“Life of Pi”*

*Wikipedia: “Life of Pi” is a Canadian philosophical novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist is Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, an Indian Tamil boy from Pondicherry who explores issues of spirituality and metaphysics from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger which raises questions about the nature of reality and how it is perceived and told.

From Wikipedia:

“My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

My heart leaps up when I behold

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth wrote “My Heart Leaps Up” on the night of March 26, 1802. Earlier that day, he had written “To The Cuckoo”. He was in Dove Cottage, Grasmere, with his sister, Dorothy. After he wrote it he often thought about altering it, but decided to leave it as it was originally written. It was published as part of Poems, in Two Volumes in 1807.

The day after he wrote “My Heart Leaps Up” Wordsworth began to write his more ambitious “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”. The last three lines from “My Heart Leaps Up” are used as an epigraph to “Intimations of Immortality”. Some scholars have noted that “My Heart Leaps Up” indicates Wordsworth’s state of mind while writing the larger poem and provides clues to its interpretation.

Some commentators have speculated that Wordsworth felt such joy because the rainbow indicates the constancy of his connection to nature throughout his life. Others have said that it celebrates “the continuity in Wordsworth’s consciousness of self”. Because the rainbow is part of a circle, Fred Blick has been able to demonstrate that the word ‘piety’ at the end of the last line makes an intentional, geometrical pun (signalled by the phrase ‘bound each to each’), symbolising continuity and infinity. The pun blends ‘a state of infinite pi / π’ with the normal meaning of ‘reverence’. Wordsworth loved geometry and used the same, geometrical pun on ‘piety’ twice elsewhere. Many commentators also draw parallels to the rainbow of Noah and the covenant that it symbolised. Wordsworth’s use of the phrase “bound each to each” in the poem also implies the presence of a covenant. Some commentators have drawn further parallels with the story of Noah. Harold Bloom has suggested that Wordsworth casts the rainbow as a symbol of the survival of his poetic gift, just as the rainbow symbolised to Noah the survival of mankind. Bloom suggests that Wordsworth’s poetic gift relied on his ability to recall the memories of his joy as a child.

William Blake disliked Wordsworth’s use of the phrase “natural piety”. Blake believed that man was naturally impious and therefore Wordsworth’s phrase contradicted itself.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s