Poetry Study Aid Ode to Duty Wordsworth Part Two

Posted on: January 23, 2010

The poem takes an autobiographical tone and Wordsworth becomes confessional. He admits that he was inexperienced and was unaware of the perils of trusting his own impulses blindly. Of course, he was not swept away by the winds of passion, yet he opted out to be his own guide committing his faith blindly on his own natural impulses. He has been leading a life of self-indulgence. He had often heard the call of Duty in his heart but on all those occasions, he deferred the carrying out of her summons. He had to turn his back on his life of self-indulgence to listen to the voice of Duty and he did not like to turn away. However, from now on Wordsworth will be different and he will serve Duty rigorously and subjugate himself to her stringent discipline.
Wordsworth humbly implores Duty to subject him to her exacting discipline and to wield her absolute control over him. And then, Wordsworth brings out the reason for his subjugation to the power of Duty. It is not any disturbance or conflict in the mind that makes him seek the guidance of Duty. Nor is it any feeling of guilt or penitence for anything awful he could have done that makes him turn to her authority. On the other hand, he turns to Duty with a calm and peaceful mind and the decision is not an impulsive one. Actually, unrepressed freedom has lost its allure for him. Casual longings tempt his soul to restlessness and oppress him. He realises that he has been shifting the objects of his pursuit rather too regularly. He now hankers for a lifelong peace, one which will never change.
Duty is a strict and severe lawgiver. Yet Wordsworth perceives beauty coexistent with her sternness. Duty is embellished with the same grace as there is on God’s face. There is nothing on earth like to her beauteous and graceful smile. Flowers laugh when they see her beautiful face. The touch of her feet makes the ground she walks on fragrant. Stars get their fixedness from her, who keeps them in their places. The heavens, though ancient, remain fresh and strong, thanks to the sway of Duty.
Wordsworth then calls for Duty, the Awe-inspiring Power, to do a much humbler function. The governor of the stars may please regulate his life too. He puts himself under Duty’s complete guidance. From this moment onwards he will seek her control and guidance. He desires his weakness to have an end and entreats Duty to help him. As he has grown wise through humility, he prays to Duty to infuse in him the spirit of self-sacrifices so that he may give up without regret the pleasure of the smoother ways. Let Duty give him the confidence that comes from following reason rather than his own impulses. He wishes to live the rest of his life as the slave of Duty, always finding himself in the light of truth.


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January 2010
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