In Wordsworth’s poem, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” the theme of children and their inherent link to the natural world is also explored, albeit in slightly different terms. Just as in the case of Coleridge’s poem, the connection between childhood and the landscape or setting is made immediately clear. Although the reader cannot be certain the speaker is discussing his impressions as a child necessarily, it is clear that he is remembering a time when he was younger. He tells us that he remembers a time when the natural world he was surrounded by appeared to him to be “apparell’d in celestial light / [with] The glory and freshness of a dream” (lines 3-5). Like the speaker in Coleridge’s poem, however, who recalls his own childhood’s lack of connection to nature with sadness, Wordsworth’s speaker claims that these memories and ways of seeing nature have gradually faded.
Consequently, in both poems “Frost at Midnight” by Coleridge and “Ode : Intimations of Immortality” by Wordsworth, it seems that adulthood somehow brings about a severance of the sacred connection of childhood and the natural world. Still, the speaker goes on to look at the shepherd boy and ponders the relationship further, just as Coleridge does in his poem with regards to his sleeping infant. Wordsworth sees youth and childhood as being intimately connected to the natural world and as a result of this, to God as well. Despite his somewhat melancholy state, he begins to rejoice as he says in regards to the children, “Ye blessed creatures, I have heard the call / Ye to each other make; I see / The heaven laugh with you in your jubilee” (lines 36-39). Like Coleridge when he observes the way God and nature come together to make children “see and hear” Wordsworth also recognizes the sacred connection of nature and children. This realization lifts him up and he states, “O evil day! If I were sullen / While Earth herself is adorning, / This sweet May-morning / And the children are culling” (lines 43-45) and vows to rejoice in the moment.
In the poem by Wordsworth, “Ode : Intimations of Immortality” the speaker sees the children he speaks of as being like the month of May as they are in the blooming stage of life with Mother Earth to “adorn” them with her surroundings. This recognition of the almost magical connection between the children and nature prompts the speaker ‘s tone to change gradually throughout the poem from initially feeling as though something has been lost about his own connection to the natural world to rejoicing in the observation of children. By end of the poem he states, “I love the brooks which down their channels fret, / Even more than when I tripp’d lightly as they” (lines 198-199). In other words, by witnessing the interaction of nature and childhood, the speaker has gained a new love for the natural world and a deeper understanding of the connection between himself, children, and the universe as a whole.
Throughout the canon of romantic poetry, the supernatural is often explored and in many senses, the connection between children and the natural world has a quality that goes outside of normal boundaries. Childhood is a magical time during which the romantic concept of a supreme unity between universe and self is realized and thus it is a ripe theme for romantic poets such as Coleridge and Wordsworth to explore. Both poets recognize that adulthood is the end of the “spell” that only children fall under and as Wordsworth states, “Shades of the prison-house begin to close / Upon the growing Boy” (lines 68-69). Adulthood brings about a new understanding of nature as being merely the setting for what Coleridge defines (in his description of the bustling town) as “This populous village… With all the numberless goings-on of life” that simply detract from the purity of childhood.” For these romantic poets, childhood is something that is imbued with an almost holy element as it is only during this time that a true and pure connection can be made between the three most important realms in existence (especially in terms of romantic thought): nature, god, and unity with the universe.
Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include : An Analysis of Common Themes in Victorian Poetry • Common Themes in Romanticism, The Enlightenment, and the Renaissance • Overview of Romanticism in Literature • Analytical Essay on the Poem “Air and Angels” by John Donne • The Theme of Celibacy in Browning’s Poem “Fra Lippo Lippi” • Poem Analysis of “Do Not Go Gently into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas