We are Seven by Shakespeare

We Are Seven

by William Wordsworth

Introduction .. The naivety and un-worldliness of young children come to the fore in William Wordsworth’s poem ‘We are Seven’. Unlike the adults, the pain and anguish that follow death leaves the little tender ones un-ruffled. This godly trait of aloofness helps to insulate the young minds from the trauma and suffering that shatter a grown-up person.
First stanza
———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?
Explanation .. A child breathes feebly as life with its full fury and verve is yet to enter his body. Nonetheless, her limbs are always agile trying to move, do, touch and feel everything around. She is oblivious of the perils and awe of death.
Second stanza ..
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.
Explanation … On one occasion, the Speaker bumped into a little girl. She was eight. She had a beautiful hair-do. The luxurious hair was curled and arranged nicely to form a ring around her death.
Third stanza ..
She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.
Explanation … She looked like an un-sophisticated rural girl with little vanity or artificial grace. Her simple garb exuded her carefree attitude. Her eyes were bright and beautiful. She had a charming sweet face.


Fourth stanza …
“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.
Explanation …The Speaker asked the little girl about her siblings. Pat came the reply, ‘We are seven.’ The girl looked somewhat amused at the speaker’s interest in her siblings.
Fifth stanza …
“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.
Explanation .. The Speaker wanted to know where her brothers and sisters were. She said they were seven, two of whom lived in Conway, while two others had become voyagers.
Sixth stanza …
“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.”
Explanation … The girl divulged almost nonchalantly that two of her sib lings lived in the church grave yard. The fact that they had departed from this world for good seemed not to bother the little girl. She added that she lived with her mother in a cottage in the church-yard. The place of the burial of her brother and sister was at a very short distance from the cottage.
Seventh stanza ..
“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.”
Explanation .. The Speaker felt a little puzzled. He asked how the number added up to seven with two living in Conway and two gone to sea.
Eighth stanza …
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.”
Explanation .. On being queried by the Speaker, the little reiterated that they were seven in all – boys and girls. Two lay in the church yard buried under the tree. It became clear to the Speaker that the little girl still felt the two dead siblings formed part of the family.
Ninth stanza ..
“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”
Explanation … The Speaker wanted to explain the difference between a dead and a human being. A living person moves his limbs at will, where as a dead lifeless can not do so. To drive home the point further, he told the girl that her family had just five members since two had already departed.
Stanza ten …
“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.
Explanation … The little girl didn’t cede her ground. She was not ready to accept that the two dead members could not form part of the family. She maintained that the graves of her two siblings were green with grass. The graves were conspicuous, so were her brother and sister. She affirmed that the two slept just twelve steps away from their bed room.
Stanza eleven …
“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.
Explanation .. She narrated how she sat near the graves and knitted her stockings and hemmed her handkerchiefs. At times, she sat on the ground to sing her pet songs.
Stanza twelve …
“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
Explanation .. The little one came with more facts to prove that the place was indeed very lively. She said how she ate her porridge there when darkness descends on the place at dusk.
Stanza thirteen ..
“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.
Explanation … To augment her contention, she said that she ate her porridge for dinner as darkness descended on earth at dusk. The essence of her argument was the fact that the presence of her two siblings made the place so congenial for her.
Stanza fourteen …
“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.
Explanation … She disclosed that the first sibling to die was her sister Jane. She died in her sick bed after battling illness for some time. The deliverance from suffering came with her passing away.
Stanza fifteen …
“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.
Explanation .. She was laid to rest in the church grave yard. That was in summer when the grass was dry. She described how her brother John and she gamboled around her grave, unmindful of the dread many people associate graves with.
Stanza sixteen ..
“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.”
Explanation … When the winter came and snow covered the area, the girl ran and slid above the ice. But, John fell ill, and he succumbed to the sickness.
Stanza seventeen ..
“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.”
Explanation .. The perplexed Speaker finally asked the question he had been tempted to ask so long. He asked her with two departed, how many siblings were they. Again, she affirmed quietly that they were seven, no less, no more!
Stanza eighteen …
“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!”
Explanation .. The Speaker was baffled at the girl’s lack of worldly matters that appeared almost nonsensical. He reminded the girl that the two departed ones were in Heaven, never to come back to earth again to be among her midst. Leaving the Speaker flummoxed, the girl refused to concede her ground. She averred that they were seven!

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