My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold
You know, little things can mean a lot. They sure do to William Wordsworth. He loves the simple, often-overlooked things about this world: daffodils, rainbows, the sound of an artfully written poem. Like many of his fellow poets in the Romantic movement, Wordsworth treasured life and nature more than just about anything else. Including television. Sheesh.
This love of life and capacity to take pleasure in simple joys—which Wordsworth is more likely to find in a blade of grass than a bank account—comes through like a clap of thunder in this 1807 ditty, "My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold." The speaker uses the image of a rainbow to show that he loves the beautiful small things in nature so much that he would rather die than stop loving them. A day without nature, this poem expresses, is a day not worth living.
And if you know anything about Wordsworth, that sounds just right. In fact, if you don't know anything about Wordsworth, this poem is a great place to start, because it's got his joie de vivre written all over it.
Why Should I Care?
Even if you're a city person through and through, we're willing to bet that, one day in your life, you've looked up after a storm and seen a rainbow. And, we're guessing that you didn't frown and say to yourself, "Big deal. Another rainbow. Seen one, seen 'em all." No, there's something magical about those colors floating up in the sky that touches the hearts of the young and the old, urbanites, suburbanites, and country dwellers alike. There's nothing like a rainbow to pull people out of a bad mood. It's almost as if rainbows are the world's way of smiling at us, letting us know that, hey, if something that beautiful can exist up in the sky, everything is going to be okay after all.
If you, as we suspect, have ever had your heart leap up at the sight of a rainbow, this poem is for you. But it's more than a simple exclamation of joy at seeing a rainbow. It explains the feeling that the beauty of nature gives us, and how that feeling stretches throughout our entire lives. Perhaps, the poem even suggests, this beauty is what makes life worth living.