…ON BASIS OF REFERENCE TO -‘Composed A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting The Banks of the Wye During A Tour July 13, 1798’.
The scene is in the narrow gorge of the river, Wye, somewhere between Tintern and Monmouth. Wordsworth had visited it in the summer 1793. In July, 1798, he again visited it with his sister, after five years of absence. Many reminiscences of the earlier visit were recalled. “The peaceful charm of the scene prompted him to retrospect of the long, debt which he owed to Nature;” and he reviewed the change that had affected his attitude or Nature in the in intervening period. The intellectual progress, described in these lines, has been traced more fully in The prelude, written in 1805. Apart from its personal interest, Tintern Abbey possesses a special historical value as the first clear statement of the emotional change in poetry of which the Romantic Movement was the climax recognizing and defining the power of nature to quicken an sustain the imagination and creative faculty of man.
“Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters!”
The poem is marked by Wordsworth’s gift of making beautiful and highly expressive phrases. Some of the phrases and lines of this poem have become so famous that they are often quoted “e.g. We see into the life of things”; “Perpetual stir unprofitable”; “the fever of the world “; “ the sounding cataract haunted me like a passion”; “aching joys and dizzy raptures”; “the still, sad music of humanity”; “the shooting lights of thy wild eyes”; “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”- these are some of the best-known phrases and verses in the poem.
“Open the temple gates unto my love,
Open them wide that she may enter in,…”
The fruits on the tree are at this season unripe and green. Business are growing wild in the jungle. They look like an irregular line of the hedge.
“Sweet Spenser, moving through his clouded heaven
With the moon’s beauty and the moon’s soft pace.”
According to him, Nature deeply influences human character. He tells his sister Dorothy that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”; that Nature can impress the human beings lofty thoughts. He advises Dorothy to let the moon shine on her and the winds blow on her, i.e. to put her under nature’s influence.
“These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:”
Smoke is rising from among the trees. From this smoke we guess that either some homeless wanderers are making fire in the jungle, or some hermit (holy man) is sitting in the jungle near his fire.
“How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!”
The poet pays a second visit to Tintern Abbey after an absence of five years. He hears the murmuring sound of the waters of River Wye. The tall mountains give an impression of deep seclusion (loneliness). The green fields seem to stretch as far as the horizon. The landscape is calm and quiet. The poet lies down under the sycamore tree. The plots attached to the cottage are green, right up to the cottage door.
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:”
The poem was first published in the Lyrical Ballads (179. Some two months after its composition Wordsworth writes : “ I began it upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the Wye, and concluded it just as I was entering Bristol in the evening, after a ramble of four or five days with my sister. Not a line of it was altered, and not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol.”
“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.”
The music of the poem is also noteworthy. The sublimility of the verse suits the loftiness of the theme. The blank verse of the poem is dignified and we see here an instance of Wordsworth’s grand style.
“A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts
And rolls through all things.”
His management of blank verse is particularly praiseworthy. It has a steady flow of dignity and at the same time great flexibility. There are Miltonic echoes in it, no doubt, but how different is the movement of Wordsworth’s verse from Milton’s. “With a rolling blank verse, well condensed and solemn, Tintern Abbey makes the most revealing document of Nature, philosophy and the final testament of the soul’s journey from sensuous to the spiritual.”
“Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her;”
Wordsworth visits Tintern Abbey in the Wye valley (Wye is a river), after an absence of five years. Wordsworth is the greatest poet of nature. He is a lover of natural scenery. The poem falls into three parts: Description of the Scenery, The poet’s philosophy of Nature and Address to his sister Dorothy.
This poem was written in July 1798. It was one of the nineteenth poems that Wordsworth contributed to Lyrical Ballads (179. This poem may be regarded as “record” of the poet’s growth or his spiritual development.” It states in clear words the gradual development in Wordsworth’s attitude towards Nature. It reveals how the poet appreciated Nature and began to worship it for its inner meaning or significance.
“When as her lute is tuned to her voice,
The air grows proud for honor of that sound,”
We don’t understand the meaning and purpose of the world. But of, worshipper of nature understands the mystery. He understands the meaning of the world, not by head, but by heart. Our body sleeps for the time being; our soul wakes and we get a gasp of meaning of creation.
“Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee:”
The poet has been absent from this scene for five years but he has not forgotten this scene through his long absence. This scene has not become blank in his memory as is the landscape to a blind man’s eye.
Where is the spirit (God) in nature? God dwells in the light of the setting sun, round ocean, living air, blue sky and in the mind of man. God moves through all subjects and rolls through all things. God is all, and all is God- this is Pantheism. The poet loves the woods, the mountains and the fields, since they are the visible shape of God. Nature is the source of purest thoughts; she is the guide and guardian of moral being.
The poet was troubled in the noisy towns and the cities, but memories of this lovely scene of nature refreshed his mind and brought him pleasure and peace.
“The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all moral being.”
A worshipper of nature does a thousand little acts of greatness and love. These small acts of kindness are not remembered by the world.
“And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:”
Let Dorothy walk all alone in the moonlight amidst storms and mists of the mountains. If ever misfortunes befell her, she would remember his advice, namely that nature-worship removes all worries and troubles. Or by then the poet might have died. At that future time, she would remember the present visit to Tintern Abbey. Wordsworth, the worshipper of nature, loved Tintern Abbey, both for its sake and for the fact that his sister was with him.
“What is love?’Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter”
The poet’s sister, Dorothy is with him. He calls dear friend. His sister reminds him of his past. In the second stage, he loved the sensuous (outward) beauty of nature. Dorothy is still at that second stage. In her eyes he reads her past. She is what he once was. He advises Dorothy to put herself under the eye of nature. Nature leads him from joy to joy. She never deceives anyone who worships her. For a worshipper of nature, life is all joy. He enjoys peace of mind. All the troubles of the world cannot destroy his happiness or his optimism.
Wordsworth also found joy in the child who lived in closer communion with Nature. The child’s life is the hiding place of man’s future power. The child comes to the earth trailing clouds of glory and immortality. He is instinctively aware of divinity running through all created things, and we should therefore partake of childhood’s simple joys and delights.
“The still sad music of humanity
Nor harsh, nor grating but with ample
Power to chasten and subdue.”
Wordsworth certainly sings of the joy in Nature, but there is gradual development in the apprehension of this feeling of joy. It grows from a simple feeling undiluted by sadness to a feeling powerful to take into consideration “the still sad music of humanity” and to transcend the miseries of this life.
“In all things, in all natures, in the stars,
This active principle abides, from link to link,
It circulated the soul of all the worlds.”
Wordsworth is the acknowledged poet of Nature. In Nature as well as in man, Wordsworth saw “the hiding places of infinite-power.” Nature to him was veritably alive, speaking in a many-voiced language. In his earlier poems, Wordsworth is struck with love of Nature. Just as boy he enjoyed sheer animal pleasure, in some of his poetry he takes pure delight in natural scenes- he is happy wandering as lonely as a cloud seeing a field of yellow daffodils. He finds joy in the solemn mountains, the lakes and the forests. All these natural objects have the power to refresh and elevate the soul of man it is not a simple joy which Wordsworth celebrates. It is a feeling which grows in the mind of man as he is in close communion with nature- be it the icy cages of the Alps or the smooth waters of Lake Windermere. It is a joy which grows out of the awareness of “A presence” in all created beings. As he says in Tintern Abbey,
“Think what a present thou to God hast sent,
And render him with patience what he lent;
This if thou do, he will an offspring give
That till the world’s last end shall make thy name to live.”
The poet has written the poem on the occasion of revisiting Tintern Abbey on the banks of river Wye and this time he is accompanied by his sister. He is not only revisiting and recalling his development in his relationship to Nature. As a young boy when he came to that place his pleasure in watching the sights of Nature was of a rough, coarse type. He remembers the ‘glad animal movements’ of those days when he was not conscious of the beauty around him but only looked at things around him and jumped around like animals in such a vast place. Next, he came there as a young man and for the first time he was aware of the beauty around him. He ran around along the river banks and streams like a deer, wherever Nature took him. The feelings he experienced at the time were both of fear and pleasure. The fear was of being alone in the presence of a vast place that is wild and of the awe Nature inspired. Yet, he sought Nature and wanted to see more because of its beauty and its mystery-more like one wishes to explore Nature. Nature to him was then ‘all in all’ without any remote charm. He satisfied his eyes with what he looked upon and enjoyed all the sounds his rare could hear whether it was the soft sound of the water flowing down the mountain, the mountains, and the tall rock. All these objects were nothing more than beautiful shapes and he looked at them wild eyed and filled with pleasure. He did not feel the need for any philosophical thought or of contemplation or deriving any message from what he can saw. It was an appetite he needed to satisfy and Nature had no charm beyond what he could see or hear and thrill that he got.
The light that never was on sea or land,
The consecration, and the poet’s dream.”
The eighteenth century had been the advocate of reason and intellect. Romanticism emphasized on the feelings-the heart was considered as a wiser guard. Wordsworth in his Ode on the Intimations of Immortality expresses his “Thanks to the human heart by which we live” for enabling him to sympathise with human suffering and realize fundamental truths of the universe.
“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.”
But of, this time the poet had come as a mature man who had been in the city and the world and had experienced the ‘fretful fever’ of life; had seen and suffered the malice and criticism of people around him. It is true that he could no longer feel the excitement and dizziness when he looked on the beauty of Nature but he did not regret having lost that thrill of youth. The reason was that what he had discovered in its place more than made up for the loss of that joy. The poet then clarifies what it was had replaced the youthful thrill and ecstasy. He could now look at Nature and he could hear the ‘still sad music of humanity’ and this music did not sound harsh or something that spoilt his joy but it had a power to make him sober and mature. The poet was now connecting Nature and human beings and in Nature he could hear the sad music of the sufferings of men. The poet was not only talking of the intimate objects in Nature but of the peasants and the shepherds and their plight. He goes on to elaborate his feelings and talks of experiencing a presence in Nature that inspired nobler thoughts and he felt this presence in the light of the setting sun, the ocean and the air. He was able to feel the same presence in the mind of man and that was how to him it was the spirit that bound us all. Earlier in the poem the poet talked of another gift Nature had given him he told his sister that even when he was not present among Nature, he carried the memories with him and they helped him face the world and its ugliness. He had only to sit in his room and think of Nature and he felt inspired to perform those little acts of kindness and love which made him a good man. In fact, Nature put him in a mood of meditation where he rose above the bodily frame and became unaware of the world around him. In this kind of trance the mysteries of life were revealed to him, and he became a living soul whose body had gone to sleep. These were the reasons that he loved Nature, not for the beauty that was visible but because Nature inspired him to be better human being and helped him understand the secret of living and gave him courage to face the ills of society. Nature was his nurse, guide and guardian.
“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!”
Prior to these lines , the poet has been talking of all objects in the world and the human beings as inhabited by the same spirit and that is the reason he loves Nature and all the ‘mighty world/Of eye and ear.’ The poet refers to Nature as the mighty. Supreme world which is seen by the eye and heard by the ear. Talking of the trees and falls the poet called them ‘these beauteous forms’ and all that one behold around one is a world of eye and ear because it is the eye that sees and ears that hear the various sounds; the sound of the river coming down the mountain with an ‘inland murmur’; the chirping of the birds or the whistling of the wind. There is the sound of the thunder and of animals running or squirrels eating nuts. These are all heard by the ear even when one may not see them. Similarly, the trees, flowers, birds, smoke from among the trees; clouds rolling by are sights that the eye sees. This is the mighty, powerful world of Nature. When the poet talks of ‘what they half-create and what perceive’ he is referring to all that this world of eye and ear are seen as an inspiration for deeper thoughts that are noble and ‘elevated’. These thoughts and imagination are the creation of man’s mind but Nature is partly responsible for them because it gives rise to these thoughts. In this sense, it half creates. The poet has talked of how he can go into a trance and see ‘into the life of things’ when he ponders over Nature. It impels him to be noble and to see the same spirit in all objects. It has to be remembered that these objects and shapes in Nature are seen by all but not everyone is as affected by them as Wordsworth is so what he finds beyond what is visible is his creation aided by Nature.
“Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her.”
Wordsworth’s advice to his sister is to expose her to the forces of nature, to let the moonlight fall on her face when she is out walking alone. She should soak in all she can, because once she is away, the memories of this day will stay with her. She is at the stage where she is overawed by the beauty around her and doesn’t feel the need for seeking beyond the world of ‘eye and ear’. According to the poet, when she is in any kind of pain or misery, when she is away from him and cannot talk to him, she will get solace from the memories of what she sees and stores in her mind. He knows that the world outside nature can be cruel and vicious but nature will give her the strength to ignore the meanness and malice and criticism of people because he believes that –
“’t is her privilege
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy:”
The poem is written after Wordsworth’s visit to the banks of river Wye in the company of his sister whom he looked upon as a friend. Through the poem he advises his sister to remember that Nature never betrays any one and it elevates the spirit of man. He asks her to soak in all beauty of Nature because it will bring her closer to peace and humanity.
“well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.”
The poet is revisiting the banks of river Wye after a gap and this time he is accompanied by his younger sister. Describing the scene he says that there is greenery all around and even the hedges are no more than wood running wild and there is the soft sound of the water of the river. He can see some smoke rising up from the trees and most probably it is some temporary dwellers or a hermit who has camped for a while. Nature acts as a source of inspiration and peace even when he is away in the city and he owes a lot to her. She brings peace and arouses feelings of kindness that lead one to perform little nameless acts of helping others and he owes sweet sensations to her. Nature impacts him in a way that he goes into a trance where his body seems to sleep while his spirit meanings. Finally, he arrived at a stage where he could hear the sad music of humanity and mysteries of the world were unburdened; moreover, he could now feel that it was the same spirit that connected people, animals and Nature and flowed through the whole universe. Nature now was the nurse, the guard and the guardian of his life. In the company of his elder sister he rememembers his youth and how when he was her age as she is wide eyed at the beauty around her. He tells his sister that Nature never betrays those who love her. Once a person learns to love Nature he is not affected by adverse comments or criticism of people. He advises his sister to soak in all she can see and assures her that in future if she has to face hardships in life she will remember that moment and it will give her courage and peace. Wordsworth then tells her that if in future they are away from each other they will both remember that visit and to him that scene will bring joy because he will rememember he had shared the moment with her.
Wordsworth is seen as one of the pioneers of the Romantic Movement but he was the first to have considered to be the highest form of literature was mostly written to commemorate great heroes or great love and before Wordsworth’s age, it was employed to point out the ills of the upper classes. Wordsworth made a move away from heroes to write about ordinary peasants and shepherds; he chose to write about Nature and daffodils or linnets rather than about society. The third major change was that he decided to concentrate on personal thoughts and feelings and moved towards lyricism.
“That time is past,
And all its acting joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures.”
The present poem is a testimony to his love of Nature. He describes the various stages in his relation with Nature from the time he was a young boy. As a boy his pleasures were of a course nature and he talks of ‘glad animal movements’ and when a youth, Nature was a thing of beauty, an appetite for lovely colours and sounds and it stopped here, but of as he grew older, Nature acquired supreme importance equal only to that of God. He now looked upon Nature as the nurse, the guard and guardian of his heart and soul. It is noteworthy that he uses the definite article ‘the’ in place of the indefinite ‘a’. He seems to imply that Nature is not one of the guardians but the only one that shows him the way to being a moral person and Nature protects him from harsh cruelties of other people. His final word on Nature is that she never betrays the heart that loves her. It is Nature that has brought him closer to human beings and he can now hear the still sad music of humanity. Being amongst trees and rivers lifts his spirit and he is able to go in a trance where he forgets his physical being and gets connected to Nature.
“The gods approve
The depth, and not the tumult of the soul
A fervent, not ungovernable love”.
In the beginning of the poem, the poet has drawn a very vivid picture of greenery with expressions like ‘unripe fruit’ and while talking of pastoral farms he talks of green to the door and the hedge rows are sportive wood growing wildly. We are reminded of the kind of greenery we see after Monsoons when greenery erupts even in wall cracks. Wordsworth has created many such imaged in the poem which makes it an experience and brings the readers closer to Nature. Unlike his other poems, this poem is written in language that is not very simple but the subject matter demanded that. The love for Nature and his sister both come across clearly through the words and the poem captures us by the genuine sentiments expressed. He employs a lot of negatives like ‘not unborrowed from the eyes’, ‘has not been to me as is a landscape to a blind man’s eye’. The poem has some vivid images like that of water falling with an ‘inland murmur’ and smoke coming out of a vagrant dweller’s hut.
“May my life
Express the image of a better time,
More wise desires and simplest manners.”
Pantheism and Mysticism are almost interrelated factors in Nature poetry of the Romantic period. Wordsworth conceives of a spiritual power running through all natural objects-the “presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts” whose dwelling is the light of setting suns, the rolling ocean, the living air, the blue sky, and the mind of man (Tintern Abbey). The rocks, brooks, mountains, winds, sky and clouds are symbols and signs of Eternity, and “Characters of the Apocalypse.” (The Simplon Pass). When the sudden awareness of this spirit behind all living things comes on the poet, his flesh seems to melt and he becomes a “living soul”, able to understand the truth of things.
Along with the interest in nature and the belief in a spiritual power in Nature came the deepening interest in the common folk, the rustics and the peasants. Wordsworth’s poetry is full of such character-Michael, the Cumberland beggar, or the leech gatherer. This interest is partly Wordsworth’s case; it was also prompted by his conviction that in these simple folk the elemental passions and human feelings is and are uncorrupted by the influences of city life.
“So hand in hand they pass’d, the loveliest pair
That ever since in love’s embraces met,…”
Thus the child can enjoy the joys of Nature, but as he grows up, material concerns dim the “visionary gleam” which could instinctively divine truths. The Leech-gatherer, living close to Nature, has gained strength of mind and courage. Lucy, growing up in the lap of Nature, is beautiful in appearance as well as character. Wordsworth‘s conception of poetry is given in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads where he says: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Poetry thus evolves from the feelings of the poet and there is an unforced quality (spontaneity) about it. Powerful feeling and emotion are fundamental to poetic creation. This is a theory which is a sure departure from eighteenth century practice-thus Wordsworth had to create a taste for the kind of poetry he was to write. He was a poet with a programme to wean public taste from neo-classical tenets.
“Our meddling intellect
His shapes the beauteous forms of things-
We murder to dissect,”
When, however, Wordsworth carried simplicity too far, it could result in banality- as in the line, “The silent heavens have goings on”. The thorn is famous for the prosaic lines measuring the pond, but of it was only at his uninspired moments that he produced flat sounding lines. It has to be remembered, however, that most of the flatness is part of his fearless search for a diction, which would take a sort of photograph or recording of experience itself, not just the scene but the emotion connected with the scene.
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft-
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight;”
Incidents of Human Life occupy a main place in Wordsworth’s poems. Love’s power to inflict the deepest wounds and to heal the most irreparable is a common theme, as in The Thorn. Most of the poems are developed out of incidents which befell the poet personally. His stories are simple, forming a setting for his meditations on some aspect of ordinary human nature.
“…Behold me then
Once more in Nature’s presence, thus restored
Or otherwise, and strengthened once again
(With memory left of what had been escaped)
To habits of devotes sympathy.”
Subjectivity is a key-note of Romantic poetry. Wordsworth is often called a supreme egoist in his poetry- the “egoistical sublime”. It is personal experience that his poems embody. It is his reactions to certain scenes that the poems convey. He once saw a thorn-tree which left a deep impression on him in a storm-it led to the composition of The Thorn, Tintern Abbey, Elegiac Stanzas, The Simpleton Pass and the famous Ode, are all results of personal feelings. Thus his poetry is the poetry of expression, the product of genius and inspiration.
Whether or not this theory is infallibly correct, it is worth noting that the poet has a great desire to penetrate through artificialities to that which is essentially human. This purpose is definitely fulfilled by a character like the leech-gatherer. His action and words are steeped in life which belongs to the permanent foundations of human existence. Wordsworth is not only interested in men, but in men as part and parcel of the grand phenomena of Nature.
“I listened, motionless and still:
And as I mounted up the hill
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.”
To the Romantic poets, Nature was a source of wisdom. Wordsworth is a special-advocate of this theory. The child living in the lap of Nature, according to him, will grow in moral stature. Three years she grew in sun and shower tells us of how Lucy grew to perfection, nurtured by Nature. In the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, Wordsworth speaks of the joy that a child finds in being close to Nature.
It is widely accepted fact that Wordsworth was a great poet of Nature. However, his uniqueness lies in the fact that he has presented in his poetry an impressive and emotionally satisfying account of man’s relation to Nature. All created things are part of a unified whole in his concept.
In boyhood, Wordsworth felt an animal pleasure in nature. Like a deer, he ran races over the mountains, and on the banks of rivers and streams. It seemed as if he was running away from nature. The fact was that he loved nature.
The sight of natural objects or a common human being leaves an impression on the poet’s highly sensitive mind. Wordsworth never composed poetry as soon as he saw something which impressed him. We get to know from Dorothy’s diary that they both met a leech-gatherer. Long before Wordsworth wrote Resolution and Independence. It was only on remembering the meeting- “recollected in tranquility”- that Wordsworth wrote the poem. Then the incident is transmuted, coloured by Wordsworth’s imagination, purified of extraneous elements and reduced to its elemental factor. The leech-gatherer is placed in the vast desolate moor to stand for courage, resilence, dignity and strength of mind, to create a feeling first of wonder and then of consolation in the poet’s heart.
“Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow,
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago.”
Thus Wordsworth had a definite theory of poetic creation, different from earlier theories. Of course, an expressive theory, and one based on “communication”, it is often illustrated in practice by his poetry.
“I chanced to see at break of day
The solitary child’
“No mate, no comrade Lucy knew.”
Similarly, The Simplon Pass was born out of Wordsworth’s journey across the Alps, but of it recreates the feelings evoked by the mountain, sky, waterfalls and winds, the tumult and the peace. In Tintern Abbey, we read of how the scene the poet once saw is recollected by him and helps to evoke the same feeling of peace and comfort in him. Elegiac Stanzas also derive from Wordsworth’s personal experience. He speaks of how once he saw Nature only as calm and joyful. However, he has later realized the truth of feeling evoked by George Beaumont’s picture of Peele Castle in the storm. Contemplation of the scene evoked by his memory brings about an overflow of feeling, and in that emotional state, he composes his poetry.
“Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime;”
Poetic creation involves recollecting the original object of observation, contemplation, renewal of the original emotion evoked, and finally composition when the feeling is intense and overflowing. The purpose of poetry is to communicate the feelings to the reader and thus impart pleasure which will also teach something.
“While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.”
In the second stage, nature became all in all to the poet. The sounding cataract (waterfall) haunted him like a passion. Nature was his beloved. He felt a deep love for the tall rocks, mountains and the jungle. He loved the sights and sounds of Nature. He cared only for the outward beauty of nature, which he saw with eyes and ears. He looked at nature with a painter’s eye.
“…and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur,-‘’
To Wordsworth, as to all mystics, life does not begin or end in the ordinary sense. The soul of Man is immortal, as is the spirit of nature, for both are the immanent spirit of God, the Eternal Being, “of first, and last, and mist, and without end”, as he says in The Simplon Pass. It is the idea that man’s soul is immortal which informs the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality. The child sees a divine light in Nature because of his recollections of his heavenly life before he came on earth. Later on, Man can perceive the truth by recollecting the experience of his childhood.
It would be difficult to get the intrinsic quality of a person as a human being unless these artificialities are all removed. Such a difficulty does not arise in the case of persons who live a humble life like that of the leech-gatherer, and have no trappings to cover their essential nature. So it is that a leech-gatherer, was able to impress Wordsworth much more than any of the sophisticated section of humanity he often met within towns. This explains Wordsworth’s great desire to be in greater communion with natural objects uncorrupted by artificial civilization, in order to attain the harmony of the soul.
In The Thorn, Nature is seen as a symbol of the human situation. The old and aged thorn exposed to the winter gales is similar to the wretched woman who sits by it and moans by day and night, under the sun or the stars.
The tragic figure seems to come to a union with the elements:
“A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love-oh! With far deeper zeal
Of holier love.”
In the third stage, he no longer cared for the pictorial beauty of nature. Now he came to read the ‘hidden meaning’ of nature. In the running water of the brook, he heard the still, sad music of humanity. The water of the brook gave him the idea of the tears and troubles of humanity.
Wordsworth believed in an internal harmony between man and Nature, because the same conscious spirit that dwelt in the ocean and the blue sky lived in the mind of man: “God in man spoke to God in Nature, spoke to God in Man.” It is necessary not to stress on any one element in Worrdsworth’s poetry, for the naturalistic, humanistic and theistic components are equally important. The three together lead to his belief in the “motherhood of Nature, the brotherhood of Man, the fatherhood of God”. His Nature-mysticism and pantheism is not severed from his sympathy with fellow human beings. Nature speaks to him of the “still sad music of humanity”.
In Elegiac Stanzas, the picture of the stormy seas helps him to understand human suffering and reveals to him the truth that “Not without hope and we mourn.”
“Were all like workings of one mind, the features
Of the same face, blossoms upon one tree,
Characters of the great Apocalypse,
The types and symbols of Eternity
Of first, and last, and midst, and without end.”
It is significant that Nature protects her from the hostility of the villagers. God through Nature directs us that our attitude to this woman should be one of pity and sympathy.
“The light that never was, on sea or land,
The consecration, and the Poet’s dream”
In Resolution and Independence, the leech-gatherer is compared to a stone on top of a hill and a sea-beast, suggesting fortitude and immense strength of mind and silent perseverance. He has absorbed this quality from his close co-existence with Nature. His words suddenly reveal the truth to Wordsworth. As he sees in his mind’s eye the old man pacing about the weary moors, he glimpses the truth of the universe.
“Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
The basic feature of mysticism may be described as “an attitude of mind founded upon an instinctive or experienced conviction of unity, of oneness, of likeness in all things.” The instinctive conviction in the case of the Romantic poets came mostly out of their communion with Nature. Wordsworth’s poetry illustrates his philosophical beliefs which are: the immanence of the universal spirit of God in all Nature making it alive, intercommunion between God’s soul in Nature and God’s spirit in Man and the chastening effect of this communion in tranquillising and elevating the human spirit and putting it in tune with the infinite. These belifs are not “reasoned” by the intellect but instinctively felt or experienced by Wordsworth.
Wordsworth once wrote to his friend Sir George Beaumont: “Every great poet is a teacher: I wish either to be considered as a teacher or as nothing.” His aim in writing poetry was to “Console the afflicted”, make the happy happier, and to teach the people “to think and feel, and therefore to become more actively and securely virtuous.” He said that his poems had purpose-they were aimed at directing the attention to “some more sentiment, or to some general principle of law of thought, or of our intellectual constitution.” In other words, the function of the poet was to teach- of course, in a poetic manner, by presenting a vision of life and aspect of Truth.
“..that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and wear weight
Of all this unintelligible world
From the time of Tintern Abbey, when he first fully realized his poetic power, to the end of his life, there is an ethical element in his work, implied or explicit. His most spontaneous outburst of joy has some relation to moral questions. Throughout his life, he strove to appeal to feelings which were “sane, pure and permanent.”Wordsworth’s poems cannot be considered as uniformly adhering to his theory of reproducing the language of “conversation in the middle and lover classes of society.”
“And O ye Fountains, Meadows, Hills and Groves
Forebode not any severing of our loves.”
Nature’s Spiritual power to heal and evoke lofty thoughts in man’s mind is celebrated by Wordsworth in all his poems. In Tintern Abbey the poet tells us how, in moments oppressed by the “fretful stir and fever of the world” he has hot relief by thinking of the scene near Tintern Abbey. Nature for Wordsworth held a spiritual significance: he personally experienced spiritual exaltation, when his senses and corporeal being seemed to fade away and he became a living soul in close communion with Nature. He communicates this experience in Tintern Abbey.
“With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.”
He often ignores his own dogmatic utterances of his Preface. But for, in several of his poems he shows us that ordinary words of plain significance can be used with force and skill to express simple thoughts and feelings. Generally, his language is worthy of his themes. At its best, it has restraint, quietness and integrity, and a refusal to be clever or fanciful merely to attract the reader.
As we read his poems, we are aware of his strong moral and philosophical tendency. An analysis of the poems shows us that a kind of broad philosophical system can be discerned in Wordsworth’s poetry.
In the Simplon Pass, we are given his experience of how the crags, rocks, brook, waterfalls, the blue sky, the tumult and peace of Nature led him to discern the presence of a divine spirit. Natural objects are symbols and signs of eternity. In Tintern Abbey he speaks of the “presence that disturbs me with elevated thoughts”- a “motion and a spirit that impels” everything and “roles through all things”.
In his Lucy poems especially, we are told that Nature is the best teacher of uncorrupted youth. In Three Years She Grew in Sun and Shower, we read how Nature took the education of Lucy in her own hands, and become both her “law and impulse”.
“Not without hope we suffer and we mourn.”
Lucy under the influence of Nature would develop, not only beauty of looks and figure, but a moral-sense and wisdom. The child is capable of feeling the spirit of divinity shining from everything surrounding him. He finds a peculiar joy and peace in meadow, grove and hills, indeed in all the commonest of things, says Wordsworth in the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality. He tries to communicate in the Ode on the Intimations of Immortality how the most trivial of natural objects is fraught with moral significance.
Almost all his poems show evidence of a powerful imagination. The leech-gatherer is set against a background of a vast moor to bring out effectively what Wordsworth wanted to say. Similarly, in The Thorn a symbolic atmosphere is built up by using natural objects, the setting moon is Strange fits of Passion have I known seems to forebode the death of Lucy. Indeed, it is the mind’s eye or imagination which plays an important role in Wordsworth’s poems. It is thus that he sees the child as a “sere blest” and “best philosopher”. But of, as he grows up, the corrupting influences of material considerations draw him away from Nature and God, and he can no longer find that joy. But for, by recollecting childhood experiences, he understands the immortality of the soul. In Tintern Abbey, three different attitudes to Nature are traced, each with its own special formative influence on the character of man. The poet tells his sister and by, implication, the reader;
“To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”
Merit of Pure Language is the positive aspect of Wordsworth’s adherence to simple diction. The Lucy poems are beautiful in their simplicity. The last lines of Elegiac Stanzas are strikingly plain, and therefore effective. Even Tintern Abbey, in spite of its sonority, is written in pure and simple language. Indeed, one can name any poem to illustrate his purity of language.
“A tale from my own heart, more near akin
To my own passion and habitual thoughts.”
Merit of Serious and Weighty Thought marks his poems, and these thoughts are noted for their originality. In Resolution and Independence, he asserts:
“By our own spirits are we deified:
We poets in our youth begin in gladness;
But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.”
Truth of Nature is another Merit of his poetry. Wordsworth’s images and descriptions from nature are absolutely truthful. The image of the hare running through the wet earth raising a mist which follows it, in Resolution and Independence, is beautiful but accurate in observation. So is the comparison of the leech-gatherer to the stone poised on a hill. How well is the picture of Peele Castle and the smooth sea evoked in Elegiac Stanzas.
“The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare.”
Through the objects of Nature, he glimpsed the spirit of Eternity, as in The Simplon Pass and Tintern Abbey.Quality of Meditative Pathos gives beauty to many of his poems- as he wistfully wonders where his “visionary gleam” has fled (Immortality Ode); as he sees in his sister’s eyes what his own state of mind once was (Tintern Abbey); as he describes the old man, bent double by age, wandering his lonely way across the vast moors (Resolution and Independence); as he laments the passing away of Lucy leaving only memories what has been. (Three Years She Grew); as he reflects upon the truth captured by Beaumont’s picture of the stormy sea (Elegiac Stanzas); or as he gives the story of the forsaken woman crying “Oh misery” by a thorn-tree. The eternal spirit in Nature is mentioned in Tintern Abbey too. Wordsworth’s communion with Nature inspires him to feel.
We may agree with A.C. Bradley who says that for Wordsworth, to call a thing lonely or solitary is to “open a bright or solemn vista into infinity.” The solitary things and figures impress with their inner strength, endurance and moral dignity. As Caroline Spurgeon has observed,”Wordsworth was not only a poet, he was also a seer and a mystic.” Wordsworth senses that Natural objects. He feels this “Presence” in the light of setting sun, the ocean and the living air, the blue sky and in the mind of man. It is the spirit -
“A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts;”
The central faith, that an unbroken chain binds all things in the outward world, and that the spirit of man can consume with God through nature, informs Wordsworth’s poetry. Mysticism in Wordsworth is inseparable from his pantheism. The cardinal doctrine is that a spiritual power lives and breathes through all the works of Nature, and the emotional intensity of the contemplator can alone reveal the presence of the spiritual beneath the material, concrete and outward appearances of this phenomenal world. He had caught a vision of the life in Nature. He believed that everyone could attain this vision, but of as H.W. Garrod points out, Wordsworth, unlike other mystics, does not try to escape from the senses, for the mysticism of Wordsworth is “grounded and root actually in the senses. “...that impels
All thinking things, all objects of thought
And rolls through all things.”
One of the great convictions of Wordsworth to which he gives expression in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads is that it is possible to get to the root of humanity and understand the essential workings of the human mind when we deal with the more humble classes of mankind. Perhaps to some extent this is true. The more humble the position of a man is, the more akin to nature he is generally found to be. Artificially of outlook and manners comes with the so-called refinements of modern civilization. Civilization and refinement often hide and dim the truly natural instinct in human beings. This possibly is what Wordsworth means when he prefers to unravel the essential humanity in us through characters belonging to the more humble classes in society.
People have become thoughtless and arrogant, hostile and unfeeling to one another. The wretched woman beside the mound in The Thorn is faced with the hostility of the villagers who believe her to be a child-murderer. They have no pity for her miserable situation, her isolation and sorrow.
But for, Nature saves her from the villagers’ hostility, and consoles her solitary unhappiness. We should learn from Nature the resilience and fortitude of the old grey thorn-tree and the muddy pond, and appreciate the fresh and lively innocence of the child (symbolized by the mossy-green mound covered with flowers) even if we cannot regain it.
When there is communion with Nature, there is communion with God, for it is the spirit of God which dwells in life. To discover behind the diverse forms and phenomena of nature the “One Inseparable and Changeless”- this was the mystic note in Wordsworth. Thus he can say in his Ode:
“Thanks to the human heart by which we live
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that lie too deep for tears.”
(Intimations of Immortality-)
There is regret for things lost: a vision of immortality in youth, an absolute sense of Nature’s beneficence, an unchartered freedom, or the ‘phantom of delight’ one’s wife was when first encountered. At the same time, there is an acceptance, not only without hesitation or sentimental self-pity, but with positive joy, those substitutes which come for the early raptures.
“I held unconscious intercourse with beauty
Old as creation, drinking in pure
Wordsworth observes natural objects and instinctively reaches spiritual revelation. The recollection of these “beauteous forms” of Nature have inspired him into
“.. that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and weary weight
Of all his unintelligible world
Nature has the power to console mankind. It is when man’s mind is in harmony with the natural objects that a sudden s flash of revelation comes upon him and he becomes aware of the unifying spirit behind everything. In Tintern Abbey, he tells us how the best part of human life is shown to be the result of natural influences. Nature’s healing power was a rapturous experience for Wordsworth and he conveys it in Tintern Abbey; the recollection of the scene soothes him in tormented moments.
In The Simplon Pass, the echoing crags, the steep rocks, the dense decaying forest, the tumultuous stream, the stationary blasts of waterfalls, the torrents which seem to fall from the sky, the roaring winds, the unfettered clouds and the calm blue sky- all this “Tumult and peace, the darkness and the light” brings to Wordsworth a spiritual experience.
“Oft in these moments such a holy calm
Would overspread my soul, the bodily eyes
Were utterly forgotten and what I saw
Appeared like something in myself, a dream,
A prospect in the mind..”
Feeling gives importance to situation in Wordsworth’s poems. The situation in The Thorn is not important by itself, but the pathos which shines out in the poem is what Wordsworth aimed at. Not the scene alone but the emotion concerned with the scene is evoked by those scenes. When the individual mind and external nature are in harmony, it is natural that there is a communion between Nature and Man. In The Thorn, a beautiful passage brings home to us the union of the tragic figure to the elements:
“I cannot tell; I wish I could;
For the true reason no one knows,
But if you’d gladly view the spot,
The spot to which she goes;”
Thus when the scene is remembered, the feelings connected with the scene are also re-awakened in the poet’s mind.
‘’Apparelled in celestial light
The glory and the freshness of a dream.”
(Ode: Intimations of Immortality)
Poetry, he said, is emotion recollected in tranquility. Tintern Abbey records such an experience. Many a time in periods of stress, he has remembered that scene which has re-evoked in him the feelings of peace and calm. It is that serene mood in which the “affections gently leads us on”, and we are “laid asleep in body, and become a living soul,” says Wordsworth in Tintern Abbey. It is easy to associate Wordsworth only with the “joy” and “happiness” of human destiny. But of, in fact, he was fully conscious of the “cloud of human destiny” and presents it in his poems.
“…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
Nobody, and become a living soul.”
In Tintern Abbey, he speaks of the “still sad music of humanity” which colours the mature mind and makes Nature all the more significant. In the Immortality Ode again we read of the “soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering.” Indeed, it is suffering that leads to the philosophical mind which finds meaning in the “meanest flower that blows.”
“And she is known to every star
And every wind that blows.”
In the Elegiac Stanzas, he welcomes the humanizing of his soul through distress; it is suffering that gives fortitude and patient cheer. In The Thorn the anguish of the forsaken woman is presented vividly.
“…when the fleshy ear
O’ercome by humblest prelude of that strain,
Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.”
Back to Nature was the motto of the Romantic poets whereas the eighteenth century poets had been poets of city culture. Wordsworth is especially regarded as a poet of Nature. Wordsworth, however, is not satisfied with the appearance of nature alone. Wordsworth has his eye on the object and observes his own dictum of “truth to nature.” His capacity for visual observation is shown in his description of the hare running in Resolution and Independence. We have a nature description in The Simplon Pass where the different senses are subtly fused:
“Fair seed time had my soul, and I grew up
Fostered alike by beauty and by fear.”
Tintern Abbey vividly records the development of the poet’s attitude towards Nature. Defect of Verbal Clumsiness mar some poems as a result the poet who wrote such a beautiful line as, “The silence that is in the starry sky”, also wrote a clumsy one like:”The silent heavens have going on.”
“The immeasurable heighty
Of woods decaying, never to be decayed,
The stationary blasts of waterfalls...”
…EXCEPT SETTING—IDEA--AND—REFERENCE-CONCEPT; WORDS AND SENTENCES FROM DR.S.SEN AND SRABANI GHOSH.