William Wordsworth: Personal Awakening Through the Use of Memory


Tintern Abbey from a distance

With the beginning of a new style of individual experiences and emotions we, as readers, see the shift of focus while studying the works from the years that came before us.  Moving from a time of political and ‘truthful’ writings from a spokesman writer; the romantics move into more individualistic themes such as the inner workings of the mind. Most poetry during this time returns to the simplistic image of nature as the base of any poem.  William Wordsworth illustrates his common language, to connect with a wide audience, that portrays his complex ideologies in a united manner.  One of his popular poems, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour,”  takes his childhood memory and builds it into a lesson of maturation and reflection.  Returning to this view of Tintern Abbey provides Wordsworth with an advantage of his reflection to review where his life has come to and how this specific scene helped mold his choices and passions.

It is nice to know that this poem was written after leaving Tintern, which plays more into his memory of the visit compared to his first visit.  Throughout the poem, Wordsworth offers the ideas of maturation and innocence however, the main topic begins with his memory of the location.  This being five years since he has returned, he views his past self as just a child compared to his present mindset.  He states how “though absent long, / these forms of beauty have not been to me,” which introduces the reader into his reflection of how the image helped him “in hours of weariness,” and “tranquil restoration” (Wordsworth 430).  He takes this time to connect the natural image with his personal growth through his memory.  He realizes how his view of this place has changed from his initial visit.  However, it was not the location that changed, but himself and most specifically his mind.  Wordsworth portrays how he can now understand nature deeper than before, because when he was younger he would just “look on nature, …/ of thoughtless youth” (431).  He has become restored to his initial picture with a deeper philosophical mindset.  This landscape was like a guidance to his life to bring him to where he is now.  He is now aware of his surroundings and memories and hopes he was able to collect new ones for the future.  Also, he hopes he can now share this memory with his sister who has experienced the view for the first time.


Memory seems to be a highly valued topic within Wordsworth writings as it appears in “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood,” as an outlook, also on his memories with the process of aging into adulthood.  He uses this theme in both pieces to portray the underlying strength this has within an individuals growth and experiences.  Within the ode, it analyzes Wordsworth mind in which it has matured from his childhood views, “At length the Man perceives it die away, / And fade into the light of common day” (Poets.org).  His memories from his childhood display a different view than what he is perceiving in nature at the time so he takes this ode to distinguish the difference of maturation through his memory.  The “Ode on Intimations” can be read as a matured version of “Tintern Abbey,” due to the broader metaphors and ideologies being applied.  A type of awakening is seen within these two pieces that deals with the concept of ones own experiences when they become memories.  The similarities are clear within “Tintern Abbey,” and the “Ode on Intimations,” however the “Ode on Intimations” is written with more complexity and dives into multiple concepts and images compared to “Tintern Abbey.”


T.S. Eliot and Wordsworth are from different ages of  Modernism and Romanticism, however they both touch on the idea of memory.   Zekiye Antakyalioglu from Gaziantep University takes the works of Wordsworth and T.S. Eliot and compares their ideas of memory and tradition within their works.  He goes on to state that Eliot has a “depersonalized voice as the voice of humility,” while Wordsworth uses himself in “flesh and blood with the concern of sounding more sincere and intimate” (Antakyalioglu 95).  These ideas connected to memory can alter how their audiences view their poetry and them as poets.  Antakyalioglu illustrates that Eliot challenges  Wordsworth because he comes off as being too prideful (95).  With them being from different centuries, can Eliot create this stereotype of egotistical onto Wordsworth and followers?  Or should they be kept separated due to the difference of movements?  He can be read as unreliable with his narratives, however it does make for a more emotional connection for the reader to take in.  Wordsworth can be interpreted as isolating himself from the outside voices and ultimately listens to his inward voice that “lacks the philosophical outward voice of Eliot” (Antakyalioglu 97).  However, Wordsworth becomes more valuable, in my eyes, due to his vulnerability and his inward sense of thought.  This connects him to the reader and provides a clear view on his works.  Even though Antakyalioglu agrues these points against Wordsworth, for his time of Romanticism, Wordsworth is famously remembered for his personalized poetry.


“Tintern Abbey”  becomes a model of reflection for Wordsworth.  Composed in blank verse, this poem is able to connect its common language with the easy flowing narrative to be read by a diverse audience.  This helps Wordsworth share his personal ideologies of memory connected with natural scenes to see the growth of his mind throughout the years.  This style helps display the down to earth feel of nature within his piece.  His reflection becomes important and has a bigger meaning than just a beautiful landscape to share with his sister.  He dives into the inner workings of his mind and experiences to create this passionate poem of his own growth and a sentimental  memory of his own.


Works Cited

Antakyalioglu, Zekiye. “Memory, Poetry and Tradition for T.S. Eliot and William Wordsworth.” Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <http://www.academia.edu/26127707/Memory_Poetry_and_Tradition_for_T.S._Eliot_and_William_Wordsworth&gt;.

“William Wordsworth.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 16 Mar. 2017. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/william-wordsworth&gt;.

Wordsworth, William. “Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/ode-intimations-immortality-recollections-early-childhood&gt;.

Wordsworth, William. “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey.” The Longman Anthology British Literature. 5th ed. Vol. 2A. N.p.: Pearson, 2012. 429-33. Print.