.::. 1-11-2011 .::. written for British Literature II .::. Abigail Morris .::.
+ Seven Souls—Five Breathing Still
“We Are Seven” (p.249), by William Wordsworth, is a poem which seems to tell of an episode experienced by the narrator when he engages in a short conversation asking after the family of an eight-year-old girl he has happened upon near a church. It is a short exploration of the innocence and almost blissful ignorance which accompanies the early years of childhood. He asks the child, “’Sisters and brothers, little Maid, / How many may you be?’” (p.248, ll.13-14) She replies that there are seven: two at Conway, two out to sea, two are buried, and she is the seventh. The narrator argues that if two are buried, then they are only five, not seven. However, the little girl refuses his logic based on the simplicity of her own. She remembers the two deceased siblings, “[t]heir graves are green, they may be seen” (p.249, l.37), and there she does her sewing to keep in their company, she sings to them and even eats her evening meal there on occasion. To her, they have been called away to keep company with God. Death has no place in her logic. She is of a tender age and, though experienced in death, the absence of her brother and sister does not hold as much permanence or depth for her then as it likely would in years to come, since, realistically, death does not subtract from the fact that there were seven. A brother does not cease to be a brother simply because death has laid claim to him, and being no longer living is simply not the same as having never existed. What once existed and remains in memory has achieved the closest state to true immortality. For the child, it is unlikely that the two buried beneath the tree are any more absent for her than the two out to sea. Perhaps even less so—or so it makes sense to me.