“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:27
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter28 nakedness,
But trailing29 clouds of glory do we come.
From God, who is our home :
Heaven lies about us in our infancy !”(LI 58-66)
These lines are from William Wordsworth’s highly philosophic poem “Immortality Ode”. While accounting for the loss of the childhood vision in manhood, the poet refers to the transition of the human soul from heaven to earth. In this connection, Wordsworth reflects here on the mystery of the existence of man’s soul in heaven and earth and probes into the cause for the disappearance of the celestial radiance of childhood days in manhood.
The poet has already regretted the loss of the celestial dreams of his childhood days in his manhood. Here he traces the cause of the change, that has come upon a man in his maturity. The true home of man’s soul is heaven. With the birth of the infant, the soul begins to traverse to earth. Infancy, in fact, is very close to Heaven. This passes to childhood. The child, thus, is rather fresh from heaven and as such he retains his communication with heaven and perceives some spiritual radiance even on earthly elements-very common natural objects. After all, his soul previously existed in heaven, and when it comes down to earth, it is not divested of all heavenly associations-all its brightness and splendor. Even in the materials objects of the earth around him, the child sees some sparks of Heaven. The poet emphasizes that man’s real life is in heaven and earthly life is nothing but a temporary sojourn-a sort of slumber from his spiritual existence. Certain dim reminiscences, therefore, remain with the earthly man, of his heavenly abode and that is why the child has the celestial vision in earthly elements.
The lines echo the Platonic doctrine of the pre-existence of the human soul in Heaven, before earthly birth. In Plato’s concept, the real existence of soul is in heaven, and earthly life is a mere shadow, a mere reflection of what is real in heaven, Wordsworth follows Plato’s theory of the pre-natal state of soul to explain the loss of the childhood vision in manhood. Of course, his view is, to some extent, different from Plato’s, and is more based on his philosophic evaluation of the cosmic creative force.