We Are Seven
Coping with death is hard at any age is difficult at best. However, in today's poem, the wisdom is spoken by a child. In this poem from William Wordsworth, I'll give you a little background on the author, and then my analysis.
William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770 in Cumberland, England to John & Anne Wordsworth. He was the second of five children. His father was a lawyer and owned a lot of property, so the family was well off.
When Woodsworth was 17, his mother died, and he went to study at St. John's College in Cambridge. On his first college break in the summer of 1788, William spent the summer hiking extensively through France, Switzerland, Germany, and Wales.
Wordworth's enthusiasm for France and the French Revolution took him back to France in 1791. His stay became extended due to a passionate affair with Annette Valon. Their union produced an illegitimate daughter, Caroline in 1792. The year after her birth, William returned to England because he ran out of money.
William Wordsworth had an extended stay due to the Reign of Terror, and was unable to return to France for the next nine years. But in 1802, due to the Peace of Amiens, he was able to return to France and stayed with his sister. On that visit, he visited Annette and Caroline as well. The couple agreed to a monetary settlement intended for the care of Caroline, and due to a large inheritance he received, William was able to wed a new love, Mary Hutchinson.
The union of William and Mary Wordsworth produced five children by 1810. After two of their children died, he began closet writing which ultimately launched his literary career.
|Grave that is believed to be the inspiration of the poem,|
"We Are Seven."
———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 dies 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!”
|View of a Cemetery|
This poem is a conversation between a man and a young girl. It's an intriguing poem because it could've been a a short poem, yet it's 69 lines long. The man can't accept that the girl considers herself to be one of seven even though two of her siblings have passed on.
The speaker begins the poem asking us as readers indirectly, what a child should know of death. Near the beginning of the poem, the girl seems to know very little. She almost seems to be in denial about the deaths of her siblings, especially since she still spends time with them and sings to them. By the end of the poem, it seems like she understands more about life & death than the man to whom she is speaking to does. Wisely, the girl refuses to be incapacitated by grief, or to cast the deceased out of her life. Instead, she accepts that things change and continues as happily as she can.
What do you think? Are her siblings still with her, or not?
Laurie Epps is a recent graduate of Anderson University majoring in Creative Writing. Already Laurie is most published as a feature article writer, essayist, and poet. A seeker of beauty and world traveler, Laurie hopes to grow into a career in travel writing illuminating the many stories that make us human despite our differences. Currently, Laurie also has a Monday Morning Book Club column dedicated to writers everywhere.