My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
# William Wordsworth
Notes: The beautiful poem quoted above happens to be one of William Wordsworth’s most popular poems. It professes his deep love for nature and its innumerable manifestations. Here, he speaks about a rainbow, which is an inevitable fascination for everyone, especially children.
Wordsworth’s heart leaps up with thrill and excitement when he beholds a rainbow in the sky. That truly happens to most of us who get stunned for a while when sunrays and rain-droplets paint an awesome seven coloured bow in the sky. The poet traces out his fascination which had always been there, right from the days when his life began, i.e., childhood. That feeling was still there when he grew up, into a man. And he was pretty confident that the emotion would still be there when he would grow old or even die.
With that, all of a sudden comes the poet’s philosophical perception of child as well as man. He asserts that ‘child is father of the man.’ Why? Quite a mysterious observation, isn’t it? Father, as you know, is one who provides sustenance, care and protection to his child. As time passes, the child grows up into a man and the man turns old and feeble who has to be dependent on the grown up child, i.e., man, for sustenance and care. Thus ultimately, it is the child who plays the father.
Finally comes a noble wish from the poet. He wishes his days to be bound to each other by natural piety. I wonder what he means by ‘natural’ piety. On the surface, it could refer to ‘piety’ in the general sense, which means holiness and divinity. In Wordsworth context, it could even stand for the piety and divinity inherent in the nature. Spiritually speaking, we owe our life to the five elements of nature – earth, water, fire, sky and air. They are the five basic elements our material body is made of. In other words, it is by the nature’s piety, divinity that we actually exist on the earth.
No wonder, as a poet and man, William Wordsworth was better known as the Nature’s Prophet.
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# Ashok Misra