The pervasive tone of Wordsworth’s poem is that of a dark cloud. A dark cloud emotionally, is one that hangs over your life. His dark cloud is a painful awareness of appending mortality. It over shadowing him throughout his life sometimes moving closer and other times farther away. The cloud isn’t there all the time in the same way. He describes periods of being free from it. His descriptions of nature, the earth, the heavens, all of the life of the Earth, are so vivid that they convey a deep connection to life and awe with it’s beauty.
What Wordsworth himself said about the Ode: Intimations of Immortality, offers many clues for understanding what he is dealing with. (The Norton Anthology, 6th Edition pg.1382) “Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood then to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being. ...My difficulty came as from a sense of the indomitableness of the spirit within me.” With these words, Wordsworth speaks to the heart of the dilemma that this poem is about. The reality of death is incomprehensible to the child but inevitably must be faced as he grows up. He is so very alive, so full of the joy of life, that death is beyond what his mind can grasp.
(Wordsworth 67-68) “Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy.” The child is starting to grow out of innocence and is gaining a clearer view of reality. The dark cloud slowly intrudes. (Wordsworth 81-84) “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 once he came.” Here Wordsworth is moving into the child’s process of maturing and the inevitible pain it will bring. With maturity he will need to give up his ideal of immortality and confront reality. (Wordsworth 121-125) “Thou little child, yet glorious in the might, if heaven-born freedom on thy being’s height. Why with such earnest pains dost thou provoke the years to bring the inevitable yolk.” The...
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