"Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth: Critical Summary and Development of Thought

This poem was written in July 1798. It was one of the nineteen poems that Wordsworth contributed to Lyrical Ballads (1798). This poem may be regarded as a "record of the poet's growth or of his spiritual development". It states in clear words the gradual development in Wordsworth's attitude towards Nature. It reveals how the poet appreciated Nature through the senses (that is to say, he was attracted by sounds and sights of nature): and how finally, he discovered the Divine Spirit in Nature in and began to worship it for its inner meaning or significance.

Autobiographical Element:
The real importance of the poem lies in its autobiographical element. It is this element which enables the poet's critics to understand and interpret his other poems with great ease. We learn from the poem a number of things connected with his life. The
French Revolution had filled him with great enthusiasm- the overthrow of political oppression by the French seemed to him to be the beginning of a new era of liberty and happiness. So during his first visit he was excited to a high pitch of emotional sensitiveness that made every sight and sound acute beyond belief. When he revisited Wye in 1798, the disappointment and disillusion of the years that have passed, (the excesses of the Revolution culminating in the Reign of Terror and the rise of Napoleon, since his last visit had expanded his vision and the beauty of the landscape gave him a deeper satisfaction). He saw in Nature the revelation of the Divine
Law and felt the Divine presence pervading in Nature and the mind
of Man.

During his second visit, he was accompanied by his sister Dorothy. Wordsworth says, "I began the poem upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the Wye, and concluded it just as I was entering Brist in the evening, after a ramble of four or five days with my sister".

Critical Summary and Development of Thought
Wordsworth visits Tintern Abbey in the Wye valley (Wye is a river after an absence of five years. Wordsworth is the greatest poet of nature. He is a lover of natural scenery

The poem falls into three parts (1) Description of the scenery: (2) the poet's philosophy of Nature and (3) address to his sister Dorothy.

Description of the Scene
The poet pays a second visit to Tintern Abbey after an absence of five years. He hears the murmuring sound of the waters of River Wye. The tall mountains give an impression of deep seclusion (loneliness). The green fields seem to stretch as far as the horizon. The landscape is calm and quiet. The poet lies down under the sycamore tree. The plots attached to the cottage are green, right up to the cottage door.
The fruits on the tree are at this season unripe and green. Bushes
are growing wild in the jungle. They look like an irregular line of the hedge.
Smoke is rising from among the trees. From this smoke we guess
that either some homeless wanderers are making fire in the jungle, or some hermit (holy man) is sitting in the jungle near his fire.

Philosophy of Nature
The poet has been absent from this scene for five years but he has not forgotten this scene through his long absence. This scene has not become blank in his memory as is the landscape to a blind man's eye.

The Memory of Nature-scene Brings Pleasure
The poet was troubled in the noisy towns and the cities. But memories of this lovely scene of nature refreshed his mind a brought him pleasure and peace of mind.

Nature Makes Man Noble
A worshipper of nature does a thousand little acts of greatness and love. These small acts of kindness are not remembered by the world. Nature ennobles us.

We Understand the Mystery of the World
We don't understand the meaning and purpose of the world. But a worshipper of nature understands the mystery. He understands the
meaning of the world, not by head, but by heart. Our body sleeps for
the time being; our soul wakes and we get a grasp of the meaning of creation.

Healing Power of Nature
Nature heals our troubles and sorrows. The poet was miserable
in the city. The daylight was joyless. The noise and the mad fever of the town life seemed to stop the beating of his heart. At such times the memory of this scene of the mountains, fields and the rivers cured his troubles and brought him happiness.

Today he stands seeing this scene after five years absence. He is
getting. present pleasure; also he is filling his mind with a store-
house of pleasure future will bring him great pleasure. So this scene gives him joy in the present and gives promise of joy for the future.

The Stages of the Poet's View of Nature
In boyhood, Wordsworth felt an animal pleasure in nature. Like a
deer, he ran races over the mountains, and on the banks of rivers and streams. It seemed as if he was running away from nature. The fact was that he loved nature.
In the second stage, nature became all in all to the poet. The
sounding cataract (waterfall) haunted him like a passion. Nature was his beloved. He felt a deep love for the tall rocks, mountains and the jungle. He loved only the sensuous beauty of nature. He had no philosophy of nature. He loved the sights and sounds of Nature. He cared only for the outward beauty of nature, which he saw with eyes and ears. He looked at nature with a painter's eye.

In the third stage, he no longer cared for the pictorial beauty of
nature. Now he came to read the hidden meaning of nature. In the
running water of the brook, he heard the still, sad music of humanity. The water of the brook gave him the idea of the tears and troubles of humanity.

Pantheism: God Stands Revealed in Nature
Where is the spirit (God) in nature? God dwells in the light of
the setting sun, round ocean, living air, blue sky and in the mind of man. God moves through all subjects and rolls through all things
God is all, and all is God this is Pantheism. The poet loves the
woods, the mountains and the fields, since they are the visible shape of God. Nature is the source of purest thoughts; she is the guide and guardian of moral being.

Address to Dorothy
The poet's sister, Dorothy is with him. He calls her dear friend. His sister reminds him of his past. In the second stage, he loved the
sensuous (outward) beauty of nature. Dorothy is still at that second at he once was. He
advises Dorothy to put herself under the eye of nature. Nature leads from joy to joy. She never deceives anyone who worships her. For a is all joy. He enjoys peace of mind. All the troubles of the world cannot destroy his happiness or his optimism.

Let Dorothy walk all alone in the moonlight amidst storms and mists of the mountains. If ever misfortunes befell her, she would
remember his advice, namely that nature-worship removes all worries and troubles. Or by then the poet might have died. At that
future time, she would remember the present visit to Tintern Abbey.
Wordsworth, the worshipper of nature, loved Tintern Abbey, both for its sake and for the fact that his sister was with him.

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