Tintern Abbey and the Sublime: Will Boogert

“…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.”

In this selection from “Tintern Abbey”, Wordsworth is discussing to what extent Nature interacts with his soul and his inner thoughts. He calls nature the “anchor of my purest thoughts”, and in this I recognize a hint of the sublime. After all, the poem implies that the poem was written on his return to Tintern Abbey, and the poem’s main topic is that the sensation he experienced while there for the first time still remain vivid in his mind when he is not present there.

This represents the Sublime because of its eternal nature. When he mentions his “purest thoughts”, he mean the things that endure within him amidst all the other fleeting things. Tintern Abbey, to Wordsworth, represents timelessness, and the sensation he gets from being there is at least in part due to the feeling that while he as a human may change, the beauty and atmosphere or Tintern Abbey will never change, and will always provoke within him the sensations that he mentions recalling. Wordsworth minimizes himself when placing himself inside the Abbey, and this represents the sublime because he, as a human, pales in comparison to the grandeur and timelessness of the Abbey.

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One thought on “Tintern Abbey and the Sublime: Will Boogert

  1. The sensation of eternity in Nature is a component of the sublime, certainly. However, the Abbey is actually a ruin, something that has been (and continues to be) eroded and overcome by time. So, it’s actually something transcendent in Nature that Wordsworth sees as permanent, not so much the natural scene (which after all is changing too) or in the ruined Abbey. I think this comes through on page 392, where he says he has “learned / To look on nature” for a “sense sublime / Of something far more deeply interfused, / Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns” (and other natural phenomena) “and in the mind of man, / A motion and a spirit, that impels / All thinking things, all objects of all thought, / And rolls through all things.” The Abbey itself would be an example of human temporariness, ancient though it might be.

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