Prompt 5: Describe Wordsworth’s romantic view of nature in your ownwords. Is that vision relevant for twenty-first century readers? Whyor why not?Wordsworth“Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey”AsI write about this poem, I’ll use a shortened version of the title,“Tintern Abbey.” Please feel free to do the same in any discussionposting or essay you may write. I’ll use that shortened form on thetest, too.Anda reminder: although I’m only lecturing about a few of the poems here,you’ll be responsible for knowing and understanding all of the poemsyou’ve been assigned to read. They are all fair game for the test andmay be subjects of your essays.Let’sstart with the title and the subtitle. Don’t get too excited aboutTintern Abbey itself. The building itself isn’t actually described inthe poem and probably isn’t thematically all that important. Basically,it’s a monastery built in the 12th century, the ruins of which arequite beautiful today, as they would have been in Wordsworth’s time.But keep in mind that Wordsworth is looking at the ruins of this lovelyplace.TheWye is a river forming the border of England and Wales. You can easilyfind a map online to get a sense of where, approximately, this wouldbe. But basically, Wales is to the west of England, about halfway downthe island.Andthe date given for Wordsworth’s visitation (or revisitation) of thisbeautiful scenery is July 13, 1798. That is the day before thebeginning of the French Revolution. Wordsworth would have beentwenty-eight years old, then, when he saw the scene he describes.Wordsworth said, later, that he began composing the poem in his head onthat day, and it was written down and perfected four or five dayslater.Andlook: when we talk and write about poetry, it is customary todifferentiate “the speaker” from “the poet.” That seems a little sillyto me here. The speaker clearly IS Wordsworth. The poem isautobiographical, and to insist upon the diference between speaker andauthor, in this case, seems an exercise in pedantry.Hereare a few ideas that show up, to one degree or another, in “TinternAbbey” and also in many of the other Wordsworth poems you’ll be reading:Feelings and intuitions give us a better grasp than reason on important parts of our world.Poetry is the proper place for exploring and describing these feelings, intuitions, insights.Everydaylife, especially urban life, dulls our emotions and intuitive power.But there are moments when some of us have transcendent experiences thatcan sharpen our feelings and intuitive powers again.Childrenhave the sharpest feelings, insights, and and intuitions, but thesedull as we age. So really, when as adults we have these transcendentexperiences, we are touching precious parts of our childhood selves.Thesemoments of transcendence usually but not always come about throughexperiences in nature. And these moments happen during introspectivetimes. These moments, too, are the most important part of our humanexperience.True poetry happens when a person of imagination thinks about these experiences and writes about them in verse.Andthis is where Wordsworth’s famous quotation comes in: poetry is “thespontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin fromemotion recollected in tranquility.”Inhis day, Wordsworth was accused of being anti-Christian. Maybe, as weread his poetry, we can figure out why. He sees nature as spiritual, orat least endowed with spiritual qualities. Detractors said he madenature into a God, an idea called “pantheism.” He even believed thatnature had a natural sympathy and connection with mankind, and evenreacted in an emotional way in response to the situation of people.This idea of nature actually reacting to mankind is now sometimescalled “the pathetic fallacy.” The “pathetic fallacy” is the attributionto natural objects of human qualities. That term is often used in aderogatory way now, and readers who are less than crazy aboutWordsworth’s ideas and poetry might use “pathetic fallacy” in anpejorative way against the poet and his followers.


(USA, AUS, UK & CA PhD. Writers)


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