2 November 2014
British Literature II
The Idea of the Imagination in “Tintern Abbey” and “Frost at Midnight”
At the end of the eighteenth century and moving into the nineteenth, the Romantic era emerges in Europe. The Romantic imagination is captured by the revolutionary change of this period, namely the French Revolution. However, political and social reform extends to England as well inspiring Romantics including Wordsworth and Coleridge. In addition to the revolutionary spirit of the Romantic era, the Romantics also concern themselves with the natural world. Wordsworth and Coleridge both write on the natural world in “Tintern Abbey” and “Frost at Midnight”, respectively. Specifically, they redefine the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Wordsworth explores the power of the human mind and its use of memories to overcome difficulty. Likewise, Coleridge challenges the Romantic imagination in its similar ability to help foster escapism. In Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight”, both poems engage their speakers with the Romantic imagination to find a greater understanding of the world and to project this understanding onto the next generation.
To begin with, Wordsworth and Coleridge, assumedly the speakers of “Tintern Abbey” and “Frost at Midnight”, engage with the Romantic imagination as provoked by nature. There is something characteristic of nature that drives both speakers into an introspective state. Wordsworth begins “Tintern Abbey” by making known the passing of time: “Five years have past; five summers…And again I hear / These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs / With a soft inland murmur” (NAEL, D, 288, ll.1-4). Despite him physically...
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...es with nature, Wordsworth and Coleridge undergo an array of feelings in their memories. Wordsworth is able to revisit memories of Tintern Abbey five years ago. On the other hand, Coleridge continues to feel the lingering effects of alienation in his having moved away from nature as a boy. Therein, Wordsworth wishes for his younger sister to have the same experiences he has had, whereas Coleridge wishes for his infant son to grow up with nature in spite of his being taken from it. The Romantic imagination transforms Wordsworth and Coleridge, conjuring up memories from different places in their lives. All the same, both speakers recognize the necessity of nature in understanding the world and desire its presence in the next generation.
Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
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