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Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

Page history last edited by Alexandra Howard 15 years, 10 months ago

When annotating this poem, please pay specific attention to: 

1) title 

2) specific images that situate us in this place. Use the annotations to help us "draw" a visual map of this place. 

3) lines relating present and past 

4) senses - how do the different senses conjure the speaker's specific relationship to the place




William Wordsworth (1770-1850)





      FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
      Of five long winters! and again I hear
      These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs[2]
      With a soft inland murmur.--Once again
      Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
      That on a wild secluded scene impress
      Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
      The landscape with the quiet of the sky[3].
      The day is come when I again repose
      Here, under this dark sycamore, and view                        10
      These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
      Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
      Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
      'Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
      These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
      Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
      Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
      Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
      With some uncertain notice, as might seem
      Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,                     20
      Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire
      The Hermit sits alone.

                              These beauteous forms,
      Through a long absence, have not been to me
      As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
      But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
      Of towns and cities,[4] I have owed to them
      In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
      Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
      And passing even into my purer mind,
      With tranquil restoration:--feelings too                        30
      Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
      As have no slight or trivial influence
      On that best portion of a good man's life,
      His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
      Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
      To them I may have owed another gift,
      Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
      In which the burthen of the mystery,
      In which the heavy and the weary weight
      Of all this unintelligible world,[5]                               40
      Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
      In which the affections gently lead us on,--
      Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
      And even the motion of our human blood
      Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
      In body, and become a living soul:
      While with an eye made quiet by the power
      Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
      We see into the life of things.
                                       If this
      Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft--                        50
      In darkness and amid the many shapes
      Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
      Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
      Have hung upon the beatings of my heart--
      How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
      O sylvan Wy[6]e! thou wanderer thro' the woods,
      How often has my spirit turned to thee![7]

        And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
      With many recognitions dim and faint,
      And somewhat of a sad perplexity,                               60
      The picture of the mind revives again:
      While here I stand, not only with the sense
      Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
      That in this moment there is life and food
      For future years.[8] And so I dare to hope,
      Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first[9]
      I came among these hills; when like a roe
      I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
      Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
      Wherever nature led: more like a man                            70
      Flying from something that he dreads, than one
      Who sought the thing he loved.[10] For nature then
      (The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
      And their glad animal movements[11] all gone by)
      To me was all in all.--I cannot paint
      What then I was. The sounding cataract
      Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
      The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
      Their colours and their forms, were then to me
      An appetite; a feeling and a love,                              80
      That had no need of a remoter charm,
      By thought supplied, nor any interest
      Unborrowed from the eye.--That time is past,
      And all its aching joys are now no more,
      And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
      Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
      Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
      Abundant recompence. For I have learned
      To look on nature, not as in the hour
      Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes                    90
      The still, sad music of humanity,
      Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
      To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
      A presence that disturbs me with the joy
      Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
      Of something far more deeply interfused,[12]
      Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
      And the round ocean and the living air,
      And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
      A motion and a spirit, that impels                             100
      All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
      And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
      A lover of the meadows and the woods,
      And mountains; and of all that we behold
      From this green earth; of all the mighty world
      Of eye and ear,--both what they half create,
      And what perceive; well pleased to recognise[13]
      In nature and the language of the sense,
      The anchor[14] of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
      The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul                  110
      Of all my moral being.
                                    Nor perchance,
      If I were not thus taught, should I the more
      Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
      For thou art with me here upon the banks
      Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
      My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
      The language of my former heart, and read
      My former pleasures in the shooting lights
      Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
      May I behold in thee what I was once,                          120
      My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
      Knowing that Nature never did betray
      The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
      Through all the years of this our life, to lead
      From joy to joy: for she can so inform
      The mind that is within us, so impress
      With quietness and beauty, and so feed
      With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
      Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
      Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all                    130
      The dreary intercourse of daily life,
      Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
      Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
      Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
      Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
      And let the misty mountain-winds be free
      To blow against thee: and, in after years,
      When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
      Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
      Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,                       140
      Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
      For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
      If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
      Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
      Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
      And these my exhortations![15] Nor, perchance--
      If I should be where I no more can hear
      Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
      Of past existence--wilt thou then forget
      That on the banks of this delightful stream                    150
      We stood together; and that I, so long
      A worshipper of Nature, hither came
      Unwearied in that service: rather say
      With warmer love--oh! with far deeper zeal
      Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
      That after many wanderings, many years
      Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
      And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
      More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!



  1. The title of this poem, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1978,” is a very spatially informing title for a poem. Just by reading the title, the reader knows that the author wrote the poem while visiting Tintern Abbey. We also know that this is not his first visit, but a revisit, which connects us with some of the memories of the location given in the poem. The title also conveys a sense that the poet wrote these lines in the very moment that he was experiencing the beauty of the location, with lines such as, “That in this moment there is life and food For future years.” The title is very specific and gives a date and year to orient the reader with a time frame and location which may help with the reading of the poem.
  2. Wordsworth first recollection of this place is the noises he hears from the water rolling down the mountain. You can imagine babbling creeks rolling down the steep mountains. This very specific image pulls the reader right into the scene. The use of present tense in the first images described allows the reader to feel as if they are in this beautiful place, not just hearing someone else's description
  3. From the title of the poem through the first stanza, the poet gives a very descriptive location in time and space of the position from which the poem is supposed to be read. However as the poem progresses, the setting of the poem and the speaker begin to blend as one with respect to the sky and landscape. We lose ourselves in the depths of seclusion and become one with nature. The referencing to the connection between sky and landscape describes almost a certain sense of clarity in the speaker and it gives a view into the mind of the speaker as well.
  4. Wordsworth effectively uses the setting as a means for comparison between the past and present. The drastic contrast between the city and his beloved nature helps give the reader more insight into what Tintern Abbey and the surrounding nature really mean to him. Specifically, the reader can begin to recognize the "gifts" and memories that Tintern Abbey has provided. After leaving the serenity and beauty of the nature, Wordsworth finds himself in the "din" and loneliness of the city, and he reflects on his past days at Tintern Abbey. This almost seems ironic because a city is full of people and activity, but nature is more peaceful and secluded
  5. These lines employ understatement and emphasis on absences, both of words and memory, to, ironically, describe that which holds transcendent sway over the narrator's life. His "purer mind," resting from the material cares of life, dwells in tranquillity and quiet where it is restored. "Unremembered pleasure" may be read as an insignificant feeling in an other context, but in this poem this memory, which lacks specifics of time or place, is an almost divine feeling which cannot be articulated. The pastoral setting through which the narrator walks is elevated in its power by its ability to evoke such a memory from the narrator. By feeling that which is connected to an event the narrator cannot specifically place, the narrator in a sense transcends the material world of the present and is able to see life through a clearer viewpoint.
  6. In line 56, the poet employs an apostrophe to express his bursting emotions for the landscape of sylvan Wye. Throughout the poem, the speaker seems to be extremely emotional about his return to the area since his five year absence. These bursts of emotion are highlighted by these apostrophes, which can also be seen in lines 50 and 143.
  7. In lines 43 to 49, the narrator describes his notion of a person's last moments before death, which he portrays as very peaceful and reassuring. In the next stanza the narrator begins to express his doubt and insecurity about these thoughts regarding death, acknowledging that his depiction could be just a "vain belief." After that he addresses the landscape (sylvan Wye), saying "how often he's turned his spirit to thee." I interpreted this last statement as him saying that he's lost his hope and optimism (due to his preoccupation with time and death?) and also that he's returned to this location once again after five years to possibly rediscover his faith and confidence that he once had.
  8. Wordsworth here indicates a sense of hopefulness in that the "present pleasure" will provide "life and food/ For future years." He has recognized that his "dim and faint" recollections of his visit five years earlier have been meaningful and hopes that this experience will serve the same effect.
  9. Here, the speaker recalls his past. As a boy venturing through the Abbey for the first time, he knows nothing but the nature he sees around him. Nature is everything to him. Though, his boyish ways have now dissipated, and he recognizes things beyond nature (busy cities and such). Things have become more complicated in his life, and he must draw upon his memories of this beautiful Abbey to squelch his current reality.
  10. Here the speaker explains that as a boy he would run through the land around the Wye as if he were escaping from something that he hated. He claims now to be more mature and calm, but still, at other points in the poem, he says that when life in the city becomes unbearable he thinks about this place. In his imagination at least, he is "Flying from something that he dreads" and coming to this place, just like in his childhood.
  11. In order to contrast the differing situation of the past and of the present, he characterizes his youth in an animalistic way. During his first adventure through the banks of Wye in his “boyish days” (line 73), the journey is made with “animal movements” (line 74). All the things he saw like the colors and shapes of the rocks, mountains, and the forest stimulated his instinctive appetite and brought about “coarser [physical] pleasures” (line 73). At the other end of this is his adulthood where he characterizes himself as a human. He describes his maturity as the “sad music of humanity” (lines 91) which is what he knew it as when he was younger. This transition from boy to a man is portrayed as the change from animal to human (perhaps hinting at the correlation of evolution such as the happy oblivion of an animal or a young child maturing to a intellectual human?).
  12. The previous lines illustrate a strong picture to help identify the senses in the poem. The line, ''a sense sublime / of something far more deeply interfused,'' definitely gives pending news to how he feels toward the setting. Further, he concludes by describing in lines 102 to the end of the stanza of the specific setting that truly displays his intense and devoted relationship with the pastoral, natural setting. This definitely gives insight to the feelings of the speaker with optimism and hope.
  13. This juncture of the poem heavily focuses on description. If one looks at this section 4 out of the 5 senses are noted. The sense of site is described through the mountains and the green earth. The sense of site in addition to the sense of hearing is noted when the text states "of all the might world of eye and ear--both what they half create." Finally touch and smell can be infered through a lover of the meadow and woods. The reader is led to believe that the individual in the poem loved this specific place where he could tour the trees and smell the earth.
  14. In this stanza, narrator compares and contrasts his perception of nature as a boy during his "boyish days" and as a more matured figure "like a man." In the past, nature was part of his physical being; he was like a "roe" that responded to nature instinctively at a physical level, often without thought. The sounds and images of nature were his "appetite" that stimulated his bodily involvement among the "tall rock" and "gloomy wood." After five years of physical separation, although he still loves the nature as in the past, that love exists at a more innate, mental level. Nature, as he realizes, has become the everything of his intellectual aspect: "The anchor of my purest thoughts...and soul of all my moral being."
  15. In lines 121-141 Wordsworth is creating an interesting disruption of time. He is relating a memory of a place that he is visiting to his sister, whom he hopes will retain the memory. It's a sort of future past. Wordsworth is very concerned with his sister's appreciation of the scenery and the magnitude of his feelings about this place. However it is the precise idea of forming memories in the present, and planning to form memories in the future that is a truly paradoxical concept in relation to our general concept of time. Yet, it does not seem irrational to create future memories in our day to day ways of thinking.

Comments (2)

Peter Zhao said

at 11:42 pm on Sep 17, 2008

In lines 43 to 49, the narrator describes his notion of a person’s last moments before death, which he portrays as very peaceful and reassuring. In the next stanza the narrator begins to express his doubt and insecurity about these thoughts regarding death, acknowledging that his depiction could be just a “vain belief.” After that he addresses the landscape (sylvan Wye), saying “how often he’s turned his spirit to thee.” I interpreted this last statement as him saying that he’s lost his hope and optimism (due to his preoccupation with time and death?) and also that he’s returned to this location once again after five years to possibly rediscover his faith and confidence that he once had.

nomeaku@... said

at 5:31 pm on Sep 18, 2008

Based upon the poem, I feel that the author must have a great passion for nature. It almost seems as though this is a love poem to nature. Nonetheless, I did wonder why it has been five years eince he has been back, since it is obvious that he has pleasant memories of the scene. Yet, I get the feeling of absence makes the heart grow fonder when I read this poem.

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