Creative process: Poetry and the imagination of childhood

The Poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850) has described the basis of his poetic creativity as being based largely on “emotion recollected in tranquility,” such as in his poem Ode: Intimations of Immortality.

In his preface to the poem, Wordsworth says there were “…particular feelings or experiences of my own mind on which the structure of the poem partly rests.”

Whereas the overall poem is making a religious and philosophical statement about immortality, it contains, through his “emotion recollected in tranquility,” some powerful imagery and descriptions of the imaginative powers we have in childhood and how as we age, those particular imaginative capabilities tend to wane.

The first stanza from the poem exemplifies this:

There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
            To me did seem
     Appareled in celestial light
The glory and freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore –
          Turn whereso’er I may,
                By night or day,
The things which I have seen I can see no more.

He adds that wherever he goes,
 
“…there hath passed away a glory from the earth”

And,

“Wither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”

Despite this, the poem ends on an optimistic note that the imagination of his childhood has been the foundation for his adult sentiment  that:

“To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.” (2)

(1) From selections of Wordsworth’s poetry in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 2, Third Edition, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1974

(2) “Meanest” in the sense of the most common, or ordinary flower

—Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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