My Heart Leaps Up Summary and Analysis

My Heart Leaps Up Summary and Analysis

My Heart Leaps Up“, also known as “The Rainbow“, is a poem by the British Romantic poet William Wordsworth. He was (7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850) was an English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with their joint publication Lyrical Ballads (1798). Wordsworth’s magnum opus is generally considered to be The Prelude, a semi-autobiographical poem of his early years that he revised and expanded a number of times. It was posthumously titled and published by his wife in the year of his death, before which it was generally known as “the poem to Coleridge”.  Wordsworth was Britain’s poet laureate from 1843 until his death from pleurisy on 23 April 1850.

The poem noted for its simplicity of structure and language, it describes the joy that he feels when he sees a rainbow and notes that he has felt this way since his childhood. He concludes the poem by noting how his childhood has shaped his current views and stating that “the child is father of the man”.

My Heart Leaps Up Summary

“My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold”is a poem written by a famous nature poet William Wordsworth. In this poem, the poet recollects/remembers an experience of his childhood days and gives his emotion and feelings a meaning. The poet also expresses his love towards nature. He feels great joy when he sees a rainbow in the sky. He hopes he will still get pleasure at seeing the rainbow when he becomes old and if such feeling stops in the future he wishes to die. According to the poet, child is the father of man because childhood is the beginning of the manhood. In other words, the qualities of the grown up men are all derived from childhood. At last, the poet wishes that his remaining days would be bound by his love to nature.

My Heart Leaps Up Analysis

My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky:

In the first lines of the poem, William Wordsworth explains his reaction to a rainbow. It’s obvious that the poet has a deep affinity for the natural world. He says, “My heart leaps up…” This is an extreme reaction to a not uncommon metrological event. Rainbows are, universally, regarded as beautiful, but I would argue that the rainbow in this poem is a symbol for nature as a whole. I would also argue that Wordsworth’s reaction, as I said before, is somewhat extreme. Most grown men do not react with the same level of enthusiasm to a rainbow. As the poem goes on however, he will argue that we should all share his sense of wonder.

So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man;

Here, the poet describes that he has always felt the same visceral, joyous reaction to a rainbow and to nature as a whole. His sense of wonder began when he was born and persisted through out his childhood, into his adulthood. Wordsworth has been a fan of nature from the very start.

So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die!

Wordsworth gets a bit extreme in these lines. First, he states that he hopes to continue to be mesmerized by nature well into old age. Then, he says “Or let me die!” The fairly unambiguous interpretation here is that the poet would rather die than find the world around him boring and bereft of beauty. Death would be preferable to becoming a jaded cynic who cannot grasp the wonder of nature.

The Child is father of the Man;

This is, perhaps, the most important line of My Heart Leaps Up. In his typical fashion, Wordsworth gives a seemingly straightforward metaphor, which actually has enormous implications. All people were once children, so the line makes some sense on that level. We come from children as children come from their parents. The greater implication is that, like a parent, a child can be a great teacher and a great role model. Children are constantly experiencing the world as if for the first time. They have an unending sense of wonder and awe regarding nature and, indeed, life itself. Wordsworth is saying we should be like children in this way and that we should hold on to our childhood sense of the world.

And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety

In the last two lines of the poem, Wordsworth closes by reiterating this idea that he hopes to continue being in awe of nature. He wants every day to be tied together by an on going theme of love for the world. The words “natural piety” imply that the poet considered his feeling for nature to be so reverent that seeing a rainbow was an almost religious experience.


Wordsworth advocated for poets to move away from the use of dense and archaic language, which had been popular up until that point in history. Instead, he believed that poetry could and should be written in the every day language of the average man. This idea is clearly displayed in My Heart Leaps Up. Compared to other poems, the vocabulary and meaning of this piece is relatively easy to grasp.

The poem’s simplicity carries over into its use of rhyme. Each line ends with one of 4 sounds, each sound is repeated twice, except “man,” which ends two lines and is rhymed with “began.”

Historical Context

Wordsworth was part of the Romantic Movement. The artists of this time elevated nature, discussing it as a part of the ‘sublime,’ or something of great beauty beyond human understanding. This respect and reverence for nature is on clear display in this particular piece.

The poem was written in 1802 while Wordsworth was staying at Dove Cottage with his wife. This was a fertile place for the poet, as he wrote many poems there. Indeed, My Heart Leaps Up was written at around the same time of many of the poet’s other works. The poem was first published in 1806.

My heart leaps up Themes

First, there is the theme of the love of nature. The speaker’s heart leaps up not when he sees a painting, or someone he loves, but rather when he sees something beautiful from nature a rainbow.

Second, there is the idea of hoping to age well. The speaker is hoping that his way of thinking, his emotions, will not change as he grows older. He hopes that he will still feel the same way he felt as a younger person.

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