Ode to Duty
By: Rehu, Hari, Theunissen &
Stern Daughter of the Voice of God! • line 1 Personifies and addresses 'Duty' as
the 'daughter of the voice of god'.
O Duty! if that name thou love • line 2 The narrator is unsure of her
Who art a Light to guide, a Rod accepted name perhaps because she has
many or he is just purely unaware 'if that
To check the erring; and reprove; name you love'
Thou who art victory and law • lines 3 & 4 Wordsworth views 'Duty' as a
beacon of hope for those who are prone
When empty terrors overawe; to error ('erring') someone who can steer
From vain temptations dost set free; them in the right direction
• lines 5-8 Describes how in difficult and
From strife and from despair; a desperate times, 'Duty' will present
glorious ministry. herself so as to allow the self to fall away
from 'vain temptation'.
Basically, Wordsworth is just telling us a bit about 'Duty', personifying her and illustrating
how close she is to God and the purity surrounding Heaven and the like. This being because
she is apparently the daughter of God. I think that 'Duty' could just be another name for
'Nature' or 'Mother Nature' to create a personified image.
There are who ask not if thine eye • Lines 1-4 These lines are referring to
children who do not know that ‘Duty’ has
Be on them; who, in love and truth, her eye on them. ‘Ask not if thine eye be
on them’ confirms that WW is referring to
Where no misgiving is, rely children because children don’t stop to
Upon the genial sense of youth: think about external forces that may or
may not be playing a part in their lives
Glad Hearts! without reproach or blot; because of their innocent and naïve
Who do thy work, and know it not: minds.
May joy be theirs while life shall last! • Lines 5-8 Drive home the relationship
between purity, heaven, and goodness to
And Thou, if they should totter, teach the ‘genial sense of youth’ or the ‘child
mind’ as in the line ‘Who do thy work, and
them to stand fast! know it not’.
This stanza is talking simply about children. Wordsworth says that 'There are who ask not if
thine eye be on them' which could be referring to how their mind is so innocent that they
don't even stop to think of any higher power around them. Also, he refers to an innocent
mind a second time: 'who do thy work, and know it not'. In the last 2 lines, Wordsworth says
that he wants the children to have the same joy that they have now throughout their entire
lives, and he hopes that 'Duty' will save them if they falter i.e. so protect their innocence and
help them to resist the 'vain temptations' of the adult world.
Serene will be our days and bright, • lines 1-4 WW is saying that those who
follow Duty’s ways will sleep peacefully
And happy will our nature be, and their personality will reflect
When love is an unerring light,
• lines 5-8 WW writes that those who are
And joy its own security. now older still maintain a connection to
And blessed are they who in the main their innocent and natural child minds
whilst attaining other strengths according
This faith, even now, do entertain: to their lives should be blessed.
Live in the spirit of this creed;
Yet find that other strength, according
to their need.
WW seems to be trying to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood by saying that
all though the physical self is an adult, the mental self can still revert back to its childlike
I, loving freedom, and untried; • Lines 1-4 These are describing the
narrators attitude in the past. He/She
No sport of every random gust, has been relying on his/her feelings as
a means of guidance but they have
Yet being to myself a guide, lead him/her astray.
Too blindly have reposed my trust: • Lines 5-8 The narrator just wants to
Resolved that nothing e’er should press live his/her life the way he/she wants
to, however, he/she previously
Upon my present happiness, believed that nothing could affect his
happiness so he shunned ‘Duty’ and
I shoved unwelcome tasks away; her ways. But now he/she is willing to
But thee I now would serve more listen to ‘Duty’ if she will talk to
strictly, if I may.
This stanza paints us a more distinctive picture of why the narrator is telling us about ‘Duty’.
The narrator seems to be requesting the help of ‘Duty’ because something in his/her life has
thrown him/her off course.
Through no disturbance of my soul, • Lines 1-4 The narrator wants to
control his/her own life and not be
Or strong compunction in me wrought, controlled emotions that lead to
his/her loss of peace. He/She is
I supplicate for thy controul; looking for a new start.
But in the quietness of thought: • Lines 5-8 These are a continuation and
Me this unchartered freedom tires; further confirmation of the narrators
desperation to turn his/her life around
I feel the weight of chance desires: with the help of ‘Duty’.
My hopes no more must change their
I long for a repose which ever is the
This stanza is the narrator’s further cries for help from ‘Duty’. He/She is begging for her help
because he/she is desperate and because he/she is unsure if ‘Duty’ will provide help because
of his/her past.
Yet not the less would I throughout • Lines 1-4 The narrator tries to
rationalize his/her actions in the past
Still act according to the voice claiming that he/she felt that what
he/she was doing was just an
Of my own wish; and feel past doubt expression of free will, caused by his
That my submissiveness was choice: foolish emotional impulses.
Not seeking in the school of pride • Lines 5-8 Something has occurred in
the narrators life which has made
For ‘precepts over dignified,’ him/her realise that his/her previous
way of life was deeply flawed and so
Denial and restraint I prize he/she is searching for a ‘second will
No farther than they breed a second more wise’.
Will more wise.
The narrator is again recalling and thus trying to account for his attitude and actions in the
past as being driven by ignorance towards what expressing free will truly represents and is.
Stern Lawgiver! yet thou dost wear • Lines 1-4 The narrator mentions
how ‘Duty’ has a Godly face which is
The Godhead’s most benignant grace; most pleasant and beneficial to
Nor know we any thing so fair
• Lines 5-8 The flowers follow ‘Duty’
As is the smile upon thy face; everywhere she goes, producing
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds; beautiful fragrances before her. The
stars do not wander about the
And Fragrance in thy footing treads; Heavens as they want to remain in
place over ‘Duty’ following her to
Thou dost preserve the Stars from the Heavens.
And the most ancient Heavens through
Thee are fresh and strong.
Basically, this stanza is made up of the narrators attempts to flatter ‘Duty’. ‘Duty’ is
recognized by all those in nature because she is God’s eye on the nature front and so she is
To humbler functions, awful Power! • Line 1 One must be humble in order to
reap the rewards that ‘Duty’ can
I call thee: I myself commend supply.
Unto thy guidance from this hour; • Lines 2-4 The narrator is ‘giving’
himself mentally, spiritually and
Oh! let my weakness have an end! somewhat physically to ‘Duty’.
Give unto me, made lowly wise, • Lines 5-8 The narrator wants the ‘spirit
of self-sacrifice’, ‘the confidence of
The spirit of self-sacrifice; reason’, and he wants to live forever in
The confidence of reason give; ‘the light of truth’ subsequently
freeing his heart, mind and body so
And in the light of truth thy Bondman that he can follow one’s true self, The
let me live!
All of the themes in this poem relate back to the purity
and serenity of God & all that is represented by Him &
Heaven as is commonly found in most if not all of WW’s
poems. The 2 prevalent ones in this poem are: