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Wordsworth’s Romanticism in Tintern Abbey Poem Essay

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Updated: Aug 25th, 2021

The romantic journey deals with the understanding of the static world, the spiritual world, death, rebirth, and the return to the world with affirmations. Tintern Abbey evolves romanticism from beginning to end in a truly reflective state upon the five years that had passed since he had last visited the ruins of the abbey. The ruin of the abbey perhaps can be compared to the aging of man and the inevitably of aging, however, the abbey still stands as does nature and its eternal splendor.

The poem starts immediately with an adjective, “rolling” referring to the waters coming down from the mountain springs which do not disturb the “murmur” of the river: “These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs/With a sweet murmur.” (3-4). The gentle, quietness of the river Wye which Wordsworth adored, and the visual picture of the rolling of the water from the mountain springs give the reader a feeling of serenity.

The tone of the poem is calm and meditative and Wordsworth describes the “landscape” and compares it to the “quiet” of the sky: “The landscape with the quiet of the sky.”(8). The plots of land surrounding his dear land are lovingly described with the color, green. He gives the woods an almost human personality with the use of the verb, “run” in line l7; “Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms” (l7). The life of the woods surrounding the Abbey is almost given human-like qualities to show how man is and must be part of nature.

In the third stanza of the poem his tone changes and he almost becomes angry at the fact that he had left the abbey and returned to a life which had left him unfulfilled; “How often has my spirit turned to thee!”(58). In lines 89-92, “For I have learned /To look on nature, not as in the hour/Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes/The still, sad music of humanity,”(89-92) his tone becomes morose in reflecting upon the lack of human appreciation of nature. He uses obvious, but knowing adjectives in “round ocean” and “living” air: “And the round ocean and the living air” (99) and attributes that are obvious to the conditions of the ocean and air, but to reflect upon the obvious and constancy of nature.

The irony of the strengthening of his relationship with his sister, Dorothy takes place with his return to the abbey with Dorothy and he feels freedom which he had lacked in the “outside” world. He feels protected in the woods, a place of refuge which is reinforced by the dearness and closeness of his sister’s presence. The freedom to be himself and enjoy the beauty and tranquility that nature can provide, in a treasured place which was sacred to him, set away from the city gossip and fast life, the ironic greetings of people who don’t care; “Nor greetings where not kindness is, not all” (13l).

The autobiographical fact that Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy returned to live in the Lake District at the end of l799 reinforces how important the locale meant to him and his sister. Wordsworth’s wish for his sister in this poem is that she be happy and joyous in her surroundings and protect her from the gossip and cruelty of the outside world and that the serenity and calmness of nature keep her at peace; “Therefore let the moon/ Shine on thee in thy solitary walk” (l35-6).

In stanza 4 Wordsworth becomes like a preacher in tone and when he says, “That at this moment there is life and food/For future years”(65-6) he seems to be teaching the reader a lesson that youth is spent in concrete form. HE alluded to the carnal nature of his youth; “(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days/and their glad animal movements all gone by,) (74-5) and welcomes his appreciation of nature and the calmness it brings; “…other gifts/Have followed, for such loss, I would believe”(87-8). Youth is eternal in the heart that appreciates the majesty and sublimity of nature is just what Wordsworth is trying to relate in Stanza 4 and his tone changes from descriptive to joyous and appreciative and relates his soul to nature.

The sensuality of his return to the Abbey is reflected in lines 26-32; “But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din/Of towns and cities, I have owed to them, /In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, /”(26-32) renews the newness and hope of his youth and reaffirms his unity with nature. The central description of the poem comes from muted visions of his prior visit to the Abbey and his reminisces in the concrete, visceral encompassing freedom of the woods.

His reflection upon man’s eternity and mortal life are addressed when he says; “Until, the breath of this corporeal frame, /And even the motion of human blood/Almost suspended, we are laid asleep/In body, and become a living soul:” (44-47) the word, “motion” gives notice to the motion and vitality of nature which is eternal and contrasts and contradicts the long-lived life on man on earth. He is trying to reflect, on his place in the world about nature, and also to allow the reader to reflect on his position and relation with the world of nature. Burial, return to the earth, and part of nature again, the eternal circle of life, to rejoice.

“Tintern Abbey”, follows the pattern of the Romantic Journey, in that it essentially begins with the memory of a child. Wordsworth takes nature in poetry to a level of transcendence where he connects them to everything and everyone else together in a tranquil, place of harmony. Wordsworth illustrates that the most tranquil place in nature that each person holds in his or her memory always remains pure and unspoiled.

It is the center of each person’s quiet world; it is the place that each of us can reflect upon and retreat to when needed. It is a place of spiritual rebirth. Wordsworth creates a world far better as it is a world one seen through a child’s eyes; it harbors no fearful thing, no danger because no harm can come to one who is spiritually immortal. He illustrates the stages of the development of experience and the loss of innocence, but at the same time, he recalls the glorious age of childhood or innocence.


Wordsworth-William, Wordsworth -Jonathan, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850 (A Norton Critical Edition) Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc, 1990.

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