain elements of it. Wordsworth views childhood at a time when a person’s sense of identity is comfortable; it is not in question. Furthermore, Wordsworth seems to be implying that, in childhood, a person is very much connected to the divine and to the natural things in life and in the world. The first stanza informs the reader of this idea. Wordsworth says that when he was a child he believed that the world was perfect: “To me did seem / Apparell’d in celestial light, / The glory and the freshness of a dream (Wordsworth).
The term “weltschmerz” describes the depression caused by comparing the actual state of the world with an idealised state (Merriam-Webster). This term summarises Wordsworth’s tone within this poem perfectly. He is feeling nostalgic for the sense of contentment that we feel with the world as children. According to Wordsworth, when a person grows up, they soon realise that the world isn’t ideal as they believed in childhood.
Wordsworth goes on to suggest that, although the sense of divine is lost in adulthood and, indeed, the world no longer seems ideal, the process of change allows people to sympathise with other human beings. His point is that through the memory of being connected with the divine, people still reap the benefits of the concept despite their lack of connection.
“Ode: Intimations of Immortality” is one of Wordsworth’s most interesting works. Although not everyone believes in the divine, most people can relate to an idealised sense of the world that they had as children, and that they have since lost.
Merriam-Webster. “Welschmerz.” 2012. Web. 15 March 2012.