Critical appreciation of Tintern Abbey, focussing on the ways in which it is a typical romantic poem.

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Critical appreciation of ‘Tintern Abbey’, focussing on the ways in which it is a typical romantic poem.

Set in the tranquil welsh countryside, the opening of the poem is dense in naturalistic imagery impelling the reader to be transported into the magnificent “wild, secluded scenes” and thus forcing the reader to appreciate the power and beauty of nature just as Wordsworth himself does, an approach typical of Romanticism. Samuel Taylor Coleridge saw poetry as “the mediatress between, and reconciler of nature and man”. This quote lends significance to the fact that the opening stanza immediately connects nature with man, focusing on the emotions that nature enforces and man feels, forming the connection between the two and thus defining the poem as undoubtedly Romantic.  

Wordsworth finds solace in the memory of the landscape; it provides him with “tranquil restoration”. This was particularly important for Wordsworth seeing as he suffered from what we now call bipolar disorder and thus, emotionally, he would have been very unstable. Nature acts as “the anchor of my purest thoughts”. It is Wordsworth’s constant; unlike the world around him that is radically changing in an industrial revolution. Nature is fixed and impervious to changes in the physical world, much like how Wordsworth would like to be himself.

The beauty of Tintern provides Wordsworth with access to a more spiritual state because the place itself is “of aspect more sublime”. This suggests there is an air of mystery about the place, something humans themselves cannot physically grab hold of or clutch; something beyond our material nature. Nature leads the path to the soul; it instigates exploration of the self because, like nature, the self is not something we can define or grab hold of, but it is the self where these emotions come from. The beauty provides ephemeral access to a more spiritual existence, brief moments of enlightenment. Because Wordsworth wants to understand these incredible emotions, he wants to know how to transform these brief moments of “ecstasy” into permanent bliss, he is lead to where they are rooted; his inner self. The understanding of the self is not only one of the main themes of this poem but also one of the key features of romantic poetry. Perhaps the Abbey itself acts as a symbol of the soul because although the poem is about the Abbey it is not described only evoked, much like how the self cannot be described. The poem was written “a few miles above Tintern Abbey” which could represent Wordsworth’s viewpoint in the poem. The way he looks down at the Abbey mirrors the way he looks down into his own soul. However the fact that the lines themselves were written above the Abbey could suggest that what he has gained by looking at the Abbey or the core of his self cannot be immediately explained, in order for it to be translated into words he must come out of his inner self and search for a way to evoke his experience and he discovers that the only translator his nature; it is nature that provides the link between the inner and outer self.  Moreover, it is no coincidence that Wordsworth avoids any localizing detail. For example he describes "These waters" and "these steep and lofty cliffs"; there is no precision in his description because he wants to imply that there is something beyond nature that cannot be put into words and perhaps cannot even be understood, just felt.

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The memory of the landscape is so profound it remains with him even in the city, “though absent long, these forms of beauty have not been to me”. This shows not only the power that nature holds over Wordsworth, but also the depth of emotion that he felt. It seems that the memory of the landscape is not composed solely of the sight but more of the emotions that were aroused in him as he viewed. This suggests that Wordsworth does not perceive the landscape solely through the "eye" but more importantly in his mind too. The sight and picture of ...

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