Class 11 | The Magic of Words

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

Writer: William Wordsworth

“My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold” is a poem written by a famous nature poet William Wordsworth. In this poem, the poet recollects/remembers the experience of his childhood days and gives his emotion and feelings a meaning. The poet also expresses his love for nature. He feels great joy when he sees a rainbow in the sky. He used to enjoy a lot when he saw the rainbow in the sky in his childhood. He hopes he will still get pleasure at seeing the rainbow when he becomes old and if such feeling stops in the future he wishes to die.

According to the poet, a child is the father of man because childhood is the beginning of the manhood. In other words, the qualities of the grown-up men are all derived from childhood. At last, the poet wishes that his remaining days would be bound by his love for nature.

A paradox is a statement containing opposite ideas that make it unlikely although it may be true. The above statement is paradoxical in the sense that it contains opposite ideas for normal people. The child cannot be the father; he is the man who can be the father. But, the poet through his statement “The Child is the Father of the Man”, wants to say that childhood is the beginning of manhood. The thing we do and feel as children affect the way we feel when we are adults. The poet also wants to say that the present is the result of the past.


Written on March 26, 1802, and published in 1807 as an epigraph to “Ode: Intimations of Immortality,” this poem addresses the same themes found in “Tintern Abbey” and “Ode; Intimations of Immortality,” albeit in a much more concise way. The speaker explains his connection to nature, stating that it has been strong throughout his life. He even goes so far as to say that if he ever loses his connection he would prefer to die.

The seventh line of the poem is the key line: “The Child is the father of the Man.” This line is often quoted because of its ability to express a complicated idea in so few words. The speaker believes (as explained in more detail in “Tintern Abbey”) that children are closer to heaven and God, and through God, nature, because they have recently come from the arms of God. The speaker understands the importance of staying connected to one’s own childhood, stating: “I could wish my days to be / Bound each to each by natural piety.”

Wordsworth chooses the word “piety” to express the bond he wishes to attain (and maintain) with his childhood self because it best emphasizes the importance of the bond. His readers would have been accustomed to the idea of piety in the religious sense, and would thus have been able to translate the meaning behind the word to an understanding of the power of the bond Wordsworth hopes to attain.

The format of “My heart leaps up when I behold” gives the poem a somewhat staccato feeling and forces the reader to pause at important points in the poem. For instance, the two short lines of the poem are both quite significant. First, “A rainbow in the sky” harkens back to God’s promise to Noah signifying their bond, and foreshadows the speaker’s wish to be “Bound…by natural piety.” The sixth line, “Or let me die!” shows the strength of the speaker’s convictions.

Important Questions and Answers:

1. Explain the paradox ‘The Child is the father of Man’. 
Ans: In this poem, the poet William Wordsworth says,” The child is the father of man”. He wants to say that the present is the outcome of the past. According to him, the child grows up and becomes a father. Manhood is the outcome of childhood. So, the poet says this statement. This paradox might have a different meaning. The poet might have said that the child is innocent. We can learn many things from the child who never lies. In reality, we try to learn from father. We can also say that a man can be younger by age but maybe more matured by the mind that is what the poet wants to express through this paradox.

2. Why does the heart of the poet leap up when he sees a rainbow in the sky? 
Ans: The poet William Wordsworth is identified as a nature-loving poet. He enjoys nature and natural things. The poet was the worshipper of nature. He enjoys the scenic beauty of nature. He saw the same rainbow when he was a child. It is the same as in the past. It will remain the same but the poet will die soon. Here, the rainbow symbolizes the continuation in his life but it is not possible. So, his heart leaps up.

Questions for Practice: 

  1. Explain what William Wordsworth means by “Natural piety” that binds every day.
  2. Write a critical appreciation of the poem “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”.
  3. Give a summary of “My Heart Leaps Up” and add your impressions about the poem.
  4. Give a summary of “My Hearts Leaps UP Again.” Explain what it means when the poet says that child is man’s father.
  5. Summarize the poem “My heart Leaps up When I behold” in a paragraph.
  6. Give the main idea of Wordsworth’s poem “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”
  7. Why does William Wordsworth want his heart to leap up when he sees a rainbow as an old man?