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  • Kirk Barbera

We Are Seven by William Wordsworth

Updated: Dec 16, 2019




Who among the big six Romantic Poets was the greatest of all Romantic artists? To me this is like asking which part of the Pacific Ocean is wettest.


However, in this discussion I explain some differences among all 6 and I discuss several advantages that William Wordsworth had over fellow poets like John Keats.


Today's poem was based on an incident that Wordsworth experienced while on a walking tour in 1793. He had been forced to flee France after the country was heating up. During this time he did not write as much as other poets of a similar age, but he did have numerous experiences that would be the seeds for future poems, including "We Are Seven."



WE ARE SEVEN

by William Wordsworth


———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 died 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!”