“Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey”

May 29, 2019 by Essay Writer

Wordsworth’s pastoral poem “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey” eloquently expresses the poet’s feelings of ambivalence regarding maturation, nature, and modern society. The poem is formatted in a distinct approach that serves to highlight the poet’s own conflicting emotions. Wordsworth initiates the composition by presenting himself as revisiting a beautiful and sprawling landscape he once enjoyed as a child. In proceeding through his maturation into an adult, he begins to describe a new environment—one of a cold and selfish modern society. The din and darkness of his new adult life serves as a stark contrast to the peace and tranquility of the riverbank he holds in his nostalgia. As the poem unfolds, Wordsworth allows himself to return to his place of serenity not only in his memories, but also through the eyes of his younger sister. He projects his own faded recollections of youth onto her and utilizes this opportunity to return to the banks of the Wye. As he is now too old, or perhaps too jaded and world-weary, to truly return, he relishes in the novelty of the sister’s experience at the riverbank.The poem opens with invocations of time and familiarity. In the first two lines, Wordsworth demonstrates, through his use of the word “again”, that not only has he visited this scene previously, but that the riverbank landscape is so dear to him that the lengthy separation of “five summers” has felt as long as “five winters” (1-2). He is careful to note, however, that despite his long absence from the banks, he has not forgotten the true beauty of the scenery. To him, his nostalgia serves as a breakaway from his now mature life. In this sense, the passing of time is a source of deep-rooted ambivalence.Wordsworth remembers the banks chiefly through the serenity he experienced while visiting there as a child. His sense of peace is worth noting, as the landscape itself is described as being fraught with opposing scenery. The “steep and lofty cliffs” are “wild” and yet connect with the “quiet of the sky”. The naturally simple green hues of the woods “disturb” the landscape while “wreathes of smoke” are sent up in silence (14-19). Despite how opposite these images may seem, they somehow naturally connect together and flow, forming a tranquility that brings comfort to the poet’s childhood memories. As the poet matures, however, he is placed in an environment of chaos that, unlike the banks of his youth, cannot come together in peace. The “fretful stir” and “fever of the world” hang heavy on his heart (53-55), and thus he often turns to his memories of the banks and their unity for solace.Wordsworth notes an important shift in his appreciation of the banks through his maturation. Initially, he experienced the scene in a child-like wonderment and open appreciation of the natural beauty. He experienced it as it was and asked for nothing of the passionate emotions the landscape evoked. Now, as he is older and utilizes these memories as a bulwark against the modern world, he appreciates the banks more as a place of refuge. He returns to this place “more like a man flying from something that he dreads” (71-72). Now it seems the pure pleasures of his boyish days are all gone by. Despite his melancholy, he ambivalently remarks that he does not regret this change in himself. Now that he is older and has matured he is finally able to fully sense the “sublime” in nature and enjoy a true appreciation of those powers the scenery evokes. In the lines “if I were not thus taught, should I the more suffer my genial spirits to decay” (113-114), he even attributes his poetic sense of creativity to his newly matured perspective. The poet ultimately is still “A lover of the meadows and the woods” (104), yet more in the sense of holding this natural beauty as the core of his soul rather than superficially experiencing the scenery.The poet is cheerful in the new realization that his current experience in visiting these banks will provide further memories for the future. Just as he has utilized his youthful memories as refuge against the modern world, he will now recall this new visit as a moment of sublime majesty that proves beauteous nature can still prevail over the sad dimness of society’s landscape. His new “life and food” (65) may not be gathered in the same manner as they were in his youth; that said, he remains hopeful that the presence of these memories will serve as a way to subdue the “still, sad music of humanity” (92). There is a sense of conflict demonstrated in the poet’s disconnect with modern society. Despite the idea that his appreciation of the scenery serves as a refuge against oppressive society, ultimately it is this same awareness that becomes his own humanistic connection to the rest of the world. As he lingers on the beauty of the scenery, he begins to understand that the presence of nature is “something far more deeply interfused” and “rolls through all things” (97-103). The powerful appreciation of natural beauty is what connects the poet with all of humanity. This reiterates a sense of flowing union between all things that was previously demonstrated through Wordsworth’s flowing description of the riverbank’s conflicting scenery.As the poem continues, the poet realizes that “time is past”, and he begins to reinforce the sense of confusion he feels regarding his lost youth. Despite his claims of contentment in his current perspective, the poet still attempts to regain a child-like pleasure and sense of novelty through the eyes of his younger sister. He wishes his sister to love the scenery for the sake of loving nature—as he did when he was in his youth. In this sense, he is able to relive his own initial reactions and pleasures through her experience. Her naïveté regarding the true power of nature, coupled with the newness of the scenery, brings nostalgia to the poet as he observes his own “former pleasures” in the “shooting lights of thy wild eyes” (119-120).There is more underlying his desire to share the scenery with his sister than a mere need to regain a lost youth. The poet expresses a hope that his personal experience in maturing will serve as a model for his sister’s own individual journey through life. This exposes a sense of fraternal protectiveness. He intends to allow his sister to relish in the riverbanks’ beauty in a fashion similar to his. This is so she will be capable of gaining these memories as a shield to utilize against society when she is faced with the dimness of the world. Through the evocation of these memories, the “dreary intercourse of daily life” (132) can hold no power over either of their lives. The poet further understands that the nostalgia of the riverbank will eventually mature in his sister, like they did in him, and she will evolve to find a more sober pleasure in the scenery. Underlying all of the poet’s requests, there lingers the fear of not being able to protect his sister in his death. The final stanza implies that his extreme intent on exposing his sister to this scenery is in hopes that if he should be where he “can no more hear thy voice” (148-149), then the memories will serve as her protector against the world. Essentially, if he is not present to provide her comfort, then at least she will be able to turn to her memories of the beauteous riverbanks and instead find solace in them. In the final lines of the poem, the poet is confident that his sister will come to truly appreciate the value of this pastoral landscape and will understand why he holds it so dear. To not forget the memories of their “many wanderings” (157) along these riverbanks will provide her the ultimate protection against any pain, solitude, or grief that the world may bring.

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