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Splendour in the Grass by William Wordsworth

“Splendour in the Grass,” the title of a 1961 American historical drama film and also the name of a popular Australian music festival held annually in July, is taken from Romantic poet William Wordsworth’s most incredible creation, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”. Composed in 1802-1804, the poem reflects on death, the loss of innocence and youth, aging, and the apocalyptic vision only seen in maturity. Wordsworth talks about how life passes on so fast that yesterday’s “splendour” gets vanished suddenly. His persona is filled with the emotion of nostalgia as he remembers his glorious youthful days, and now he stands closer to death as his days pass by, recollecting what’s left behind.

The phrase “Splendour in the Grass” appears in the 11th line of the Ode’s penultimate stanza (Stanza 10): “Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower”. In the last scene of the movie, Splendor in the Grass, the central character (Deanie) recites the following lines from Wordsworth’s poem:

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

  • Read the full poem “Splendour in the Grass” below:
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Splendour in the Grass
by William Wordsworth

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

- from "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (Stanza 10: lines 8-19)
Analysis of Splendour in the Grass by William Wordsworth


Summary

The poem “Splendour in the Grass” is about the bygone days when the speaker was young, energetic, and so filled with life, so determined to bring changes in the world. The winged days took off; as he looks back, he feels nostalgic and dewy-eyed. He compares life to the grass and flower that has a very short and unpredictable life. A nature poet Wordsworth finds glory and splendor in most common grass and flowers. Furthermore, he compares his youthful days with that of the morning sun’s rays when nothing else is visible due to its luminous light. So were the good olden days for Wordsworth, vigorous and driven. But as he approaches his old age, he makes himself ready to accept the “truth”. Towards the end of this piece, the poet builds a positive attitude and finds strength in the remnants of time.

Meaning

“Splendour in the Grass” taps on various aspects of the human mind. As the speaker grows older, the urge to relive his childhood days grips his heart firmly. However, it being impossible, he tries to hold on to positive thoughts that would help him view life with new perspectives. His comparison with nature’s most common element, “grass,” proves how ordinary our life is, but if we change our view, we can find splendor in the grass and the flowers glorious. To accept the fact that each day brings us closer to death and to find a reason to live the rest of our life with a sense of contentment, Wordsworth notes:

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;


Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

Form

“Splendour in the Grass” appears in Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”. It comprises the last twelve lines of the tenth stanza. The overall poem is written in an irregular Pindaric ode form, without any regular line lengths. It is an ode to the speaker’s childhood days, which he revisits during his journey. Wordsworth is the speaker of the poem, and he writes the poem from the first-person point of view.

Rhyme Scheme

This piece follows a specific rhyming pattern, as we find in rhyming couplets. Broadly, Wordsworth uses the AABB rhyme scheme where the last two lines don’t fit into the pattern. There is a slant rhyme, such as “sympathy” and “be”. The rhyme scheme can be roughly denoted as AABBCCDDEEFG; the rhyming pairs of words are:

  • “bright” and “sight”
  • “hour” and “flower”
  • “find” and “behind”
  • “sympathy” and “be”
  • “spring” and “suffering”

Meter

The poem is composed in the iambic meter without a set pattern. Wordsworth changes the syllable count from line to line, varying from six to twelve syllables. Let’s have a look at the scansion of the poem that would give a better understanding of the sound scheme:

What though/ the ra/-di-ance/ which was once/ so bright

Be now/ for e/-ver tak/-en from/ my sight,

Though no/-thing can/ bring back/ the hour

Of splen/-dour in/ the grass,/ of glo/-ry in/ the flow(e)r;

We will/ grieve not,/ rather find

Strength/ in what/ re-mains/ be-hind;

In the pri/-mal sym/-pa-thy

Which hav/-ing been/ must e/-ver be;

In the sooth/-ing thoughts/ that spring

Out/ of hu/-man suf/-fer-ing;

In the faith/ that looks/ through death,

In years/ that bring/ the phi/-lo-so/-phic mind.


Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

“Splendour in the Grass” comprises several poetic devices to make the speaker’s ideas appealing and thought-provoking. The figurative devices that enhance the beauty of the poem include:

Metaphor

Wordsworth hints at the divine spark in the simplest things only observed through a child’s innocent eyes through metaphors of grass’ “splendour” and flower’s “glory”. He explains his idea of how fast the ability to see beyond the veil fades with age.

Enjambment

The lack of punctuations creates a continuity in the poem rather than breaking it between, affecting the flow. The absence of punctuation in a line’s end suggests that it continues to the next without pause; for instance, the following lines are enjambed:

What though the radiance, which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass of glory in the flower;

Alliteration

The same sound used consecutively at the beginning of neighboring words creates an internal rhyming; for instance:

  • “What though the radiance”
  • “which was once”
  • “nothing can bring back”
  • We will grieve not”

Consonance

The repetition of similar consonant sounds in respective lines is also used to create a rhythm. For instance, Wordsworth uses the soothing “s” sound repeatedly in the lines: “In the soothing thoughts that spring/ Out of human suffering.”

Anaphora

The poet uses the same word “In” at the beginning of the last two lines:

In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind

It is meant for the sake of emphasizing the final idea of “Splendour in the Grass,” which is how old age comes with wisdom to look beyond the veil of death.

Irony

Irony can be found in the lines where the poet talks about how “soothing thoughts” originate from heart-wrenching afflictions. The statement seems epigrammatic as none experiences soothing thoughts during suffering. Through time, one gradually undergoes the healing process, and the understanding sets one free from the painful thoughts.

Line-by-Line Analysis & Explanation

Lines 1-2

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

In the poem “Splendour in the Grass,” William Wordsworth talks about his good golden old days when he was filled with energy and unfaltering optimism. He wrote this poem inspired by revisiting his childhood places and his conversations with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. In these lines, his persona is filled with nostalgia, and he wants to relive his childhood days. He compares his past days with the glaring radiance of the rising sun, which was so bright during his childhood, but as the sun sets (a reference to aging), its brightness fades on the horizon. He sadly notes the glorious past is “for ever taken from my sight,” which means that he has lost the ability and is aware that he will not be able to witness it again.

Lines 3-4

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

As the speaker talks about his nostalgic feeling, he accepts the fact that “nothing can bring back the hour”; he cannot go back in time and relive the moment, except in his imagination. He compares the childhood spark with the splendor in the tips of grass and glory in the expanding petals of a flower. Just as in the Bible, Jesus compares the life of humans with that of grass to explain how vulnerable humans are. Wordsworth also finds a similarity between the grass and human life. Humans grow fast and bright but wither out and die soon. The “splendour” and “glory” exist for a short span of time; they cannot stay the same forever.

Lines 5-8

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

In the primal sympathy

Which having been must ever be;

In these lines, Wordsworth tries to infuse positivity into his nostalgic thoughts and says that let us not be sad over something that we cannot change. Instead, it should be meaningful to find reasons to be happy and contented in what we have. He speaks about finding the strength to live the rest of his life with contentment. Therefore, he asks for converting the “primal sympathy” into a strength that would push humans forward. In this way, the speaker sympathizes with the “human” in him.

Lines 9-12

In the soothing thoughts that spring

Out of human suffering;

In the faith that looks through death,

In years that bring the philosophic mind.

In the last lines of “Splendour in the Grass,” Wordsworth uses irony to begin his argument. No one experiences a soothing or calming thought during suffering. They learn to muster their reasoning before emotions with time and experience. Wordsworth ends the poem with an optimistic thought and says to continue with the “faith” that can stand eye-to-eye with death. Besides, all those golden years helped him acquire a “philosophic mind.” As he has acquired a philosophical, mental setup, he can wisely deal with such discouraging thoughts.

Theme

Wordsworth’s “Splendour in the Grass” deals with a number of themes. The feeling of nostalgia is the prominent one, followed by wise acceptance and optimism in the end. These themes can be traced in the various lines. For instance, the poem begins with a sense of nostalgia for the past childhood days: “What though the radiance which was once so bright/ Be now for ever taken from my sight.” The attitude of acceptance can be seen in the lines, “We will grieve not, rather find/ Strength in what remains behind.” While the poem ends with a sense of optimism and faith, as the speaker notes, “In the faith that looks through death,/ In years that bring the philosophic mind.

Historical Background

William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was a romantic poet, also known as one of the Lake poets. He, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published Lyrical Ballads (1798) that marked the beginning of the Romantic Age. “Splendour in the Grass” appears in his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” (1804) which he wrote during his journey to his childhood places. He remembers how he used to think about life and how happy his soul was during his youth.

Wordsworth is known for his representation of nature through his poetry. Whenever he felt depressed, he would always find a caressing love in nature. In this poem, too, he looks upon nature for inspiration. His “Great Ode” is about the passing of youth, aging and death, and ends with faith and hope for the future. Though he may not have the same enthusiasm for the bygone splendor and glories of childhood, now he has a “philosophic mind,” which helps him to tackle his emotions in a better way.

Questions & Answers

What is the quote from Splendor in the Grass?

The quote that Deanie, the central character of the American period drama film, Splendor in the Grass, recites four lines from the tenth stanza of Wordsworth’s “Immortality Ode”:

“Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind.”

What is the message Wordsworth tries to convey in “Splendour in the Grass”?

Through “Splendour in the Grass,” Wordsworth conveys that though we want to relive our glorious past, it’s impossible to go back in time. The only way left is not to grieve but to find “strength” in what we have. The core message here is to accept the fact and live the remaining days with “faith,” not being scared by death or suffering. Wordsworth wants us all to be optimistic and to nurture a philosophic mindset while growing old.

What is the poem “Splendour in the Grass” about?

This poem is about the bygone days that make the speaker sad. However, he finds strength in what he has and tries to find reasons to be content. One such reason is faith which helps one look beyond death.

What is the meaning of the poem “Splendour in the Grass”?

The phrase “Splendour in the Grass” is a metaphorical reference to the glory of childhood and youth. He compares childhood/youth to the hour of splendour and glory in the grass and flower, respectively.

What is the poem from Splendor in the Grass?

In the American movie Splendor in the Grass (1961), the central character Wilma Dean Loomis or Deanie recites a few lines from William Wordsworth’s one of the greatest poems, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”.

What does the ending of Splendor in the Grass mean?

The last scene of the movie with Donnie reciting the memorable lines from Wordsworth’s Ode hints at the fact that she, indeed, cherishes the love she has for Bud (Bud Stamper). However, she is not willing to be together with him again. Instead, she will “find strength in what remains behind.”

What is “the radiance which was once so bright”?

The “radiance” is a metaphor for the glorious childhood hours when one notices the divine spark in almost everything around. As one grows older, this “radiance” starts to dim and gradually becomes nonexistent.

What is the theme of the poem “Splendour in the Grass”?

The theme of the poem is the transition from childhood to adulthood. Wordsworth describes how beautiful his life was in his youth, how different were his views on life, and how he found beauty in everything. As he grew older, he now had a different perspective towards life.

Why does Wordsworth refer to “splendour in the grass” and “glory in the flower”?

Wordsworth compares the past to the splendor in grass and the glory in flowers. It means that just like yesterday, grass and flowers bloomed with their pride, so were his youthful days. As grass and flowers wither in no time, so will his life. Life gives everyone an equal chance to bloom and to wither/die.

What does Wordsworth propose at the end of “Splendour in the Grass”?

As Wordsworth concludes the poem, he changes his nostalgic mood into an optimistic one. He gathers courage and tells his readers to muster their courage to live the rest of their life with hope and faith. He mentions the idea of the “philosophic mind,” which helps to face life’s uncertain predicaments.


Similar Poems with Inspiring Lessons

  • What is Life?” by John Clare — This poem explores the meaning of life and true happiness.
  • The Flower” by Alfred Lord Tennyson — It’s about the.metaphorical “flower” that is discarded as “weed” and later welcomed as a “splendid” creation.
  • When my play was with thee” by Rabindranath Tagore — This piece is on a similar theme, however, it ends on a sad note.
  • As I Grew Older” by Langston Hughes — It’s about an African American speaker who once had a dream and how it was hard for him to fulfill.


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