William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”
William Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is written mostly in iambic pentameter and is unrhymed. As you go through the poem, you don’t notice the meter. It reads like a story rather than a poem. Overall, the diction of the poem is informal. The short-story-like quality of “Tintern Abbey” and informal language give the poem a personal feel. These qualities make it easier to envision the grand landscape he describes and allow you to relate to the feelings and emotions Wordsworth shares throughout the poem.
Wordsworth breaks up the sentences over several lines. No one line is a written as a whole sentence. This structure emphasizes certain portions of sentences and changes the meaning of the words (I think this is the syntax). For example, the first stanza ends with, “The Hermit sits alone.” If you read the complete sentence without the line breaks it would be easy to gloss over two important words. The word hermit already implies alone, including alone with hermit on the same line underscores the detachment. This made me second-guess the meaning of previous sentences.
Wordsworth opens the poem by describing the scenery around the Tintern Abbey during his return “after five long winter!” As he paints a picture of the landscape he subtly draws attention to feelings created by his return. For example:
“Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion.”
These lines are characteristic of the way he uses nature to understate feelings of melancholy, although the poem is generally optimistic. Wordsworth writes about how memories of the Tintern Abbey helped him through “hours of weariness.” He acknowledges, “That time is past, And all its aching joys are now no more,” but remains hopeful for the future.
The poem focuses on the happiness nature has brought him and how his relationship with it has changed since, “The coarser pleasures of his boyish days…” After reading the poem for the first time it seemed like a nature poem. But after reading it again several times more carefully I believe it is about so much more. I think nature is an allegory for life. The changes in his relationship with nature describe the changes he went through in life.
The allegory can be seen in the way he personifies nature. For example, when writing about his first trip to the Tintern Abbey he uses the phrases “lonely streams” and “gloomy wood.” I think these two phrases describe the loneliness and despair he felt the last he was at Tintern Abbey.
In the fourth stanza he writes:
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating though of ample power
To chasten and subdue
(This was my favorite part of the poem). The meaning behind these lines is much too profound to be a new perspective on nature. I read this as being the loss of innocence that occurred when he transitioned to adulthood.