Wordsworth’s Life Lessons: Splendour in the Grass
William Wordsworth’s Ode to Intimations of Immortality is the classic example of the beauty of the mind, and the complexity of the values of innocence and experience. Wordsworth’s narrator reflects on scenes in nature, the classic romanticism touch, birds singing in nature, the moon and the sky, a young child, a lamb, and celestial lights, meanwhile finding his thoughts at odds with these scenes. Wordsworth strays from the traditional values of liberty, truth and freedom the romantic usually finds in nature. Wordsworth instead, through deep philosophical thought and solitude, finds loss in nature. The loss of innocence, and the desire to return to a childhood like state.
The key passage from this Ode, is the following. It is so profound it inspired the movie Splendor in the Grass with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.
“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.” – William Wordsworth
This particular stanza urges the human being to look beyond the loss and grievances of life, and realize that the “radiance” which may be ones happy years, lost love, high school memories, deceased loved ones, will eventually be taken from our sight. Rather than grieve, find the strength to remain faithful and mindful of what still remains with you. For the “radiance” will always reside within you, because as you know, people and places become a part of you, (kind of like ee cummings, I carry your heart with me(I carry it in my heart)).
The movie, Splendor in the Grass, translates this poem as a lost high school love between Bud and Deanie. On many occasions I have offered this poem as simple life/relationship advice. Our moments (beware of cliche) in the sun, are just what they are moments. Rather than spending our entire lives trying to recreate moments and relive certain “hours”, “nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower.” Wordsworth meant this to mean our childhood, whether it be childhood loves, innocence or the purity of naivety. The beauty lies, not in these moments, but the strength we have to keep these moments within us, not grieve their loss, but allow their memory to provide us the strength to move along in our lives peacefully and faithfully.
The second aspect of this stanza discuses the “soothing thoughts” which are brought about by human suffering. Wordsworth, like many theologians, believes that suffering and the thoughts which orginiate in suffering contribute to the growth and philosophical nature of a person. If one was to by pass suffering, the contemplation and mental discovery typical of this time would be lost, not allowing the person to contribute to their “philosophic mind.” For instance, isn’t it in moments of suffering and grief when we realize what is actually important to us? Deep contemplation in suffering, springs about “soothing thoughts” which contribute to our “philosophic minds.” So like the romantics, solitude and reflection is essential for intellectual, imiaginative, philosophical and creative growth in the mind.