TINTERN ABBEY

The full title of this poem is “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour July 13th, 1798”. It opens with the speaker’s declaration that five years have passed since he last visited this location, encountered its tranquil, rustic scenery, and heart the murmuring waters of the river. He recites the objects he sees again, and describes their effect upon him. The speaker then describes how his memory of these “beauteous forms” has worked upon him in his absence from them: when he was alone, or in crowded towns and cities, they provided him with “sensations sweet,/ Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart” The memory of the woods and cottages offered “tranquil restoration” to his mind, and even affected him when he was not aware of the memory, influencing his deeds of kindness and love. He further credits the memory of the scene with offering him access to that mental and spiritual state in which the burden of the world is lightened, in which he becomes a “living soul” with a view into “the life of things.”

Even in the present moment, the memory of his past experiences in these surroundings floats over his present view of them, and he feels bittersweet joy in reviving them. He thinks happily too, that his present experience will provide many happy memories for future years. The speaker acknowledges that is different now from how he was in those long-ago times. When as a boy he “bounded o’er the mountains” and through the streams. That time is now past, he says, but he does not mourn it, for though he cannot resume his old relationship with nature, he has been amply compensated by a new set of more mature gifts. He can now sense the presence of something far more subtle, powerful, and fundamental in the light of the setting suns, the ocean, the air itself, and even in the mind of man, and for that he still loves nature, for they anchor his purest thoughts and guard the heart and soul of his “moral being.”

The speaker says that even if he did not feel this way or understand these things, he would still be in good spirits on this day, for he is company of his “dear, dear sister,” who is also his “dear, dear friend,” and in whose voice and manner he observes his former self. Nature’s power over the mind that seeks her out is such that it renders that mind impervious to “evil tongues.” “rash judgements,” and “the sneers of selfish men,” instilling instead a “cheerful faith” that the world is full of blessings. The speaker then encourages the moon to shine upon his sister, and the wind to blow against her, and he says to her that in later years, when she is sad or fearful, the memory of this experience will help to heal her. And if he himself is dead, she can remember the love with which he worshipped nature. In that case, too, she will remember what the woods meant to the speaker, the way in which, after so many years of absence, they became more dear to him-both for themselves and for the fact that she is in them.

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