This poem appeared in the Lyrical Ballads published in 1798. Wordsworth writes: “No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this. 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. The visit to Tintern called forth memories of a previous visit in the summer of 1793 and led Wordsworth to review the change which had affected his attitude to Nature in the interval. Apart from its personal interest, the poem possesses a special historical value as the first clear statement of the emotional change in poetry of which the Romantic Movement was the climax.
Tintern Abbey is a great reflective poem. Wordsworth first restates his moral doctrine: The memory of this beautiful scene has not only been calming and restorative, but has aroused almost unnoticed sensations of pleasure. Wordsworth does not explain or defend this doctrine; he merely states it as an experience, in verse of such serene loveliness that it carries with it its own guarantee of authenticity.
In Tintern Abbey, Wordsworth reaches his best style, unadorned but rising to sustained heights of eloquence and grandeur. He opens with quiet description, but he is no longer limited to the language of “low and rustic life”.
The poem may be regarded as an essay in verse, and one of the finest achievements of a “feeling intellect”. It expounds some of the leading views of Nature which Wordsworth had developed with Coleridge and which were to form the basis of much of his most important work.
The poem is a statement of Wordsworth’s complete philosophy of Nature. The Memory of the beautiful scene of Nature round Tintern Abbey has been affording relief to the poet in moments of trouble and distress.
The opening lines give us a vivid description of the scene visited by the poet—the waters rolling from their mountain springs; the steep and lofty rocks; the dark sycamore; the plots of cottage ground; the orchard with its unripe fruits; the hedge-rows; etc. These lines show Wordsworth’s minute and close observation of Nature. He was extra-ordinarily sensitive to the sights of Nature and his pictures of Nature are a record of his observation.
The second part of the poem traces the growth of the poet’s mental and emotional attitude to Nature. The memory of the scene, he says, has been a source of great joy to him and has acted on him as a stimulus to kind and sympathetic deeds. The beauteous shapes of Nature have also served to put him in that blessed mood in which one begins to understand the mystery of life. Whenever the poet felt oppressed by fretful stir and fever of the world, he felt relief by thinking of this scene of Nature. Thus Wordsworth looks upon Nature as a healing influence on a troubled mind.
Then he contrasts his attitude to Nature as a boy with his attitude to Nature as a man. As a boy, his love for Nature was purely sensuous and physical. The” objects of Nature were then an appetite, and they haunted him like a passion. They appealed only to his senses, and his love for them was thoughtless. But now his love for Nature is spiritual. He has now witnessed the sufferings of mankind (“the still, sad music of humanity’) and that experience has made him thoughtful. He has now discovered in all Nature the existence of Divine Spirit “whose dwelling is the light of setting suns and the round ocean and the living air, and the blue sky, and in the mind of man.” This is Wordsworth’s pantheism (the belief that a Divine Spirit pervades all objects of Mature). He goes on to refer to the moral and educative influence of Nature. Nature, he says, is a great moral teacher. Nature is the nurse, the guide, the guardian of his heart, and the soul of all his moral being.
In the last part of the poem, he pays a glowing tribute to his sister Dorothy. His feeling of love for Nature is combined with a. feeling of tenderness for Dorothy. “Nature”, he says, “never did betray the heart that loved her.” He advises Dorothy to submit herself completely to natural influences because Nature has a purifying, ennobling and elevating effect on man and leads him from joy to joy. He asks her to let the breeze blow freely against her cheek and the moon shine freely on her brow. He calls himself a worshipper of Nature and urges Dorothy to develop an intimacy with Nature because the sweet – memories of this intimacy with Nature will be a comfort to her in the misfortunes and troubles of life. Wordsworth here again expresses his belief in the education of man by Nature,
It is a great poem, of a flawless and noble beauty. It is also one of Wordsworth’s most personal pieces written from the inmost stuff of his mind and heart. It sums up all that Nature, man and his own development meant for him in the light of his ripe thinking. In other words, the poem contains Wordsworth’s faith and is valuable chiefly as a statement of his Nature-philosophy in highly lyrical verse.
The opening lines show Wordsworth’s pictorial or descriptive quality. We are given a vivid description of the scene visited by the poet—the waters—the waters rolling from their mountain springs; the steep and lofty cliffs; the green trees with their unripe fruits; the hedge-rows; the column of smoke rising from amongst the trees.
The second part of the poem contains the Nature-philosophy of Wordsworth. The memory of this scene of Nature has been a source of great joy to him. Whenever the poet was oppressed by the “fretful stir and fever of the world”, he felt relief by thinking of this scene of Nature. Thus Wordsworth looks upon Nature as a healing influence on troubled minds.
Then he contrasts his attitude to Nature as a boy with his attitude to Nature as a man. As a boy, his love for Nature was purely sensuous and physical. But now his love for Nature is spiritual. He has now witnessed the sufferings of mankind (“the still, sad music of humanity”) and that experience has made him thoughtful. He perceives in all Nature the existence of a Divine Spirit and expresses his pantheistic belief. And he goes on to dwell upon the moral influence of Nature, Nature as a great moral teacher. Nature is the nurse, the guide, the guardian of his heart, and soul of all his moral being.
In the last part, the feeling of love for Nature is combined with a feeling of tenderness for his sister Dorothy. He advises her to submit herself completely to natural influences because Nature has a purifying ennobling, and elevating effect on man and leads him from joy to joy. He believes in (he education of man by Nature and thus establishes a close inter-relation between Nature and man.
Wordsworth appears here, in his own words, as a “Worshipper of Nature”, or Nature’s priest. He has stated his view of Nature in highly poetic lines charged with the deepest sincerity. The poem is written in a meditative mood and is full of perfectly calm and tranquil joy, and as we go through it we are greatly moved by its sentiments. We begin to see greater ‘beauty in Nature, more grandeur, more majesty, and a profound significance. It is a poem that turns our lazy indifference towards Nature into a vital feeling of admiration and awe.
The backward-looking character of the poem is also apparent. Wordsworth dwells upon his memories of this natural scene and reveals how these memories sustained him. He also recollects his boyish passion for Nature and all his glad animal movements. Much of Words worth’s poetry possesses this reminiscent or backward-looking character.
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. “We see into the life of things”; “Fretful 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 lines in the poem.
“The music of the poem is also noteworthy. The sublimity of verse suits the loftiness of theme. The blank verse of the poem is majestic and we see here an instance of Wordsworth’s grand style.