5/23/2019

"Tintern Abbey" by Wordsworth: Critical Appreciation.


Tintern Abbey is one of the great masterpieces of Wordsworth- the earliest expression, with some degree of completeness, of his new faith in Nature and in the mind of man. It combines noble
poetry with noble philosophy and formulates the doctrine of the New age though it links itself in more than one respect to the verse of the generation that was passing. In this poem the poet describes the great power of the contemplation of a beautiful scene of Nature to heal and soothe the troubled mind of man, and to give him thrills of pleasure.

Tintern Abbey gives a valuable and beautiful analysis of the three different stages in the poet's appreciation of Nature: (1) of extreme sensuous delight in the beauty of her colour and form; (2) the association of human sorrow with Nature; and (3) detection her of the presence of divine, all-pervading, living and watchful spirit, which harmonizes the manifold discord of the elements that compose the forms in which it makes its home. It communicates its presence, at every point, to those who are ready and willing to see and learn, ministering help and encouragement, and supplying perpetual fund of strength to spirits perplexed by earthly cares.


The poem was first published in the Lyrical Ballads (1798). Some two months after its composition, Wordsworth writes:

"I began it upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the Wye, and concluded it just as I was entering Bristol in the evening, after a ramble of four or five days with my sister. Not a line of it was altered, and not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol".

The scene is in the narrow gorge of the river, Wye, somewhere between Tintern and Monmouth. Wordsworth had visited it in the
summer of 1793. In July, 1798, he again visited it with his sister, after five years of absence. Many reminiscences of the earlier visit
were recalled. "The peaceful charm of the scene prompted him to a retrospect of the long debt. which he owed to Nature"; and he
reviewed the change that had affected his attitude to Nature in the intervening period. The intellectual progress, described in these lines had been traced more fully in The Prelude, written in 1805.

Apart from its personal interest, Tintern Abbey possesses a special historical value as the first clear statement of the emotional
change in poetry of which the Romantic Movement was the climax, recognizing and defining the power of Nature to quicken and sustain the imagination and creative faculty of man.

Wordsworth's Concept of Nature
Illustrated by the Poem
As a poet of Nature, Wordsworth stands supreme. He is "a worshipper of Nature, i.e., Nature's devotee or high priest. Nature occupies in his poems a separate or independent status and is not treated in a casual or
passing manner. Tintern Abbey is a poem with Nature as its theme
(a) Wordsworth had a complete philosophy of nature. What points
in his creed of Nature may be noted? He conceived of it as a living Personality. He believed that there is a divine spirit pervading all objects of Nature. This belief finds a complete expression in Tintern Abbey. There he tells us that he has felt the presence of a sublime spirit in the setting sun, the round ocean, the living air, the blue sky, the mind of man etc. This spirit, he says, rolls through all things:

A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts
And rolls through all things”

This belief in a divine spirit pervading all the objects of Nature is called Pantheism.

(b) Next, Wordsworth believed that the company of Nature gives joy to the human heart. In "Tintern Abbey" he expresses the joy he feels on re-visiting a scene of Nature. Not only is the actual sight of this scene pleasing, the very memory of this scene has in the past soothed and comforted his mind. He has gained "sweet sensations" from these objects of Nature in hours of weariness.
Nature has healing influence on troubled minds, as he tells his sister. Wordsworth looked upon Nature as exercising a healing influence on sorrow-stricken hearts.

(c) Above all, Wordsworth emphasized the moral influence of Nature. He spiritualized Nature and regarded her as a great moral
teacher, as the best mother, guardian and nurse of man, as an elevating influence. He believed that between Man and Nature there is a spiritual intercourse.

In Tintern Abbey he says that Nature is:

“The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being”.

According to him, Nature deeply influences human character. He tells his sister Dorothy that "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her"; that Nature can impress the human mind with quietness and beauty; that Nature gives human beings lofty thoughts. He advises Dorothy to let the moon shine on her and the winds blow on her, i.e. to put herself under Nature's influence.

In this eyes, Nature is a teacher whose wisdom we can learn if we want, and without which any human life is vain and incomplete.
He believed in the education of Man by Nature. In this he was some what influenced by Rousseau. This inter-relation of Nature and Man is very important in considering Wordsworth's philosophy. In Tintern Abbey he also distinguishes his love for Nature as a boy from his love for her as a man. As a boy, his love for Nature was a physical passion; as-a grown-man, his love for Nature is intellectual and spiritual. As a boy, Nature was an "appetite", with its aching joys and dizzy raptures; as a man, his love is thoughtful because of the "still, sad music of humanity" which he has heard.

Style of Tintern Abbey
The poem is marked by Wordsworth's gift of making beautiful and highly expressive phrases. Some of the phrases and lines of this poem have become so famous that they are often quoted "e.g. We see into the life of things"; "Perpetual stir unprofitable"; "the fever of the world"; "the sounding cataract haunted me like a passion"; "aching joys and dizzy raptures"; 'the still, sad music of humanity",
"the shooting lights of thy wild eyes"; "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her"- these are some of the best-known phrases and verses in the poem.

The music of the poem is also noteworthy. The sublimity of the verse suits the loftiness of the theme. The blank verse of the poem is dignified and we see here an instance of Wordsworth's grand style. His management of the blank verse is particularly praiseworthy. It has a steady flow of dignity and at the same time great flexibility. There are Miltonic echoes in it, no doubt, but how different is the movement of Wordsworth's verse from Milton's. With a rolling blank verse, well condensed and solemn, Tintern Abbey makes the most revealing document of Nature, philosophy and the final testament of the soul's journey from sensuous to the spiritual".

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