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!”
Summary of We Are Seven
- Popularity of “We Are Seven”: This poem was written by William Wordsworth, a renowned romantic poet. We are Seven is one of the greatest literary work about a child’s innocence and tragedy. It was first published in Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The poem speaks about the little girl as she reflects upon her unparalleled love for her deceased siblings.
- “We Are Seven”, As a Representative of Tragedy: This poem is based on an argument between the speaker and a little girl. The poem begins with a question that what a little child, who is normally full of colors, could know about death. The speaker meets a little cottage girl and adores her beauty. Soon, he starts a conversation and inquires about her siblings. She explains that she is one of the seven and provides details of her six siblings. Among those six, two are at Conway, two went to the sea and the other two are lying in the churchyard.
On hearing about the loss of two siblings, he questions her calculation, saying if two are in the churchyard, they could not be seven in total. But the girl reassures with confidence that even the two are dead, they are still counted as her siblings. She points out that she often spends her time near their graves. At last, the speaker gets irritated and attempts to make her realize that her two siblings are dead; their souls are in heaven. Now, they are only five, but the innocent girl denies it. She offers her explanation and says that they are still seven. The poem is meant to express that when a person or a loved one dies, we can keep them alive in our memories.
- Major Themes in “We Are Seven”: Innocence, death, and acceptance of reality are the major themes of this poem. The poem presents the concept of death from the eyes of an innocent child. The speaker’s encounter with a cottage girl is significant. It is through their conversation that we learn that the deceased live in the memories of those who are alive. She talks about her dead siblings with great confidence and pride. Also, she explains how she eats dinner, sings songs and knits besides their graves as if they are around her. The disagreement between their opinions of death can be seen in many ways. The speaker believes that her siblings are gone, whereas the girl’s argument represents that they are alive in her heart.
Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “We Are Seven”
Literary devices are tools used by the writers to enhance the intended impacts of their writings. It also connects the readers to the texts, allowing them to interpret the writers’ messages. William Wordsworth has also used some literary devices in this poem to make it superb. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been analyzed below.
- Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “I take my little porringer” and the sound of /e/ in “But they are dead; those two are dead”.
- Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /y/ in “Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,” and the sound of /g/ in “Their graves are green, they may be seen”, and the sound of /s/ in “And often after sun-set, Sir”.
- Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /ng/ in “And sing a song to them” and the sound of /r/ “Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door”.
- Enjambment: It is a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it continues over to the next line. For example,
“Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.”
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “So in the church-yard she was laid”, “Together round her grave we played” and “Their spirits are in heaven.”
- Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked in order to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. For example, “What should it know of death?”, “If they two are in heaven” and “And where are they?”
Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “We Are Seven”
Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.
- End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “still/will”, “seven/heaven”, “mother/brother” and “dwell/tell.”
- Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme and this pattern continues until the end.
- Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “We are Seven” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
- Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse, “We are seven” is repeated with the same words. It has become a refrain as it has been repeated in the first and second stanzas of the poem.
- Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are seventeen stanzas in this poem with each comprised of five lines.
Quotes to be Used
The lines stated below are useful when talking about the innocent nature of children who are unaware of the pain and suffering death brings to us.
“A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death.”