Intimations of Immortality
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.
William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850, major English poet. The full title of the complete poem is “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”. It’s a long piece; I’m reading it in
The Oxford Book of English Mystical Verse, a volume first published in 1917; the poems therein were selected by D.H.S. Nicholson and A.H.E. Lee.
Wordsworth was at the forefront of the “Romantic” era in European literature. (Romanticism was a philosophical and cultural movement whose themes—exploring the relationships between light and darkness, nature and man [Art is “the mediatress between, and reconciler of nature and man”, in the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge]; expressing the validity of deep feeling, intuition, and awareness of the soul and the non-rational aspects of our experience in our comprehension of reality; also patriotism and a certain idealization of “the common man”, the rural life—comprised a reaction to the prevailing “Enlightenment” ideals of the time. The Romantic poets strove to use language, while most carefully indeed, yet in a somewhat vernacular mode, appealing to a plainer language, even regional dialects spoken by ordinary people.)
I’ll leave you with a few more of Wordsworth’s words, quoted in the Wikipedia article I accessed for much of the information supplied here. Interesting to note how what was old becomes new again, in a sort of spiral of human history and understanding of experience; here, the relationship between mind and reality:
My voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual Mind
(And the progressive powers perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to the external World
Is fitted:–and how exquisitely, too,
Theme this but little heard of among Men,
The external World is fitted to the Mind.