Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey Summary Analysis


The article contains —

• Wordsworth’s Philosophical Attitude to Nature in Tintern Abbey 

• Wordsworth’s Pantheistic Theory of Nature 

• Wordsworth’s view to Nature in Different Stages of His Life

Lines Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey Summary and Critical Analysis

Tintern Abbey was first published in Lyrical Ballads in 1798, and it is the star of this volume. It was composed during a walking tour which Wordsworth took in 1798, in company with his sister, through the valley of the river Wye.

The beautiful scenery of the Wye calls up before his musing thought the picture of his childhood with its animal pleasure in nature, and of his boyhood, with its sensuous delight in the sights and sounds of Nature, when the sounding cataract  haunted him like a passion and the tall rock, the mountain and the deep and gloomy wood with their colours and forms were to him objects of intense longing. He shows how the Nature influenced on his soul and brought in him “sensations sweet, felt in the blood and felt along the heart”.

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         “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” is a sublime creation of Wordsworth’s poetic genius. It enshrines in flawless poetic form, the lucid exposition of the poet’s attitude to Nature in different stages of his life. It also fully enunciates his ultimate noble philosophy of Nature that earns for him the glorious title, “the high priest of Nature” in the history of English poetry.

The astute critic Myers rightly calls the poem “the consecrated formulary of Wordsworthian creed”. The poem is autobiographical and is indeed of great significance in understanding Wordsworth’s attitude to Nature. 

Wordsworth View to Nature in Different Stages of Life 

      In the first stage i. e. in his boyhood, Wordsworth’s attitude to Nature was, as Hudson explained nicely, “simply a healthy boy’s delight in freedom and open air”. Wordsworth describes it as the “Coarser-pleasures” of his “boyish days” and their “glad animal movements” in the present poem. These “Coarser-pleasures” refer to his boyish sports in the midst of natural objects, his plunging into the river from the tree-tops or rocks, his stealing of wood-cock, his stealthy pleasure in rowing a boat without the owner’s permission etc.

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In this stage, like a gypsy he bounded over the mountains, by the sides of the deep rivers and the lonely streams wherever Nature led.

    In the second stage, i. e. in his youth, Wordsworth’s attitude to Nature was that of a sensuous lover. He was quite satisfied with the outward forms and colours of Nature. He did not penetrate deep into the soul of Nature by spiritual contemplation to realise the sublime worth. The poet says,

“for Nature then to me was all in all”.

In this stage, he was simply a passionate lover of Nature for his own sake. The roaring waterfalls possessed his mind with the intensity of deep longing. The rocks, mountains and woods with their various colours and shapes were things that he hunkered only for the satisfaction of his senses. They created in him wild sensations and earnest desires with their physical charms.

Wordsworth, at that time, did not find in them any remoter charm which is supplied by thought “nor any interest unborrowed from the eye”. In this stage, he was, indeed, as sensuous as Keats, his great successor in Romantic poetry. 

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     But this sensuous attitude of the poet gradually passed away and gave way to his philosophic and Pantheistic attitude to Nature and this was his third and the last stage. In this stage Wordsworth’s Pantheistic  Theory of Nature has been described. The conception of a universal spirit permeating the whole universe is essentially Pantheistic. Wordsworth’s Pantheistic  Theory is well described in the lines,  where he says, this universal spirit dwells in

 “the light of setting suns/ And the round ocean and the living air,/ And the blue sky and in the mind of man”.

 By the inevitable law of Nature, he was further advanced in age and he came in close contact with the “still sad music of humanity” which was neither harsh nor greeting, but of ample power to chasten and subdue”.

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Influence of Nature on Wordsworth:

      The sorrows and sufferings of the world, indeed, deeply humanized the thoughtless young Wordsworth, made him mature, deeply contemplative and enabled him to realise the presence of a sublime mysterious Being throughout the universe. His deep communion with the spirit filled him “with the joy of elevated thoughts and stirred him to the very depth of his soul”.

According to him, this Spirit dwells not only in the majestic aspects of Nature, such as, the glorious light of the setting sun, the endless stretch of the vast ocean, the ever-blowing wind and the blue done of the vast sky over head but it also dwells in the mind of man. It is the active spirit that gives life and motion to all thinking creatures, to all objects of external Nature and fills every object with energy in the universe. It sweeps unseen throughout the universe as the Supreme Force, sustaining all created things and giving a portion of its vitality to all things.

Wordsworth declares that though he delighted in the intimate communion of his soul with the universal soul of Nature as a mystic and ‘Spiritual Being”, yet he delights in external sights and sounds, too. Hence, the poet says, 

“Therefore, am I still/ a lover of the meadows and the woods,/ And mountains; and of all that we behold/ From this green earth”. 

          At the same time, the poet, Wordsworth has the firm conviction that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”. Nature is a benign mother to all human beings. Nature, through all the years of our life, leads us from joy to joy. She can so mould our mind, so impress us with quietness and beauty, so feed us lofty thoughts that neither evil tongues, rash judgments, nor the sneer of selfish men, nor the deary intercourse of daily life can ever disturb our cheerful faith.

        But for this beneficial influence, we must approach Nature as Wordsworth says, “with a mind that watches and receives”. So Nature is the anchor of his purest thoughts that nurse, guide and guardian of his heart and the soul of all moral beings.

Thus, from a Coarser lover of Nature, Wordsworth turns into a sublime philosopher of Nature, the full course of which he has described in “Tintern Abbey” in sublime poetic language. You may also like to read:

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