Please help me to understand the following quote by Wordsworth:
"The child is father of the man."
I understand it like this:
Just as a CHILD resembles its FATHER, likewise any MAN resembles the CHILD he used to be -- if he's lucky.
In the context of the poem (The Rainbow), it means: I want to never outgrow that part of being a child. "So let it be when I am old."
He's saying that he feels as if he inherited, from his younger self, this sense of wonder.
I have seen this quote before. Didn't know it was Wordsworth. Since it is probably taken from a poem, I don't know the context, but I can give you my take on it, for what that's worth.
Before my son, Conor was born I was just a guy. Nothing special. Nothing to lose. I did my share of stupid things, knowing they were stupid. Maybe more than my share.
Since his birth I have a new take on things. I have a new role in life. I don't think I'm anything special, but now when a questionable situation arises I have to consider 'What kind of example am I setting for him?'
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to be a saint or anything. It's just that now that I have a son, it's important to do the right thing. I want to be a man he can be proud of.
As far as Wordsworth goes, I guess it could be this. A father is the guy you count on to keep you in line. I don't speak for anybody else, but he is the reason I keep myself in line. My own father was a perfect example of how NOT to do it.
Just an opinion.
Just the poem. My comments, though personally valid, are way off base.
Thanks a LOT Marian!
Jack, your comments are WONDERFUL.
It gives the poem a whole second lease on life.
If you didn't LIKE your childhood self very much, or even if you've lost touch with your "inner child," you are telling me that it's still possible, that your own child can be the "father" of the man you will become -- that is, you will learn how to be a better person from the example (and also the pressure of responsibility) of your son.
And it reminds me of this:
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said,
"Speak to us of Children."
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
from THE PROPHET
by Kahlil Gibran
I don't know the Rainbow and can't find it right now, bur in Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," we get
The Child is Father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each in natural piety.
Is he quoting a poem titles "The Rainbow," by himself or by someone els'e.
I also agree that Jack's sentiments are as profound as what Wordsworth was getting at. Being a father is about as complex (and for me enlightening) a relation a man can ever be in.
Wordsworth's making a hint at what our recollections show us of the experience of reincaranation, in the sense that Plato worked out. We learn by remembering what we forgot of past lives, so a child would be thenatural teacher of the adult, being closer to the source.
Thank you for the comments and the "On Children".
Go to the home page, click on 'Classic Poets', scroll to Wordsworth, scroll to The Rainbow.
Oh... thank you for your comments as well.
Si vis pacem, parra bellum
Jack, whatever happened to "cut and paste"?
by William Wordsworth
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.
Well, so much for internet verions of texts. The poem entitled, "The Rainbow" there is usually refered to by its first line, "My heart leaps up when I behold," (1807) I don't know if that predates "Ode," the title of the poem I knew the lines from. At any rate, the line's a pretty provocative thing. Even the internet version of the title of the poem I learned of wordsworth's adds the word on to the title unnecessarilly. Sometimes, but not always, my bookishness gets me closer to what the author wrote so I can try to figure out what he was saying. Sometimes it's a waste of my time. Here, I think "Ode" gives us a broader context for the quote than "My heart leaps up when I behold" does.
The question about the quote's meaning is worth asking over and over, which is true about much of Wordsworth and the Romantic poets.
"I believe that children are the future"
Peter, at least one website lists both titles, Bartleby lists the title you suggest:
as to dates Bartleby shows 1803-6 for Intimations and 1802 My Heart Leaps Up
Thanks for the leg word. I truely don't know my way around this web of informations. I just look through the books I have on my shelves, usually, or ask for help with books at the library, as people were so kind to give me directions on non-American English language poets recently. There are so many good uses for this thing, even though I still don't exactly trust it over a scholarly edition of a work in hand.
Ladies & Gentlemen
It's clear to me now, I do appreciate your expertise as well as your personal experience and most of all your kindness to help.