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

The poem “The Rainbow” also holds the alternative title “My Heart Leaps Up”.Wordsworth stated in his “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” that a true poet should be enchanted by things absent, as though they were present. The symbol of the Rainbow is emblematic of his ideology. The rainbow is a natural phenomenon. It exists visually, however, is not present as a tangible object, or rather materially. I came across the following in an internet article: A cube has six sides. We live in a universe of three dimensions. Each dimension has two directions: front-back, right-left, up-down; yielding a total of six. The seventh is then the middle point, a thing of zero dimensions, and untouchable. Present, but intangible. It therefore represents the holiness that is inherent in the universe. Wordsworth’s poem follows similar lines.

The rainbow embodies the seven colours that are the most basic elements of what white light is made of. As this light, at once symbolic of life, enters the prismatic atmosphere, it disperses into its basic seven-coloured elements. Wordsworth always had a very colourful vision of life.

The Rainbow is the most natural paradigm of the number ‘seven’. Furthermore, in the Book of Revelation, the number 7 is used throughout: there are 7 churches, seven spirits, seven stars, seven seals, seven dooms, and seven new things. Seven symbolizes Spiritual Perfection.

– Seven is used over 700 times in the Bible – 54 times in Revelations.

-In Leviticus 23:15-16, the number SEVEN and the Sabbath, which was the SEVENTH day, is connected with the word COMPLETE. The word COMPLETE follows after the words “SEVEN SABBATH” (Seventh day). The day following the SEVENTH sabbath there was something NEW that took place.

– The whole Word of God is founded upon the number 7 – it stands for the 7th day of the Creation week. The word CREATED is used seven times in connection with God’s creative work.

The rainbow has the property of binding the seven colours. It also has, to Wordsworth, the property of bridging the gap between the past, present and future. He asserts that his heart has been overwhelmed at the sight of a rainbow. It had been so when he was a child, when he is an adult and will also be the same as an aged person in the future. It has in the process,also united the visualization of the child, the insight of the adult and the vision of the aged person. A similar idea recurs in Dylan Thomas’ “Poem in October” where the reference to parables of sunlight pertain to the Christianity of his upbringing. Just as parables teach, the sunlight taught him about God’s glory and goodness. The poem acquires pantheistic overtones here. Once upon a time, as a boy he remembered and appreciated them, as a grown up man he remembers them ‘twice-told’. As he recalls his childhood, sorrows are recalled and the heart of the boy is recaptured. As Dylan Thomas mentions that” his tears burnt my cheeks”, the boy and the man become one; the past and the present are bridged. Here, Wordsworth insists that there is something in nature that brings out the basic innocence in man with response to Nature and fills in him a sense of awe. It spiritually enlightens him on the magnificence of God’s enchanting creations. If this not be the truth, he would rather prefer to die.

The sentence:” The Child is father of the man” has gained proverbial dimensions and has been variously interpreted. The childhood stage is the most innocent and purest form of the human soul. The response of the child is spontaneous and uncontaminated by external considerations. It is not polished or sophisticated as the adult intellect is. He has an unadulterated soul and is in communion with nature. And, as Cleanth Brooks comments in his essay “The Language of Paradox”, on one of the best-known poems of Wordsworth, the child’s worship of nature is involuntary and the poet’s more conscious. Therefore, the child is above the man himself: The Child is the father of man.

© Rukhaya MK 2010

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