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"We Are Seven" is a poem by William Wordsworth and this poem depicts the innocent nature of a child who just does not want to understand that her siblings have passed away of natural causes and continuously reiterating her determined claim that they are still seven children.

My question is it the theme of the poem that tells us that in young age how innocent we all were until we age and complexity burden our shoulder and we start to act in a not so innocent way or the theme is about how close a disabled, broken, innocent, distressed and disoriented sibling feel when his/her other siblings are separated from them? And he/she constantly calls up their names standing outside the home looking at the bay and believes siblings will come to rescue them sometime later or be the assists in the ice hockey game of their life to score big time in life.

We Are Seven

BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”

  • On what basis do you claim that the child doesn’t understand that her siblings are dead? – Spagirl Jan 1 at 18:14
  • Because the poet writes A simple Child, That lightly draws its breath, And feels its life in every limb, What should it know of death? – mvr950 Jan 1 at 19:03
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    my own reading of ‘what should’, (not ‘what does’) is that the poet expresses that children should not know of death, not that they do not. – Spagirl Jan 1 at 21:04
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    My reading is that Wordsworth is implying that the child actually knows more than the adult, since the two siblings that have passed away are not non-existent, but are in Heaven. – Peter Shor Jan 1 at 23:13
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    @mvr950: I think you are greatly underestimating the depths of Wordsworth's Christian beliefs. Yes, the child does have a childlike understanding of death. But I think one of the points Wordsworth is trying to make is: if the two dead children are actually in Heaven, why shouldn't you count them in? – Peter Shor Jan 3 at 12:50
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this poem depicts the innocent nature of a child who just does not want to understand that her siblings have passed away of natural causes and continuously reiterating her determined claim that they are still seven children.

That's a nice description of how the speaker (not Wordsworth) perceives the child. Like the speaker, you describe her response as refusing to acknowledge something patently obvious. Why do you think Wordsworth did that?

He prefaced Lyrical Ballads, which included this ballad, with a description of the wisdom of the rural people. Because they live close to nature, Wordsworth claimed, their perceptions are shaped by nature and its rhythms and processes. He believed human nature is itself molded by the natural world. By contrast, educated urban residents are surrounded by an artificial environment and they have lost touch with the natural world and with human nature itself. By studying rural people and their feelings, he believed, we can find the natural feelings we have lost touch with. His poetry seeks to teach us how to find the human nature we have lost because of our artificial lives.

In that light, the child's insistence on including her dead siblings as continuing members of the family makes more sense. Death in nature is a seasonal affair, with flowers dying in Autumn only to reappear in Spring. Death is less the actual end of something than a phase in a cyclical process. And the child knows this.

If you think about the poem as a commentary on the speaker, rather than the child, it is saying something about his limitations. Why is he so resistant to her perspective? Why so determined to teach her about his own, more artificial view of mortality as something final? Why can't he listen to this child of nature and learn from her about mortality in the natural world? And why do we modern readers identify with that speaker and his blind ignorance of human nature? What does it suggest about us?

In reading Wordsworth's ballads, you need to reconsider things you take for granted before you can see that behind a simple story, like this one, lies a much deeper philosophical meaning. His poems often work in that fashion. But that's why they are worth reading over and over again.

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  • This has quite a few rhetorical questions. I think it would be improved if you could answer some or all of them. (Stack Exchange is not a good platform for Socratic dialogue.) – Gareth Rees Jan 8 at 17:57
  • @Gareth Rees That's fair. But it raises questions about SE and the demand for yes/no answers that diminish something like poetry, which works through multiplicity of meanings, more than anything else. Maybe SE is a bad fit for poems like this one? I hope that's not true, but I fear it is. – Philly Jan 10 at 3:27
  • If you can see multiple interpretations then you could discuss them in your answer. Stack Exchange works well if you do this, I think. – Gareth Rees Jan 10 at 15:41
  • @GarethRees. I gave it a shot, to make it more like an actual answer. Again, thanks for the suggestion. – Philly Jan 19 at 3:21
  • The answer is much improved. – Gareth Rees Jan 20 at 19:05

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