Child is the father of Man” Wordsworth wrote a poem The Rainbow and left behind a very famous saying that “child is the father of man. ” This statement has been interpreted by various critics in various ways. For Wordsworth, it is important because a child is spiritually very elevated. He has a direct link with nature. He says that a child is a symbol of purity and innocence which remains untarnished until he grows up and gets engaged in worldly affairs. Wordsworth thinks a child is more akin to nature.
His orderliness and acts have hidden meanings although he himself may be unaware of it. He thinks that childhood period is the ground or the basis of man’s personality. Childhood experiences form one’s personality and they reflect what a child is going to be. Another school of thought says about this statement that “a child is a potential man. ” He develops his most of qualities in childhood period which gradually help him in becoming a mature person. Even modern psychology says that man’s personality gets complete in early age of his life. So, child is the father of man for many reasons.
A Child is more innocent and pure, more spiritual and has direct link with nature. This period of life provides basis for the coming periods of life as well. So, this is the most significant period of life. However, I am going to justify the statement, “A Child is father of Man” in various ways and will elaborate how child is the father of man. Wordsworth has both idealized and idolized childhood. His personality was very much affected by his childhood experiences with nature. Therefore, he emphasizes Rafi 2 spiritual side of childhood and attaches much importance to this period of life.
In his famous “Immortality Ode”, he shows incredible tribute for the child and calls him: Best philosopher…… Mighty prophet! And seer bless. The poet feels that a child sees a celestial light and enjoys himself in the dreamy grandeur. What he means to say is that a child is like a mystic who has some ability of seeing the light of heaven in some objects of nature which a common man may not be able to see. As the critic, Marion Montgomery says: Wordworth’s reflections on his line, used as epigraph to his ‘Intimation Ode’ leads him to conclude that the child is ‘best philosopher’ because so reflection so recently come rom heaven streaming clouds of glory, a small perfection of man which will grow from.  A child is a prophet because he represents nature. As nature (God) guides prophets, in the same way, Nature itself guides a child. Same is the case with Wordsworth who spent his childhood in the lap of nature. Nature was his Heaven and the only guide and teacher in his mental and spiritual growth. For him, childhood period is the best period to be guided by nature. He writes in his poem, The Prelude: Fair seed-time had my soul and I grew up,
Fostered alike by beauty and by fear Thus, a child is purer than adults in tune with the spiritual side of nature. A child is not spoilt by the defiling inevitability of growing up to the adulthood in an impure world. By Rafi 3 saying that a child is the father of man, he means to touch the universal appeal of nature and the life long she gave to the poet. William Wordsworth believes that the soul of man knows everything possible before it is thrown in this world. At the time of the birth, one simply forgets which one’s soul knew once.
When he says that child is the father of man, he is explicating his belief that the child is in constant astonishment with life unlike his father who has become immune to the day-to- day life. That is to say that a child knows more of life because he is nearer to its previous state and existence of soul and man has drifted away from it. By the previous existence of the soul of man, we mean it is that existence which is without any physique. So, when the soul of child comes in this world, it remains in constant astonishment with its new life which is quite strange for it and the soul of is not so because it becomes mmune to the world. Hence the child being of superior status to man becomes the father of man because of the purity of soul. This statement can also be religious in its nature from Wordsworth’s point of view. “The child” may refer to God’s children, who looks at rainbow and can see in it God’s reflection. That is why also, Wordsworth calls child “A seer bless”. Wordsworth himself sees reflection of God in rainbows which is why his heart leaps when he beholds it. He saw it once and now declares that he wants never to stop being awed by natural wonders which communicate God’s love and beauty.
As a child, he used to enjoy more pleasure by watching natural wonders which soothe his soul. But he cannot be a child forever. Still, he does not want to forget his primary place as a child and his love and devotion towards God and his creations. Rafi 4 For Wordsworth, child is a father of man also because a child is more innocent, pure and selfless. A child’s thoughts are simple and pure. A child is not like a man in his response towards society. He lives in his own world which is away from worldly desires.
Man has certain desires and as he grows up, he falls prey to society, which is impure. As a man grows up, he becomes more and more egoistic and selfish. He looses all his good qualities like the purity of mind and soul and innocence. A child is always free from such things and loses. Wordsworth believes that child is the only entity who is not corrupted by society. In childhood, you create an association with nature. But as you grow up, it diminishes because you become the part of society which takes you away from nature. This is what Wordsworth is saying in The Rainbow.
He is lamenting the losses of inspirational perspective powers and emotional intensity with age. He remembers his childhood experiences and the height of purity, innocence and association with nature and being inspired by them says “Child is the father of man. ” Hence this statement takes us to another point childhood experiences will determine how we think as adults. For Wordsworth, this period of life lays the basis of man’s growth. Christine Eiser says: Early experience is believed to play in later psychological unctioning. Studies offer plenty of evidence to suggest that early experiences are associated with increased risk to social, behavioral and educational outcomes.  He divides human age into three periods: childhood, manhood and old age. Growth is a process which starts from the birth of a child. In our old age, we want to enjoy all that Rafi 5 what we had enjoyed in childhood. In the poem, The Rainbow, the poet too has a desire to enjoy the same childhood joy of seeing rainbow so that it may continue to sustain him in his old age.
Similarly, Wordsworth has been in the company of nature since his childhood. Therefore, he, when he is old, he wants to enjoy the simple beauty of rainbows and other natural objects as described in the The Prelude. So, the effects of childhood period can still be seen in his old age. Similarly, he says that our inner child never diminishes completely. He believes that a child in every person teaches him and directs his actions. Whatever we learn and experience as a child, definitely, helps us somewhere in life. Meaning thereby, today’s child is the father of tomorrow’s man.
Wordsworth‘s inclination towards nature has its basis in childhood. Therefore, most of his poetry is based on his childhood or past experiences like “The Prelude”, “Daffodils”, or “The Rainbow” It is his inner child which makes him write poetry and describe nature in it. It is because of all these reasons that this period is so important and that it provides not only basis for coming ages but also determines how we think as adults. Thus, becomes permanent part of our life. Besides Wordsworth, there is another poet who has given the same statement but in a different context.
Gerard. M. Hopkins, in his poem, “The child is the father to man”, reflects on both the relationship of a child to his father and of man to God. We see that Wordsworth comments on how both young and the old behold the splendor of nature; however young are closer to nature in its spiritual side and in turn to God Himself. But Hopkins might argue a different point. He seems to conclude that in our youth we are child, but as we grow old, we again become more like children. He writes: Rafi 6 The man is Father to child The child is father to man!
It provides commentary not only on the aging process of human beings but also allows Hopkins to think spiritually about the divinity and humanity of Christ. For example, according to Christian beliefs, Jesus was sent to bear the sins of mankind and preach beliefs about salvation and about God. Thus, the child of God is the father of all humanity. The truth of the statement can also be justified in another way that the qualities shown by a child are often indications of what the child is going to be. As Milton says: The child shows the man, As morning shows the day
The truth of statement may hardly be questioned by anyone who has observed life carefully. There is an old proverb, “As the twig is bent, so the tree will grow. ” Even, in the case of a tree, we can tell beforehand how the tree will grow. Jesuit maxim supports this argument in these lines: Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards.  Napoleon, the great warrior, spent his childhood in building fortresses of snow and besieging them with full fury and storm. The basis of his early mental make-up, he could declare that the word “impossible” was to be found in the dictionary of fools.
Similarly, Wordsworth spent his childhood in the lap of nature and became the admirer of it. So, Rafi 7 the environment in which a child is born and brought can help to understand and predict the nature and inclination of a child. But those who believe in “destiny” as an overpowering force may disagree to it that any prophecy can be made about what the child would be. They say that sometimes circumstances of life change everything. Man transforms from an innocent being to a cruel one or vice-versa. There have been instances in which promising childhood has been followed by disapproving manhood and vice versa.
Boys who seem stupid when small have sometimes grown up into great men. On the surface, it seems true, but if we go deep in our analysis of such persons who became remarkable but they gave no such evidence in their childhood, we can find that the qualities which distinguished them as men were possessed by them when they were children, although these qualities did not find scope to show themselves. Secondly, when we say that man’s qualities can change due to circumstances, it is not true. Characteristic, once developed can never diminish.
Human nature does not change what ever circumstances he may face, Wordsworth’s inclination towards nature never changed though he saw war between France and England. He saw French Revolution and its destruction. He was the admirer of nature and remained till death. The characteristics which a person develops in his early age become the permanent part of his mind and thinking. Science of psychology has also proved this by analyzing man’s mind and traces back its basis formed in infancy and childhood. Jung, a psychologist, was one of the first to describe developmental process of mind. He foresees the development of human mind Rafi 8 n infancy. He names this age as “archaic age” which has sporadic consciousness and during this period, there is the beginning of logical and abstract thinking. He believes that man’s personality gets complete in the first five years of life. A child’s mind is as blank as a blank paper and anything once written on it is irremovable. The environment In which a person lives is a crucial process of stimulating growth, adjustments, self-awareness and identity. A man learns all these things in childhood which definitely affect his manhood. Thus, child is the father of man. Freud, another psychologist has also done a lot in this behalf.