Abrams and Tintern Abbey Essay

Abrams and Tintern Abbey Essay

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Abrams and Tintern Abbey

In his essay, "Structure and Style in the Greater Romantic Lyric," critic M.H.Abrams describes a paradigm for the longer Romantic lyric of which Wordsworth's "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey" is an example. First, some of the poems are either identified as odes in the title, or, as Abrams states "approach the ode in having lyric magnitude and a serious subject, feelingfully meditated." (201) The narrator of "Tintern Abbey" expresses deep sensations as he views a landscape familiar from his youth, the emotions and memories evoked lead to wider moral and philosophical cogitations. The prototypical lyric, Abrams continues, "present a determinate speaker in a particularized, and usually a localized, outdoor setting." (201) Indeed, Wordsworth's title specifically identifies the site of which the narrator speaks, it is "a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on the banks of the Wye." The narrators of these poems, continues Abrams, speak in "a fluent vernacular which rises easily to a more formal speech, a sustained colloquy, sometimes with himself or with the outer scene, but more frequently with a silent human auditor, present or absent." (201) "Tintern Abbey" begins with an informal statement, a sudden "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings": "Five years have passed; five summers, with the length / Of five long winters! And again I hear / These waters" (1-3); then gradually builds to more studied speech appropriate for philosophical ruminations: "For I have learned / To look on nature, not as in the hour / Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity; / Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power / to chasten and subdue" (89-94). The narrator is speaking to a...


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...e scenes of Nature shared together will be stored in their memories to draw out at a later date to be used as a sort of non-pharmaceutical anti-depressant: "Oh, then, / If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, / Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts / Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, / And these my exhortations!" (143-147)

Required Texts

W. Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge. Lyrical Ballads. (1798, 1800, 1802) Ed. R.L. Brett & A.R. Jones. Routledge, 1992.

William Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850. Eds. J. Wordsworth, M.H. Abrams & S. Gill. Norton, 1979.

William Wordsworth: The major Works. Ed. S. Gill. Oxford, 1984/2000

Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders. Ed. D. Kramer. Oxford, 2001.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It. Chicago, 1989.

Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age; or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. Bantam Reprint, 2000

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