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“Tintern Abbey” 

Tintern Abbey

Introduction of the Poem

This poem sums up the achievement of Wordsworth as a poet and priest of nature during the first important phase of his poetic career. This characteristic poem of Wordsworth was published as the last piece of the Lyrical Ballads in 1798. It was composed soon after he and Dorothy returned from their second visit to the banks of the river Wye, on July 13, 1798. The emotions aroused by the familiar scenes visited five years back, thus, gave birth to this poem. No interval for meditation and cooling down of emotions was allowed to intervene between the experience and its recording. Thus this poem cannot be produced as an example of the famous Wordsworthyian dictum that poetry is born out of “emotions recollected in tranquility”. It is rather an instance of the second part of that definition that poetry is “a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” aroused by some human event or natural scene.

This poet traces the development of the poet’s love of nature which has been first a sensuous animal passion for her scenic beauty, then a moral influence, and finally a mystical communion. This poem has a special place in the whole body of Wordsworth’s poetry. It is also one of the few poems where we find a clear exposition of his view of nature as a moral and spiritual guide of man. It also contains the famous phrase used for Wordsworth that he is “a worshipper of nature.”

Summary of the Poem “Tintern Abbey”

This first part contains the familiar details of the scenery on the bank of the river Wye, which Wordsworth had first visited in the bank of the river Wye, which Wordsworth had first visited in 1793 in course of a walking tour. He has returned to the scene after a lapse of five years, and many old memories are revived. The beautiful landscape, with its “steep and lofty cliffs”, the water of the Wye rolling with a soft inland murmur,” the plots of cottage-ground with green orchards laden with fruits, the pastoral, the smoke rising from some cottage chimney, indicating the habitation of either vagrant dwellers or of some hermit in this lonely place all these details touch the heart of the poet very profoundly.

In this part there is a description of the profound mental and moral influence which have flowed from the memory of these beautiful scenes, stored in his mind during the interval of five years between his first and second visits to the scene. Their memory has given birth to feelings of inexpressible joy and peace in hours of loneliness and weariness which the poet has often had during those years. Those feelings have not only given him moments of perfect tranquility of heart and mind but also induced certain qualities essential for a good and virtuous life. In this part there is the description of a certain blessed mood which is very similar to the mental and physical state called “Samadhi” in the Indian yoga system.

This is the most important section of the poem. In it the poet tries to give a picture of the stages through which he had passed in the course of the development of his attitude to Nature.

It may be, the poet says, that I am under an illusion regarding the good influences of nature on human mind and frame as stated in the previous lines. But I have often turned to these scenes for solace in moments of stresses and strains.

And now I survey the confusing mental scene of the past few years since my first visit to this place. Gradually the picture takes a definite shape. I feel that the contemplation of these scenes is not only a source of present pleasure but also a reservoir of future bliss. When I first came among these hills, I gladly roamed about here as a wild animal and my joy in the company of nature was comparable to a glad animal passion. There was no element of quiet contemplation of the scene then. But it was a period of pure fear felt in the objects of nature. I do not feel sad nor do I complain that time is over. In passing form this stage to the next! have suffered some loss, but there has also been a great compensation for the loss. For I have now learned to find in the voices and objects of nature “the still sad music of humanity.” Nature has now acquired for me a kind of moral influence. It is a sublime presence which pervades everything, from the setting sun, the round ocean, the clear sky, down to the mind of man. Thus I have learned to love the mighty world of nature partly perceived by the senses and also partly created by the imagination. Nature is now for me “the nurse, the guide, guardian of my heart, and soul of all my moral being.

In this concluding section of the poem, the poet expresses his deep debt of gratitude to his sister Dorothy who had been with him on that tour. Her delicate sensibility to the sights and sounds of nature served to remind him of the value of the sense and of his own youthful spirit when nature was all in all to him.

O my dear Sister! I know what I owe to you. In your wild eyes I catch my former pleasures and am reminded of what once I was. I know now that nature always leads us form joy to joy, impressing our mind with her quietness and beauty and informing it with lofty thoughts. It creates in our heart the cheerful faith that all nature is full of blessings, and this faith sustains our being against the evil thoughts and sneers of the wicked men. I hope that in stood together on the banks of this fair river permeated with a sense of bliss. I, for my part, the after years you will remember this our visit with a tender joy. You will recall how we will never forget that these hills and woods and this green landscape were dear to me in themselves and also for your sake. I have been a worshipper of Nature for long, and I hope to remain in her service in my future years.

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