The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Ode to Duty

Edition of 1920. See also Ode to Duty on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

ODE TO DUTY. Wordsworth's ‘Ode to Duty,’ written in 1805 and published in 1807, is a noble appeal to the principle of morality for guidance and support. It represents in a measure a recantation of Wordsworth's earlier faith in the spontaneous and unguided impulses of the heart, written at a time when he was coming to feel more and more the need of an invariable standard. While continuing to recognize the worth and beauty of the creed of joy and love, he feels that there must be also the mandate of the stern power which preserves the stars in their courses and lays the law of sacrifice and self-restraint upon the soul of man. Stern as is the voice of duty, it is yet also divinely beautiful,


Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face.”


The mood and temper of the ‘Ode’ is characteristic of much of Wordsworth's later work. According to Wordsworth's own statement the ‘Ode to Duty’ was modeled on Gray's ‘Hymn to Adversity,’ which in turn was imitated from Horace's ‘Ode to Fortune.’ The stanza is iden[WS note 1]tical with that used by Gray, and there are resemblances in idea and phraseology. Consult notes in Dowden's ‘Poems of Wordsworth’ (Athenæum Press Series).


  1. The text of the first portion of this word is a guess as it is covered by a blob in the text facsimile used.