This short poem by William Wordsworth, written during a stay in Grasmere in the Lake District, is a simple expression of awe. Composed with an uncharacteristic sparsity of words, the poem is an ode to the child’s mind, the fresh beginner’s mind that has easy access to joy through the experience of sheer perception. The resonant line, The Child is the Father of Man, finds its expression in the elevation of innocence, for example in the life and poetry of the Zen monk Ryokan, as well as in the circularity of childhood to adulthood and back again.
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 (1770-1850)
From: The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth