“Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798,” abbreviated as Tintern Abbey, is a masterpiece of poetry by one of the launching poets of the Romantic Age, William Wordsworth. The poem has vivid description of nature, its elements, and its relation to the humankind. The beauty of nature is so much absorbed in speaker that it serves as the solution to his mental and social disconnection. The complex integration of description of landscape and speaker’s self reflection represents poem as a live picture of some refugee breathing peacefully in the lap of nature. The poem is a product of the young Wordsworth who was inspired with the German art and literature and stepped forward with Samuel Taylor Coleridge to launch the era which was characterized by imagination and free style, with pure love for free spirit of nature. Published in 1798 as the closing poem in the Lyrical Ballads, Tintern Abbey is representative of the pantheism of Wordsworth and notion of Romanticism. The impulses of desire for imaginative freedom, passion for nature and yearning for the past can be seen stirring throughout the poem.
The roots of the poem lay in the personal history of Wordsworth’s life when he first visited Tintern abbey at the age of twenty three in the year 1793 in the month of August. He said that he had forgotten to jot down the musings of his mind and experience in nature. It is “five years” later when he visits the Tintern abbey “once again” with his “dear, dear friend” that he recollects his memories and exalts about the holy nature. This can be seen with an essence in the significance if the complete title itself. The title mentions that the poem was written “few miles above” the Tintern Abbey giving details about the setting and location; “revisiting” in the title shows that while it is about the physical visit to the place, is also about the recollection of past experiences and memories which have been revived on visiting again. The mention of the date of “13 July 1798” reassures the time of the year which is now “five years…past” of his prior memory. The poem is, thus, a sparkling elaboration of the definition of poetry that Wordsworth gives:
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”
The tranquil nature restores in speaker the emotion aligned with superiority of nature that aids the communion with God and let the human life be holy and pure. Written in decasyllabic blank verse paragraphs, than stanzas, the poem is majorly in mode of conversation with elements of ode and dramatic monologue. The division of lines into three parts describes the flow of the poem. First part deals with the description of speaker’s revisiting natural beauty. The speaker is overwhelmed with the experience of nature, seeing “waters, rolling from their mountain-springs/ With a soft inland murmur.” All the tiny little aspects are described with scrupulous attention paid in observing them. The repetition of the word “five” emphasizes the lapse of five long years that took the speaker to realize the communion with nature and his yearning to escape into the past for sheer philosophical ambition.
“Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters!”
While some critics have pointed out the absence of mention of the industrial activities going around, the words in the poem simplify the outlook of a romantic age person who seeks refuge in nature in order to escape from the social and political hubbub. The extensive use of repetition emphasizes the fact that the speaker is filled with “powerful feelings.” The repeated use of “once again” throws light on speaker’s “emotion recollected in tranquility.” Besides, “Thoughts of more deep seclusion…” give a hint towards the speaker’s recording of the memory of a distant view. The profound description of every element, from “sycamore” to “orchard tufts,” from “hedge rows” to “pastoral farms,” from “vagrant dwellers” to “Hermit’s cave, ” all get featured in the recollection and form an important part in the jewel of the nature in the poem.
The second part of the poem exemplifies the realization of the speaker of the powers of nature’s scenery. The speaker admires “these beauteous forms” as he has pined for this beautiful world of escape “through a long absence.” The pantheist Wordsworth has given nature the paramount importance in the words following the admiration of forms. The aspects of nature have been of help of giving solace to the speaker every time he’s “in hours of weariness” or is in quest to calm his “purer mind.”These “beauteous forms” have been successfully providing the speaker with the “tranquil restoration.”The “feelings too/ of unremembered pleasure” are also seen to have found a medium of expression. The sublimity of nature is, as it permeates throughout the poetry of Romantics, especially in Wordsworth, is provident with a glorious time to follow where “the burthen of the mystery,/ In which the heavy and the weary weight/ Of all this unintelligible world,/ Is lightened…” The speaker belonging to the flowery Romantic era thus seems to be occupied in the web of burden of the world and is seeking escape from the world which he finds alien for its unintelligence. Wordsworth thus passes on a comment, through the speaker, about the generation that longs for the glorious past.
While the speaker has since now been extolling the beauty and supremacy of nature, he is seen in a newly mode of examining the nature and the circumstances which a person goes through and comes over. The use of personification indulges Nature in the speaker’s ode and conversation as he calls out “O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods.”The repetition of “turned to thee” twice poses a study of Rousseau’s philosophy of going “back of nature.” The “present pleasure” and “pleasing thoughts” blend together in the speaker’s mind and form the best appetite for future. The looking back at nature and admiring the pleasures it offers makes the speaker experience highest emotion and melody of “deep and gloomy wood” and yet with all “their colours and their forms” sinks the reader and the speaker deep in nature. The recollection is reinforced as “that time is past” now. The shift of perspective of Romantic era man, in particular, and fellow humans, in general, showcases the dire need of the belief of turning to nature as the reality of world holds “The still sad music of humanity…of ample power.” Nevertheless, the pantheist soul defies the sad music and the troubles in and around the world and admires the majesty of nature with utmost regard and pleasure, as he says, “am I still/ A lover of the meadows and the woods/ And mountains; and of all that we behold/ From this green earth…”
The last part of the poem, i.e., the third division, brings the presence of the silent speaker in the poem, making it a dramatic monologue. The second character is introduced as “my dearest Friend,/ My dear, dear Friend.” The repetition of the word “dear” hints at the proximity of the relationship between him or her and the speaker. The speaker finds the “former” attributes of himself in his companion. The companion turns out to be the sister of speaker as he repeats the closeness of relation with the word “dear” as he refers to her by calling “My dear, dear Sister!” The Nature is again personified as having the supreme God-like characteristics of truthfulness and loyalty as he claims the most quotable words that “Nature never did betray/ The heart that loved her.” The shift of perspective from lofty view of nature in first part to thoughts of uncertainty in second part and then return to lofty thought of supremacy of Nature in the last part makes the speaker not just expressive of the nature of the attributes that belong to Nature but acknowledges him as a real “worshipper of Nature,” one “with far deeper zeal/ Of holier love.”
He concludes his poem with subtle harmony of bringing the aspects of nature together, “steep woods and lofty cliffs,/ And this green pastoral landscape…” The illustration of recollection of memory doesn’t go astray during the course of painting the whole picture together and keeps the thought intact and consistent. With love of Nature, the poet also emphasizes the significance of human relation with mention of his sister. The poem ends with the right note of Nature worship and Romantic essence in the complete title.