The Female Figures Of Wordsworth 's Poem, Tintern Abbey, And La Belle Dame Sans Merci

The Female Figures Of Wordsworth 's Poem, Tintern Abbey, And La Belle Dame Sans Merci

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The female figures in Wordsworth’s poetry, such as Lucy in the Lucy poems and his sister Dorothy in “Tintern Abbey,” are essentially blank, idealized screens onto which the poet projects his musings of nature or his recollections of his past self. Although Wordsworth appears to be enraptured by and loving of these female figures, nothing of their personalities, aspirations, or words are ever revealed to the reader. The elusiveness of these women gives them a two-dimensional quality and makes the invocation of these female figures seem like its sole function in the poem is to be an instrument through which Wordsworth can convey his beliefs. Keats’ poems such as “The Eve of St. Agnes,” “Lamia,” and “La Belle Dame sans Merci” contain contrasting female archetypes that can be divided into the sinful, tempting seductress and the pure, beautiful virgin. It goes without saying that both of these archetypes of women are romanticized to the point of being simply ideas that ultimately serve to reflect the ego of the poet himself rather than any actual woman. Both Keats and Wordsworth in this way use the female figure to invoke women that are mere reflections of the poets’ ideals; although they do hold influence over the poets and are depicted as compelling figures, these females are deceptively powerful because of their lack of independence from the fears and the criticisms and ultimately the self-absorption of these poets.
At the close of his poem “Tintern Abbey” Wordsworth addresses his sister, Dorothy, who is notably vacant from the rest of the poem. She is his “dear, dear friend” (l. 116) and he sees much of “what [he] was once” (l. 120) in her. However, Wordsworth has spent the length of this poem giving the reader no hints or clues ...


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...ch of earthly years” (l. 3-4) and is thus rendered insensate by nature, yet she continues to “[roll] round in earth’s diurnal course” (l. 7). However, that is the extent of Lucy’s activity or revealed characteristics in these poems. In this way Lucy consistently enters into a relationship with nature that effectively robs her of any human identity apart from what qualities Wordsworth believes nature will give her. It is true that nature appears to be this benevolent keeper who will take Lucy’s beauty in exchange for a life lived purely because it is so aligned with nature, but Lucy herself is evidently nothing more to the poet than someone whom he can idealize as nature’s mistress. Because he holds nature in such high regard, it is understandable that Wordsworth would seek out his ultimate female inspiration based on the woman whom nature wishes to claim for itself.

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