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"my Heart Leaps Up"- Close Reading

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Asa Nelson
ENGL 2174
Essay #1

        A common association with William Wordsworth’s poetry is the significant amount of admiration he has with the little things in nature that many take for granted. Like several of his creative peers during the Romantic era, Wordsworth valued and adored just about anything that had to do with life and nature over most anything else. With this intense love of the little things, it should come to be no surprise that Wordsworth can deeply express this particular kind of appreciation for something rather trivial such as an ordinary rainbow as substantially as he does in his work, “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”, and also to do it in such a short worded poem. To do so, William Wordsworth uses natural imagery and age imagery to convey his message in a relatable way while writing in a variated iambic tetrameter in order to create stronger emphasis in his speech in this poem. Altogether, the author wishes to describe the joy he feels when viewing a rainbow and how he has always felt the same joy as a child, and how he hopes to continue to have that same joy as an elderly man.

        Now at first glance, this poem comes across as an oversensitive guy ranting dramatically about his potentially dangerous obsessive love for rainbows, going as far as to say he would sooner rather die than to live in a world where rainbows bore him. However, while under the literary microscope, the reader can examine the real profound meanings intended, because the poem is not focused on rainbows at all. No, instead the poem is about so much more. The visual usage of a rainbow is just an easy way to represent his message before diving into his explanation that life without beauty would not be life at all, or at least not a life worth living. Still, the rainbow represents not just all things beautiful in nature, but literally every little thing that one can enjoy while living. Saying only that, of course the message is much more agreeable. Another use of imagery can be found in the very first line, which is also the title, where the speaker actually personifies his own heart and suggests that by the mere sight of seeing what he loves causes instant delight as his “heart leaps up.” Nobody would want to live in a lackluster world with nothing to look at. That is the first point William Wordsworth is sharing: that we should appreciate the wonderful little things in life because we do have them. Needless to say, not everybody is overwhelmed by the sight of a rainbow, but everyone has something in this world that just never gets old to them. It is like a favorite television show that can be watched over and over, or a worn out book that reads like it is brand new because it inspires the same magical feeling again and again the same way something great is experienced for the first time, which leads into Wordsworth’s next point: he hopes to never outgrow that feeling.

        Getting older is hardly a thing one looks forward to with all things considered. Resilience fades, vulnerability increases, and all five senses deteriorate, but of all these things, none is more depressing than outgrowing the abilities to love and admire. The poem manages to cover the human lifespan from childhood to eventual death, yet, the poem also manages to stress the importance of maintaining a childlike sense of wonder throughout. Take the lines 3-6 for example:

“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!” (169)

In a way, this poem is a rebellious victory song. The speaker’s heart still leaps whenever he spots a rainbow and declares his heart will continue to do so as an old man. After all this time, he can still enjoy the things of his youth and not feel even an ounce of emotional detachment. Then there is the paradoxical line 7 that states, “The Child is father of the Man;” (169). Obviously, a child could never realistically be the father of an adult, logically speaking. Still, this sentence is not false because what the speaker is suggesting is that like how a child comes from his father, the adult comes from the child he used to be. Wordsworth is saying fathers are typically given the status as creators, and every day a child is creating something new about his or herself as he or she develops. The child creates the adult it one day becomes. Another thing to take away from the line is the understanding that it is the experiences of your childhood that become a part of who you are as an adult. Finally, the last two lines of the poem state, “And I could wish my days to be/Bound each to each by natural piety.” (169). This is a great conclusive line that further asserts that despite whatever may happen in the speaker’s life, he still hopes to faithfully stay true to the love and respect he holds for nature and all of its beauty no matter how old he gets. One could argue that the speaker is bragging about his heart’s constancy, and if it is so, he deserves to because it is countless how many cannot do the same, but truly wish to. 

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