Wordsworth wrote this poem when he was 31.
The great importance he attached to these lines is shown by their being prefixed to the section of his poetical works devoted to the period of childhood.
Lines 3-5 also appear as an epigraph to “Intimation of Immortality”, the poem in which Wordsworth expounds the consolatory function of recollections of childhood.
Line 7 contains a paradox “the Child is father of the Man”. This line means that childhood is the foundation of later human experience.
According to Wordsworth’s own statement, it was on the basis of his delight in the scenery of the
Lake District when he was a
child that his adult life was eventually built.
His adult life is based on the joy he felt during his childhood.
Lines 3 refers to the poet’s childhood , line 4 to his adulthood or maturity line 5 to the poet’s old age.
In line 6 the poet states that death is preferable to the loss of imaginative power, which is itself a death.
Lines 3-6: he used to experience great joy every time he saw a rainbow when he was a child; he experiences the same joy now that he is a man and he hopes he will continue to experience it when he grows old, otherwise he would prefer to die.
By “natural piety” Wordsworth means the loving relationship which exists between himself and nature.
It is this relationship which will bind together into an organic whole the different aspects and stages of his life. Wholeness and unity of self depend on our continuing to respond with strong emotion/ feelingly to the natural world.
In Wordsworth’s view the role of nature in human life is very important because it is the basis of our inner development and the guide to our moral being.
Wordsworth once stated that love of nature led him to love of mankind.
The moral guide of nature begins in our childhood, which is the most important stage of our life because we experience nature more intensely/ with greater intensity and in our maturity we can, through the use of memory, recollect what we experienced as children.
The rainbow offers for Wordsworth an appropriate symbol because links together past, present and future and also the twin ideals of his poetry, the imagination and nature which becomes a source of inspiration.
The rainbow provides an example of a magical transformation of the light of day.
In the Bible the rainbow is a symbol of the covenant between God and man. God says that he will set his bow in the clouds and it will be for a token between him and the Earth.
In Wordsworth’s poems the rainbow becomes the sign of a covenant between himself and nature.
This pattern of the poem is typical of Wordsworth. It begins with an actual experience, the sight of a rainbow in the sky and the poet’s sense of wonder at it.
But then the poet’s wonderment/ sense of wonder gives place to reflection.
He reflects on his sense of wonder, he notices it is the same feeling as he experienced when he was a child and he wishes that when he grows older, he will be able to respond to nature in the same way as he did when he was a child (he will have the same kind of response to nature as he had when he was a child).
“Daffodils” is a poem about the poetic process ( in the final stanza the poet recalls the experience and he feels a sense of intense joy which will inspire him to write his poem); “The Rainbow” is about the importance of nature and childhood in our life.