The Significance of Nature in ‘Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey’

Write about the significance of Nature in the poem, and the speaker’s relationship with Nature:


In regards to William Wordsworth and his poetry, including ‘Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey’, nature is one of the most prevalent and significant themes, an overriding thread used to highlight his spirituality, personal traumas and socio-political criticism. The “power” of nature lies in its “healing” and “restor[ing]”properties that define Wordsworth’s relationship with nature, allowing both the reader and Wordsworth reflection and transcendence. These important aspects of the ‘Sublime’ reinforce Wordsworth’s identity as a Romantic and a Pantheist during a period of industrialisation.

Firstly, the specificity of the full title: “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798” demonstrates the importance of nature by providing the reader explicit knowledge and understanding of what Wordsworth is experiencing as he begins his poem. By fixing himself to one particular place Wordsworth also reinforces the power of memory, brought on by the overwhelming “landscape” and “beauteous forms”.  Being so specific in his location also makes it clear to the reader that this place has particular personal significance to him that he hopes to share with his “dear sister”, Dorothy, one of the most important purposes of the poem.

Typically, Wordsworth lists numerous aspects of nature: “mountain springs”, “steep and lofty hills”, “orchard tufts” and “hedge-rows”, his use of repeated connectives and enjambment highlight nature as one unified whole: “deeply interfused” and “all thinking things”. The use of enjambment throughout creates a tone of tranquility, slowing the pace of the poem, reinforced by the fluidity of iambic pentameter. “And connect the landscape with the quiet of the sky” describes nature’s unity as well as the diversity found in the natural world. Wordsworth’s ‘Early Spring’ similarly reflects this: “thousand blended notes”, demonstrating Wordsworth’s Pantheist reflections of nature as fused together. This contrasts with contemporary society’s disconnection and separation, common themes in Wordsworth’s ‘Early Spring’ and William Blake’s ‘London’, ‘Tyger’ and ‘Songs of Experience: Holy Thursday’. This is unsurprising since both poets shared their philosophies and ideals and worked together throughout the Romantic movement. Both poets share a distaste for the Industrial Revolution taking place in England at the time, causing increased urbanisation, mechanization and consumerism.

Wordsworth’s use of “pastoral” imagery and semantic field throughout ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ highlights his position as a Romantic. Romanticism can be described as an era of enlightenment of literature and poetry that took place in the late 18th to early 19th century. Nature is one of the most defining themes of this period since the Romantics championed Creation and a return to a more primitive and rural society away from the “din of towns and cities”. Wordsworth describes the “tranquil restoration” he receives from experiencing nature, as well as visiting memories of nature, sustaining him in “this unintelligible world”. In addition, Romantics also believed strongly in individualism, represented in ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ through the lone “Hermit” as well as the position of the narrator, alone and “repose[ed]”. The use of “repose” is particularly significant since it can mean either a state of tranquil or being kept in a particular place, both fitting for this poem.

At the time of writing this poem, Wordsworth had returned from France, disillusioned and anxious,  leaving behind his illegitimate child as well as the French Revolution, representing a new era of democracy and rise of Proletariat. In addition, Wordsworth’s father’s died when he was only a young teenager and he had not been able to have a strong relationship with his sister. Throughout this poem Wordsworth uses nature’s “pleasing”, “elevated” and “healing thoughts” to restore and calm his wellbeing, offering relief from his personal traumas. This reinforces his position as “a worshipper of nature” as he turns to nature for salvation. However, Wordsworth also mourns the loss of an innocent, childlike relationship with nature as the poem develops. He acknowledges that he has changed since his “boyish days”, perhaps referring to his role in the French Revolution, and only now can fully appreciate and comprehend the significance nature. This nostalgic and remorseful tone is used by Wordsworth to compel Dorothy to respect and admire nature while she is still young and innocent: “with quietness and beauty”. His idealization of youth and innocence, also reinforces Wordsworth’s position as a Romantic since another significant motif of the Romantics was championing ‘the Child’ as the perfect, Christlike figure as seen in Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence: Holy Thursday’.

Reflecting Kant’s philosophy, Wordsworth’s ‘judgement’ of his experience in returning to Tintern Abbey is formed through his exaltation of nature as he shares his experience with his “dear sister” in the hope that after he has died, nature will continue to provide her with the same support as it did him. This intimate “prayer” that Wordsworth’s sister will find “joy” and “healing thoughts” reflects their close bond as well as Wordsworth’s purpose in writing this poem, reinforced by the structure of the poem. Although it contains some of the same elements, Wordsworth did not believe ‘Tintern Abbey’ classified as an ode: “I have not ventured to call this Poem an Ode but it was written with a hope that in the transitions, and the impassioned music of the versification, would be found the principle requisites of that species of composition.” Now, critics classify the poem a ‘Conversational Poem’ since it is directed to, the silent listener, Dorothy.

Throughout ‘Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’, nature acts as the most significant theme as Wordsworth attempts to offer his reflections and regrets of his personal life, social disappointment and Romantic views. On surface level, the poem is a descriptive celebration showcasing God’s multitude of creation, symbolically through listing and exclamatory surge of emotion as well as the connection and unity found in nature which offers a dichotomy with the “darkness” and “joyless” modernity developing at the time. As the speaker, Wordsworth’s relationship with nature is spiritual as he depends on nature for comfort and solace. Since nature is Wordsworth’s healer, he writes this poem in an attempt to pass this relationship onto his sister, representing Kant’s idea of ‘judgement’. Bearing universal relevance in terms of personal, social and political context, this poem provides the reader with “tranquil” introspection as well as a reminder to appreciate and marvel at God’s “beautiful” Creation through nature.


Student exemplar


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