Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

Sarah Roberts


Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained

In reading, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” by Wordsworth, I can’t help but think of Keats and Coleridge.  Both writers wrote about a nightingale in an attempt to explain the beauty and the horror of the sublime.

Wordsworth is not trying to explain the sublime so much as relating his experience in reaching an understanding of it through his relationship with nature.  Specifically lines 94-103, and (within those lines) the line that reads, “A presence that disturbs me with the joy/ Of elevated thoughts;… ” This line reveals, without doubt, Wordsworth’s interest in nature as a channel to reach the sublime but you have to read the entire section numbered to get all the contextual meaning.

Wordsworth’s, Ode, is more about the loss of innocence which is inescapable without death to stop the process of growth.  Even though adults have lost the magic of innocence, they can still see the beauty of the world – they’re just aware of reality in a way that can’t be extracted from their minds.  Adults have this concept of mortality that children just can’t comprehend along with the realization that the world/life is full of responsibilities that children can’t understand. Adults know that sometimes bad things happen and there is nothing that can be done about it; that there is no ultimate fairness to adhere to.

Children have this innate connection to the world around them whereas adults grow out of that easy grace.  We (adults) can touch it but we can’t really be a part of it anymore. It’s sad.  The world and beauty and purity and true innocence is around us all the time but how many of us really see it? Or even bother to look for it? Most of us have heard phrases like, “Well if that’s what being a grownup is like, then leave me out of it.” The problem with that is, you don’t know what it’s going to be like until you get there.  Then you can look back and see what an idiot you were back then, or maybe you see a better you in the past than you see in the mirror now, or maybe you don’t see much change at all.  But that’s just it – you don’t know what is going to happen until it’s already happened.  Wordsworth knows that and he looks back and sees a state of innocence that he lacks now.

Wordsworth is struggling with the finality of this knowledge. He can look back at his own childhood and remember what he lost but he can’t go back to it.  Nobody can.  He takes solace in the peace given to him by being in nature but that peace is tinged with melancholy at the loss of his own innocence and the gain of self-awareness. He now has experience and wisdom but the inability to use them in a state of grace/innocence.