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.
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.
Words Worth Reading on Poets.org
Check out his biography, poems, and more!
Wordsworth on Bartleby
Read his complete poetry.
Trust us, this British website has tons of good info.
Pearls of Wisdom
Here's some pretty slick animation to go with this poem.
What's Up, Doc?
Here's a great documentary (part 1 of 5) on the life of our man, W.W.
Check out another Wordsworth pro-nature poem, called "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." It's read by a richly-voiced English fellow.
YouTube! You've done it again. Check out this rap tribute to Wordsworth, delivered by a dude in a squirrel costume. Really. We can't make this stuff up.
Wordsworth in Your Ears
Check out some audio books available for purchase.
Here's a veritable slew, a slew we tell you, of Wordsworth's work, recorded and available (for free!) on Libravox.
Deep Thoughts, by William Wordsworth
Ever notice how thinking deeply and having a headache sort of look the same?
Either that, or Wordsworth has just picked some food out of his teeth.
Wordsworth in Nature
This painting shows him right where he loved to be.
A picture of Wordsworth's grave, which he shared with his wife.
William Wordsworth: Master Manipulator
Here's an article that explores the dark side of Wordsworth's property management.
Here's a whole book that collects interviews with, and impressions of, our man Wordsy.
Wordsworth's major works can be found on Amazon, complete with Look Inside function!
Get the minor works, too, in this book that collects all of Wordsworth's poems.