Summary & Analysis of “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” by Wordsworth

Updated August 20, 2022

Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey is a nature poem by William Wordsworth, with short title: Tintern Abbey. The poem “Tintern Abbey” is Wordsworth realization that memory of pure communion with nature works in adult mind too, though with compensating ability. An adult’s ability to “look on nature” and hear “human music”; gives him perspective for experiencing nature’s relationship to human life.

William Wordsworth as a poet of nature as the representative figure of the Romantic Age casts an exceptional influence on the development of Nature of poetry in English. The publication of his monumental work “Lyrical Ballads” (1798) established his supremacy as the greatest literary figure of the age. The poem “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” was written in 1798 and published as the last poem of Lyrical Ballads. The poem is often called as “Tintern Abbey”.

Wordsworth had visited the desolate abbey alone at the age of 23 (in August of 1793). In 1798 he returned with his beloved sister Dorothy Wordsworth to the same place. Dorothy is referred to as “Friend” throughout the poem. So, this poem details the revisiting of the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798”, and it is a famous Nature poem by him.

Summary of “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”

The speaker (William Wordsworth) begins the poem by saying- five summers and five winters has passed since he last visited the place. Now he returned to the same place (Banks of the River Wye), and he can again enjoy the gentle sound of rivers and streams running down from the rivers. Wordsworth says that this place is very dear to him and is just as beautiful and mystical as it was when he left.

He describes the “Steep and lofty cliffs,” the “wild secluded scene,” the “quiet of the sky,” the “dark sycamore” he sits under the trees of the orchard, and the “pastoral farms” with “wreaths of smoke” coming among the trees. He imagines that this smoke might be coming from wandering people in the woods, or from the fire of a devoutly religious person living alone in the cave. Altogether he describes the “beauteous forms’ of the landscape of the abbey.

Though he was away from the beauteous form of the landscape, he did not forget and could picture it vividly. They have stayed with him through his absence and encouraged him during the unpleasant situations. Wordsworth says that whenever there was a moment he felt trapped by the noisiness and loneliness in the world or dragged down by “dreary” life he would cast his mind back to this specific spot.

In fact, this landscape has taken him farther- this has affected his actions and pushing him to do goodness and generous acts. Wordsworth thanks these memories for granting him the wonderful and precious mood in which he felt free from the burdens of dreadful world. Due to its beauty and precious mind state of the speaker, it has allowed him to transcend the restrictions of his physical body, through which speaker become only his soul. He finds greater value in the soul and the “deep power of joy” into life itself.

The speaker (Wordsworth) sets his current self apart from the way he was five years ago. He tells us that when he was here five years ago he ran like a child through the countryside. He was enthralled by everything he saw and desperate to take it all in. His younger self was like someone running away from something that he dreaded, rather than running toward something he loves.

Since this time he has more maturity with a better understanding of the sad disconnection of humanity, the speaker feels a deeper and more intelligent relationship with nature. William Wordsworth feels within it force that will now support him in the future. This force is the unity of all things.

In the final stanza of the poem (Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey), the speaker makes it clear that he was speaking with his sister (Dorothy Wordsworth) during his entire time of conversation. Dorothy is with him on the banks of the Wye and the speaker is addressing his sister by saying that this is the reason why she is with him in this very landscape.

Calling her his closest friend and shares his deepest hope that power of nature and the memories will stay with Dorothy. The poem concludes with Wordsworth telling his sister that Nature, and this moment that they have shared together, will always be there for her. He is implying after his death he will be kept in her memories.

The final lines of the poem reiterate to the reader and the poet’s listener why this place is important to the Wordsworth. He values it for what it is worth on its own terms and what it has provided him, as well as what it might provide to his sister who is as of yet not as devoted as he is.  His sister will remember this moment for its beautiful forest, cliffs and this whole natural place, even after the passage of many years and traveling somewhere else.

Analysis of ‘Composed Few Miles Above..’

William Wordsworth as a Poet of Nature is a Legendary and “Tintern Abbey” is an expression of Wordsworth’s philosophy of Nature. Accordingly, in Tintern Abbey he sets out to seek for beauty in meadow, woodland and the mountain-top, and to interpret this beauty in spirituals terms. The poem is a noble expression of the influence of Nature in the life of man in all its three stages: childhood, early youth and the mature age.

Wordsworth, with his sister Dorothy revisits the Wye River in 1798 after a gap of 5 years. The poet is spell bound by the beautiful landscape and objects of Nature such as ‘mountain-springs’, ‘lofty cliffs’ etc. the long gap of 5 years could not erase the impression of the beautiful sight from his mind. The memories of the beautiful landscape which and faded revived again. The poet, however, confesses that in the initial years of his life, he was attached to the physical and superficial beauty of Nature only.

When like a roe
I bounded over the mountains

However, a change appears in his attitude towards Nature. This is the second stage of his life i.e. early youth or the period of the sense. He has learnt to look on Nature not as a thoughtless youth, he asserts that the memories of this beautiful objects of Nature have given him great joy and peace in noisy towns and cities.

Wordsworth has started listening to the ‘music of humanity’ in the ‘sounding cataract’ which used to haunt him like a passion when he has immature. He is now conscious of the sorrow of humanity and he sees in Nature the revelation of the divine law. He believes that Nature has the ample power to tame and humble human mind and soul:

The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue

Towards the concluding lines of the poem, the third stage of poet’s development is revealed. Wordsworth begins to find in the objects of Nature a soul and living spirit. His physical and sensuous appreciation of nature disappears. He now starts looking into the objects of Nature a soul which is closely linked to the soul of a human being:

A spirit, that impels….
And rolls through all things.

Noting that his sister Dorothy is glad to see the beauty of Nature, the poet exhorts her to unite with Nature. Her love for nature would help her a great deal in her life future life. He asserts that when in her life she would have troubles, the memory of this landscape would provide her solace. In the last couple of lines, Wordsworth tells her sister that the objects of nature seem beautiful to him not because they are nice-looking but also because he is in her sweet company.

Tintern Abbey in Conclusion

On the whole, ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ is a great poem. It expresses clearly and powerfully what nature meant to Wordsworth. It shows him not as a lover of nature, but as “a high priest of Nature”. In this way, the poem is marked by an autobiographical note and personal feelings. It is also a poem of sublime thought. Employing blank verse, the poet expresses in a very simple, sweet and endearing language his feeling towards Nature and the influence that Nature has exercised over him.

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