Contentment is hard. We lust for what we don’t have. Our longings for things we don’t have keep us in a dark imprisonment of heart and mind. How do we free ourselves from this prison and radiate freely with the light of contentment? Let’s read and analyze an excerpt from William Wordsworth’s well written poem “If Thou Indeed Derive Thy Light from Heaven” to gain insight on how to shine with contentment.

If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven,

Then, to the measure of that heaven-born light,

Shine, Poet! in thy place, and be content: 

Click for Wordworth’s entire poem.

The Poem’s Assumptions

With the use of the word “If” Wordsworth shows his assumption. If you get your light from above, and Wordsworth assumes you do, then give as much light out as you get. An assumption is something you accept or expect will happen without proof. The author assumes powers from above provide guidance or light to people. We can choose to believe those same powers provide us with guidance. When we know guidance is provided by infinite wisdom then we can grow into self-knowledge with the belief that we are going the right direction.

The Poem’s Imagery & Allusion

Wordsworth uses two key images. The first key image is light and the second is heaven. These two images are linked, heaven provides light and that light shines through poets. “If thou indeed derive thy light from Heaven (bold font mine).” These words also  come from the imagery found in biblical traditions. In the Bible there are many references to both light and Heaven.  Light symbolizes clarity, an ability to see, while Heaven symbolizes a place where one will find ultimate peace and rest. Humans have goodness poured into them and it is our blessing to share that goodness with others. We open to the opportunity to share our goodness with others. 

The Poem’s Audience

Wordsworth commands his audience of poets to shine.  Wordsworth knows who he’s exhorting and calls them out as a group so poets, specifically, would listen to his words.  Since Wordsworth is writing a poem, he is a poet functioning as both writer and audience.  Our message is for us as much as it is for others. Each time we criticize others, remember in order to grow self knowledge we first listen and apply the criticism first to ourselves.

The Poem’s Message for Us 

If we believe we’ll receive guidance from above to light our way we will grow in Self-knowledge. If we open to goodness, we will have enough goodness to share with others. If we criticize others, first apply the criticism to ourselves. If we do all of this we will shine with contentment.


  1. Share your goodness with others!
    This was one of my many saying to my classes for a couple years.
    Even had a poster made by some students that’s says exactly that!
    Need to remember this saying always.

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