Study Guide

We Are Seven Stanzas 16-17

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Stanzas 16-17

Lines 61-69

"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!"

  • After her very detailed explanation of her relationship with her siblings after death, the speaker is still incredulous. Will this guy not rest until he changes the little girl's mind? He's starting to seem like a bully. 
  • He asks her again: so, if two of you "are in heaven," how many are you all together? 
  • The girl, once again, sticks to her guns, and exclaims, "O Master! we are seven." 
  • The speaker is not a happy camper. He starts yelling at the little girl. (Seriously, check out all those exclamation points. These lines might as well be written in all caps.) "But they are dead; those two are dead!" he says. He's getting quite cruel, in our opinion. 
  • But the speaker tells us that even these exclamations are "throwing words away." The little girl won't listen.
  • The poem ends with the little girl asserting her "will." The last line of the poem is a repetition of what she has been saying all poem long: "we are seven!"
  • So now it's time for the big questions: who wins the argument? The speaker, or the little girl? Is death the end of a person, or do the dead live on and still "count" in our lives?
  • The poem raises, but doesn't really answer, these questions. But, if we had to bet on Wordsworth's opinion, we'd bet that he is at least sympathetic to the little girl's point of view. Her resolution is unwavering, and the fact that she has the last word in the poem is really powerful. Maybe kids know more than we often give them credit for.
  • Before we wrap up, let's pause and think about form. We haven't been talking too much about the poem's ballad form because, at least after the first stanza, it's been pretty darn regular and traditional. But in this last stanza, Wordsworth changes things up.
  • The four-line stanza becomes a five-line stanza. Ol' WW changes up the rhyme scheme on us too; instead of ABAB, we have here ABCCB. "Heaven" and "seven" rhyme, and so do "still" and "will." But the word "dead" doesn't rhyme with any of the other line-endings. The only thing that "dead" rhymes with is itself. (The word "dead" is repeated in that first line of the stanza.)
  • So even though the poem ends with the little girl powerfully asserting her will, the fact that the word "dead" has no rhyming partner seems to gesture to the idea that death is something in and of itself. It's singular; it has no place in the living world. 
  • Try this argument on for size: the girl may think that she has a relationship with the dead, but the poor girl is deluded. Nothing rhymes with death, after all. (At least, this is the speaker's perspective on the whole issue.) 
  • There's no doubt about it: "We Are Seven" ends ambiguously. We are left to decide for ourselves whether we agree with the man or the little cottage girl, whether the dead are gone or whether they remain—whether or not the deceased still "count." What do you think: count 'em or not?

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