The most important idea of this poem is the doctrine of reminiscence. The soul of man comes into this world from heaven where it was living. The birth of a child means the journey of a soul from heaven into this world. But the child is not utterly forgetful of his life in heaven. On the contrary, the child comes here “trailing clouds of glory”; that is, the child is wrapped up in a heavenly light. “Heaven lies about us in our infancy”.
The child’s memories of heavenly life invest the objects of Nature and every common sight with a dream-like splendour. But, as the child grows, he falls more and more under the influences of this earthly life. The attractions and allurements of this material world drive out from the mind all memories of heaven so that the mature man cannot see the dream-like glory which, in his childhood, he saw in the objects of Nature. But even in maturity there are moments in a man’s life when his mind travels back to his childhood and gets vague intimations of immortality from his memories of childhood. Thus the memories of childhood serve as a basis for our belief in the soul’s immortality just as memories of heaven give the child a sense of his immortality.
We may next consider the compensations of maturity. With maturity comes a loss of the divine radiance which the child sees in Nature. But there are compensations for this loss. The inborn human sympathy which never dies in the heart; the soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering, the belief in a life after death, the habit of reflection which comes with the advance in age—these are the consolations for the loss of divine glory in Nature.
Another important idea in the poem is the contrast between Wordsworth’s attitude to Nature as a child and his attitude to Nature as a grown-up man. As a child he saw a dream-like splendour in Nature. But as a grown-up man he finds Nature constantly reminding him of humanity and the sorrows of humanity.
The poem contains a striking analysis of the child-mind. The child is essentially an actor who imitates every part that he observes and all kinds of human beings including an old man suffering from palsy. A wedding, a funeral, a mourning, a festival, business, love, strife—the child imitates everything he sees. It is imitating the grownups that the child generally becomes part and parcel of the conventional life of this world.
The child has been glorified and idealized by the poet. The child is regarded as much greater than man. The child is a great philosopher, a blessed seer, a mighty prophet. The reason why Wordsworth lavishes these epithets upon the child is that the child knows certain truths which the grown-ups do not know. The child has vivid memories of heavenly life and is, therefore, very near to God but the grown-up man has travelled far away from God and has forgotten all about his pre-natal existence.