Free Essay on William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey

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      William Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey


      As students, we are taught that William Wordsworth's basic tenets of

      poetry are succinct: the use of common language as a medium, common man as

      a subject, and organic form as an inherent style. Yet beyond these

      rudimentary teachings, it should be considered that it was the intimacy

      with nature that was imperative to the realization of Wordsworth's goals

      set forth in the "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads. In his "Preface,"

      Wordsworth states, "Poetry is the image of man and nature" (Norton 247). A

      study of "Tintern Abbey," the intended finale and last impression of the

      Lyrical Ballads, reveals Wordsworth's conviction that the role of nature

      is the force and connection that binds mankind not only to the past and

      the future, but to other human beings as well. Regardless of the language

      employed, the subject used, or the method of delivery, it was the primal

      connection with nature that fueled Wordsworth's poetic genius.


      Wordsworth begins the journey into "Tintern Abbey" by taking the reader

      from the height of a mountain stream down into the valley where the poet

      sits under a sycamore tree surveying the beauty of the natural world. This

      introduction through nature sets the scene for the poet's blending of his

      mind with that of the natural world. Here Wordsworth does not dwell on the

      imprint of mankind on the landscape but on the connection of an isolated

      individual enveloped within the wild world of nature. Although he refers

      to the presence of man - vagrant dwellers or hermits - his connection is

      with the untouched splendor of the countryside.


      From his perspective, looking out on the verdant landscape, the speaker

      ties his connection with nature to the past. He remembers that during his

      long absence from the Wye Valley, years which he spent living in the city,

      he found consolation in calling back the memories of his time spent in

      nature. It is important to note here that Wordsworth is not merely finding

      comfort in fondly remembering a past holiday, but is unequivocally using

      the natural setting as his source for transcendence. By specifically using

      nature as his escape from "...the heavy and weary weight/Of all this

      unintelligible world" (39-40), he asserts that the purity of nature holds

      no ill memories of man's unkindness. This ability to gradually retreat

      from the trials of daily life by calling to mind the solace found in

      nature is key to the concept that only through withdrawal from the world

      of society and immersion in the natural world can one rise above present



      Wordsworth continues speaking of his connection with nature to the past by

      relating how nature has held prominence during all stages of his past

      life. But here he also imparts the importance his intimacy with nature

      will have in his future as he states "[t]hat in this moment there is life

      and food/For future years" (64-65). Wordsworth realizes that the memories

      of the past will continue to provide pleasure and connection even as he

      grows old.


      In the final refrain, the poem suddenly shifts perspective back to the

      present and instead of considering his own connection with nature,

      Wordsworth now turns his attention to being in the sylvan valley with his

      sister, Dorothy. His hopes for the future are that his sister will also

      experience the healing powers of nature that he himself has experienced.

      By stating "...Nature never did betray/The heart that loved her"

      (122-123), Wordsworth assures his sister that she too will find solace

      from the heartless world by her communion with nature and her memories of

      this day that they are spending together. Wordsworth's ability to look to

      the future to predict memories of events that are happening in the present

      is ingenious and complicated. But Wordsworth beautifully clarifies this

      concept by using nature as the ideal link between recollection, foresight,

      and his relationship with another.


      Wordsworth neatly ties together the significance of nature not only with

      his previous experience of remembering nature, but also with how he sees

      the natural world affecting the future. He further states that even "if I

      should be where I no more can hear/Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes

      these gleams of past existence" (147-149), their memories shared in nature

      will endure to give Dorothy solace as she grows old. By looking to the

      future, Wordsworth comprehends that because of their shared recollection

      of their communion in the outdoors, he and his sister will be tied

      together even after his death.


      Over two hundred years after it was written, "Tintern Abbey" continues to

      uphold the essence of William Wordsworth's beliefs and continues to touch

      the emotions of its readers. Even though, here in the twenty-first

      century, the term real-world has a connotation of life in the fast-lane,

      the real world - the natural world - of Wordsworth's time still holds a

      place of eminence both in literature and in the hearts of its readers.

      Certainly, Wordsworth would be pleased to see how very far into the future

      his vision has endured.

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