Wordsworth: Memories last a lifetime
“Lines written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” was written in July of 1798 and published as the last poem of William Wordsworth’s lyrical ballads. Although written in blank verse, there is nothing blank about the analytical discussion surrounding the themes Wordsworth uses in “Tintern Abbey.” The obvious theme, of course, is nature. But themes, including memory, humanity, connectivity and transcendence, and morality also play a big part in Wordsworth’s masterpiece. After reading this poem several times, the reappearing theme of memory and how it maintains connections was the one I thought proved to be more interesting than the rest. During this poem we see William Wordsworth returning to his favorite place in nature after five long years. His memories of nature helped him through the hard times and he prays that the future will treat his sister well and give her the memories that will last her after he is dead. Wordsworth appears to be experiencing melancholy, the feeling of sadness for no apparent reason. Wordsworth juggles the feelings of sadness and happiness. He is sad for the future, and how much he has changed. He soon realizes the permanence of nature and even though he is different, nature isn’t making him regain happiness. That allows him to have wonderful memories of his time spent in nature. My goal is to select moments of “Tintern Abbey” where the theme of memory maintaining connection is the most interesting and discuss the importance of those moments.
“Five years have passed.” “Once again I see these hedge-rows, little lines of sportive wood run wild.” “These pastoral farms green to the very door, and wreaths of smoke sent up in silence from among the trees.” (Wordsworth 429) I took these short exerts from stanza one. As the reader, the poet wanted us to get a feeling from the beginning how the description of the setting of an English country side in the summer allows Wordsworth to recollect the memories of his past visit and connect with nature like he did when he was younger. “Once again do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, which on a wild secluded scene impress thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect the landscape with the quiet of the sky.”(Wordsworth 429) The poet uses language like “once again,” and “connect” to show readers that he is thinking deeper thoughts about nature. You get a sense from the first stanza that this is when Wordsworth has his first crucial movement of thought. He begins to have the realization that he will always have a connection with nature. The first stanza is key to the formation of the whole poem.
In stanza two Wordsworth discusses how the memories he has of nature helped him when he was away and alone yet he was surrounded by people in the big cities. His memories also play a role when he performs acts of kindness. Wordsworth describes how the memories put him in a “blessed mood” meaning the memories make him happy. This part of the poem ties back in with him juggling sadness and happiness. He gets sad thinking about being away and being lonely but regains happiness when he thinks of memories of his favorite places. You also get the sense that his memories are used differently in his everyday life. “To them I may have owed another gift, of aspect more sublime.” (Wordsworth 430) Wordsworth is saying he owes his memories of nature a gift because they have always been there for him in different times. This is once again the poet’s way of connecting the permanence of nature and how it will be forever in his memories.
Stanza three is the most interesting stanza in my opinion. At the beginning of the stanza Wordsworth is sad. He is thinking about the people who have never been able to experience nature like he has. Wordsworth describes it as a “sad perplexity,” but very quickly he regains happiness when he realizes his visit with nature on this day will give him more memories to reflect upon in the future. You see the fight between sadness and happiness a lot in stanza three. After Wordsworth regains happiness he makes the big connection with nature. I would consider stanza three to be the climax of the poem. Wordsworth is making the connection that even though he is getting older and time is passing by he will always have the access to reflect upon nature. Having such access is what makes his memories strong and long lasting. “In nature and the language of the sense, the anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, the guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul of all my moral being.” This my favorite quote from the poem. Wordsworth is saying his memories of nature anchor his purest thoughts. The memories guard his heart and they are the reason for his moral being. This also ties back into Wordsworth discussing in stanza two how memories work differently when he needs them too. In the quote above his memories perform many acts that make up his moral being.
In the last stanza another character appears, which is revealed to be Wordsworth’s sister. Wordsworth is feeling sad about what will happen when he is dead and gone. He wants his sister to have memories of him and the time they spent together. He prays his sister will have the opportunity he has had and will be able to return to nature. As he and his sister stood together “A worshipper of nature hither came.” (Wordsworth 433) This worshipper brought a “warmer love, oh! With far deeper zeal.” This warmer love allows a calming sense to come over Wordsworth. He is happy knowing that his memories of the green pastoral landscape will remain dear to him and his sister forever. The memories will always maintain a connection between Wordsworth and his sister, and also a connection to his own life.
“Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” is not just a poem about Wordsworth love for nature, it is so much more. Memories maintain connections in everyone’s lives. It can connect you with happiness, a “blessed mood” and allow you to stay connected with family members. Nature is an important theme in this poem, but Wordsworth really wanted us to feel the connections he was making with the access of memories. With everyday struggles it is easy to forget the glorious things, Wordsworth is realizing he will have happy memories to help him through. I hope I have achieved my goal and the importance of the moments I chose to discuss.
Cantor, Rebecca, Berkow, Jordan ed. “Wordsworth’s Poetical Works Study Guide; Summary and Analysis of “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey.” Gradsaver, 17 Nov 2007. Web. 19 March 2014.
Wordsworth, William. “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.” The Longman Anthology of British Literature, fifth edition. New York; Longman 1992 429-433 Print.
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