Tintern Abbey

In his painting Tintern Abbey from across the Wye, Edward Dayes  aesthetically captures the philosophy of the picturesque. From the over-growned ruins of the abbey to the rugged, un-uniformed landscape, Dayes encapsulates the element of imperfect beauty required for the picturesque. The picturesque scene reaches “beyond the power of thought” and “survey” to reflect the pleasurable impression the scene inspires as a whole (Gilpin 50).  

Wordsworth expresses the emotional connection he derives from the view of Tintern Abbey in his poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey.”Wordsworth expresses that the beauty and pleasure in the picturesque scene is found in the untamed grasp of nature. He repeatedly describes the scene of Tintern abbey as “wild”. The aesthetic “wild” he depicts contrasts against the wild, wearisome “din of towns and cities”  (Wordsworth 27). The wild of Tintern Abbey is powerful yet tranquil. It reflects the peaceful role of authority nature has taken on the scene due to humanity’s by-in-large departure. Hi reflections issue a thread of a plea to humanity to return from “the fever of the world” to the “serene and blessed mood” of nature’s untamed joys. 

Tintern Abbey

The word “picturesque” describes that which is suitable for painting.  The object being painted must have some imperfections, such as ruins or rugged mountains.  These imperfections are what make “picturesque” different than “beauty,” which quite differently is associated with smoothness or neatness.  By studying Wordsworth’s Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey, there is no doubt that his encounter can be described as “picturesque.”

Seeing something that is picturesque can make one experience the sublime.  When this happens, a person is filled with so many emotions and thoughts that anything they could express on paper would not do the experience justice.  Wordsworth does not write about his experience when he first encounters it.  He lets it soak in for five years and then returns to reflect on what he felt.  He says the cottages and animals “disturb the wild green landscape.”  This shows the imperfections of the scene that a necessary for picturesque.

The Picturesque and Tintern Abbey

William Gilpin says on page 50 that a picturesque scene is one “we rather feel, than survey.”  I find this to be especially true when you read William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey.”  It was clear to me throughout reading the poem that Wordsworth felt an emotional connection to the scene he was writing about, as evidenced in lines such as, “I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts” (94-96).

He also personifies nature in lines 123-124, saying “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”  This is one of many lines that enforce Gilpin’s view of a picturesque scene.  It was not only the way in which Wordsworth presents the scene’s imagery that makes it picturesque, but also the level of emotion he puts into everything he says.  There are many references to the scene’s emotional effect on him throughout the piece, and that is what really speaks to me.  That is what really makes “Tintern Abbey” a picturesque work of literary art.

Tintern Abbey: The Picturesque

                “Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth exemplifies the picturesque philosophy through detailed descriptions of nature around him and its impact on his mind. The picturesque is an aesthetic idea to describe “that which is fit to be painted,” a scene that is dynamic enough to be pleasing and interesting enough the viewer. William Gilpin says that “roughness forms the most essential point of difference between the beautiful and the picturesque.” Stark contrast and vibrant images are more pleasing than “smoothness” or “neatness.”

                Wordsworth deeply portrays picturesque elements in his poetry, “Once again / Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, / Which on a wild secluded scene impress / Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect / The landscape with the quiet of the sky (4-8).” Almost immediately, Wordsworth creates disparities for the readers to imagine. He begins the poem with “waters rolling with a sweet inland murmur,” a relaxing and ever-present scene in sound and vision. Then he immerses us with “steep and lofty cliffs,” which differs from the waters in height, mutability, and density. He feels a “deep seclusion” from these cliffs, as he is comparing the magnitude of the cliffs to himself, a comment on his insignificance in comparison to nature’s strength. In fact, he “beholds” the sight, granting it respect for its majesty. Finally this dynamic landscape of flowing waters and “steep, lofty cliffs” itself is associated with the “quiet of the sky.” Wordsworth is able to craft a powerful landscape using only a few lines; like a musician composing a symphony of complementing and clashing sounds, he captivates the reader.

Tintern Abbey

“Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth is a reputable example of the picturesque. Not only does Wordsworth describe the area as “wild and green,” but he mentions the “steep and lofty cliffs” which would give the landscape that rugged quality always wanted in the picturesque (15, 5). The poem evokes a remembrance of pastoral settings while still hinting at mysteries hidden in “the deep and gloomy wood” (79). Wordsworth then turns to his memories and the pleasure derived from imagining the future as well. While gazing upon the picturesque, just the image is enough to sustain and charm. The pleasure of the sight gives a surface pleasure. However, when the view is remembered the power of nature subdues Wordsworth who realizes that nature is in fact “the guide…of all [his] moral being” (112).

Yet, the picturesque comes especially through Tintern Abbey itself, which, as described by William Gilpin had parts that “hurt the eye” (47). This supposed ugliness is of interesting importance because “roughness forms the most essential point of difference between the beautiful and the picturesque” (48). This roughness is ever apparent in Wordsworth’s poem even just as “little lines/Of sportive wood run wild” (16, 17). Bridging the gap between beauty and ugliness, the picturesque created a middle-ground which caught the interest of the Romantics. The study of the imperfect, yet almost calculated landscape was pleasurable. Quite different than the terror prompted subject of the sublime.

William Wordsworth, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”

In Wordsworth’s poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, he expresses the romantic philosophy of the picturesque to perfection. The aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque revolves around that which is suitable for painting (notes). However as opposed to the beautiful, the picturesque does not have to follow certain rules (i.e. symmetry and proportion) but has it’s own natural and rugged rhythm. Wordsworth retreats to his favorite spot and depicts a scene worthy of a painting “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…”

The picturesque is not only based off of that which belongs in a painting, but also that which brings pleasure. Wordsworth expresses pleasure and happiness that he feels when he retreats to this spot, he feels it all the way down to his blood; “In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart. And passing even into my purer mind with tranquil restoration- feelings too of unremembered pleasure..”

Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” epitomizes the romantic philosophy of the picturesque by keeping his imagery pleasant yet nonuniform (or asymmetrical) which constructs a picture in the readers mind that belongs in a painting.


A picturesque blessing in a picturesque setting

William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” epitomizes the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque by describing the lasting joy and pleasure Wordsworth felt from beholding a landscape filled not only with beauty, but also with imperfection. The first stanza of the poem describes the landscape that made such an impression on Wordsworth, five years previously. This scene consists not of sunshine and rainbows; rather, it boasts “a wild secluded scene,” (6) “hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines/ Of sportive wood run wild,” (16-17) and “wreaths of smoke/ Sent up, in silence…of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods” (18-19, 21). Here, Wordsworth paints a wild, intriguing, and somewhat mysterious picture. The land is not manicured to perfection, but instead has “run wild.” The people living there are not typical Englishmen, but “vagrant dwellers.” This area of the English countryside lacks perfection in the sense that it is not bright, sunny, or ordered. However, the disorder present gives Wordsworth great pleasure, exemplifying picturesque philosophy.

The philosophy of the picturesque is also present in the blessing Wordsworth gives his sister near the end of the poem. Instead of simply wishing a happy, smooth life for his sister, Wordsworth asks that, “The moon/ Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;/ And let the misty mountain winds be free/ To blow against thee,” (135-138). Generally, blessings do not include a hope for walking alone at night, or for the wind to blow against the person being blessed. However, the picturesque is a philosophy in which things are not perfect, even, and beautiful. According to Wordsworth, great value can be found when life is not entirely perfect, which is why he describes his joy at beholding a picturesque landscape in the beginning of the poem and gives this picturesque blessing to his sister near the end. 

The Picturesque in Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey: Ruggedness and the Scenery in Parts

The picturesque is partially, but not completely, defined as something that calls out to be painted or drawn. It is a landscape that seems to have hidden depths beneath its surface that call to the poet or the artist, and continues to inspire even after it has been captured in words or paint. So, on one hand, there must be an element of beauty and pleasantness to the picturesque. Yet, there is a clear distinction between the two, and this is roughness or ruggedness (pg. 48, Gilpin). Wordsworth shows many instances of this ruggedness  in his poem about Tintern Abbey, especially at the beginning.

I was struck by his description of the hedge-rows as: “hardly hedge-rows, little lines/ Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms/ Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke/ Sent up, in silence, from among the trees” (390). If this were a beautiful or charming scene, the hedge-rows would be in good order. There would be a clear air of domestication; the stamp of human presence would be clear. Yet, though these hedge-rows were initially put in along cultivated lines, they are now “little lines/ Of sportive wood run wild.”  The only sign of present humans is the smoke amongst the hedge-rows, but even that is sent up “in silence.”

Thus Wordsworth uses the hedge-rows to signal the slight sagging and the decay of the area as a whole, the worn ruggedness necessary to deem something picturesque. This leads to a second vital element of the picturesque that is seen in Wordsworth’s poem as a whole. According to Gilpin, when we examine picturesque scenery, “we are more commonly employed in analyzing the parts of scenes; which may be exquisitely beautiful, tho unable to produce a whole” (49, Gilpin). Wordsworth readily buys into this. His whole poem directs the reader’s eye from “steep and lofty cliffs,” to “these orchard-tufts,” to “these hedge-rows” (390). He cannot give the whole picture at once with words anymore than an enthusiastic tourist could instantly take in a whole landscape. Even the feelings associated with the landscape must wait their turns; only one detail at a time can be attended to in order to give the haziest glimpse of the whole.

The Imagery of “Tintern Abbey” and the Picturesque Ideals

“Tintern Abbey” embodies the ideals of the picturesque with its sweeping imagery. This imagery of “Tintern Abbey” evokes a painting. This is a beautiful painting that is taking place in the mind. The reader is seeing this vivid and descriptive landscape that is poured out for them in Wordsworth’s words. An example of this would be “these plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tuffs, which, at this season, with their unripe fruits”(lines 10-13). In these lines the reader can imagine the wonderful painting that is forming. This fulfills the first ideal of the picturesque, that which is suitable for painting.

As the imagery of the poem continues the exoticism begins to come out. “And what perceive; well pleased to recognize In nature and the language of the sense”(lines 108-109). This image invokes a native, natural spirit that is not present in Britain. Britain has been tamed, in terms of nature’s presence at this time. No more do Wild Vikings roam the land, at nature’s beck and call. This takes the reader to the realm of the untamed of the uncertainty present in the colonies and the unexplored corners of the world. This exoticism only adds to the picturesque view that this poem takes. It adds a twist to the normal view one would see in the given landscape and takes it beyond what the senses can tell the viewer. In this way the imagery of “Tintern Abbey” not only lends itself to the picturesque ideals but truly embodies them. 

Picturesque Tintern

William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is a perfect example of the Romanticists idea of picturesque.  Picturesque is the idea that something is suitable for painting, exotic, and mysterious or unknown.  That idea is expressed by the words of Wordsworth as he describes the scene from the banks of the Wye River.  The scene described is that of “tall rock . . . [and] deep and gloomy wood” in the background of a “delightful stream,” a true natural beauty for an artist to paint.

Now that the author has established the beauty of the land, he goes on to explain why the location is rare and exotic.  During the Romantic period, there is a mass movement to urban areas leaving these beautiful scenes of nature “secluded” and “lonely.”  Only “vagrant dwellers” could be found in these “houseless woods.”  Wordsworth wrote his poem as a reaction to urbanization warning readers of the lack of appreciation for things that have been forgotten such as nature’s beauty.

Tintern Abbey/Picturesque

“Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” by William Wordsworth describes a picturesque location. The poem describes the trees, springs, seclusion, and cliffs of Tintern Abbey. When recounting the time he visited the place five years ago, the narrator recalls pleasant times. He remembers the “sweet inland murmur (line 4)” of the spring and the “sense of present pleasure (63-64).” His pleasurable memories show that the place exemplifies the picturesque rather than the sublime. This does not mean that Tintern Abbey is perfection. The speaker describes the “wreathes of smoke (18)” and the “vagrant dwellers (21)” which disturb the balance and beauty of the area.
An aspect of the picturesque includes the “employment of the mind in examining the beautiful scenes” according to William Gilpin’s “Essay 2, on Picturesque Travel.” Wordsworth’s poem demonstrates this using the mind. The speaker recalls childhood memories and the current experiences that he will share with his sister from this place while also finding humanity revealed through nature. He even claims that he has “felt a presence that disturbs (him) with the joy of elevated thoughts (94-96).” Wordsworth describes Tintern Abbey as the epitome of a picturesque location with its natural splendor, pleasantry, slight offsetting of the area’s beauty, and potential to inspire contemplation.

William Gilpin …

William Gilpin relays to us that the idea of something being picturesque is derived from the notion that the piece itself has some sort of roughness about it. This idea is a primary difference which separates the picturesque from both the sublime and the beautiful. Among many other characteristics, the beautiful focuses on that which is both symmetrical and proportional whereas the sublime is primarily about that which brings us to the edge of our emotions and in a sense, that which is dark and brings about fear.

Throughout “Tintern Abbey”, William Wordsworth is interpreting the idea of the picturesque through his descriptive choice of word usage. Whether he is describing “the landscape with the quiet of the sky” (line 8), or the “…darkness, and amid the many shapes of joyless day-light…” (lines 52-53), Wordsworth’s vivid and descriptive communication to his audience makes the reader feel as though he or she could visualize the scenery in his or her own mind. 

Picturesque Poetry

     William Wordsworth’s remarkable poem, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, embodies the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque. To do this so well Wordsworth drew inspiration from one of his favorite locations. There was something about the location that spoke to his spirit. The picturesque is not beautiful by definition. Beautiful is that which is pleasing to the senses. If a thing is to be beautiful it must be smooth and have symmetry and proportion. The picturesque does not embody the sublime either. The sublime is anything that inspires terror. The picturesque is not to be confused with these other Romantic ideas. It is also not a middle ground between the beautiful and the sublime. The picturesque is closer to beautiful because it is pleasant. If something is suitable for painting, it can be called picturesque. 

     The scene that Wordsworth describes in his poem embodies the picturesque ideal. He writes, “The day is come when I again repose here, under this dark sycamore, and view these plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, which, at this season, with their unripe fruits, among the woods and copses lose themselves, nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb the wild green landscape.” (lines 10-15). The dark sycamore and unripe fruits are not the typical life-giving images that are presented in nature poetry. The scene described is rustic. The cottage and the wild green landscape represent simple times. This representation of simpler days puts the author in a relaxed mood. The mood of this poem is both peaceful and pensive. Throughout the poem the author reposes and observes the nature around him while thinking of the past. Picturesque locations appealed to deep thinkers and Romantics because they were able to see the beauty in them. The picturesque represents finding the beauty in atypical locations. This search led the Romantics to see deeper within themselves.

Gilpin, Wordsworth, and the Picturesque Philosophy

The Tintern Abbey epitomizes the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque not only in its imperfect appearance and ability to be painted, but also through the emotions that it evokes from those who view it. In William Gilpin’s essay on Picturesque Beauty, he explains that “roughness seems to be the particular quality which makes objects chiefly pleasing in painting” (48). Gilpin then goes on to say that we should “feel” rather than “survey” the scene, in his essay on Picturesque Travel. These characteristics and experiences can then be witnessed in William Wordsworth’s poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” where he describes his return to the Abbey after five years.

Wordsworth’s poem outlines a reunion that is familiar and harmonious, as well as one that stirs up wild/exotic emotions. He reiterates what Gilpin was saying about feeling rather than seeing your surroundings when he states, “While with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things” (391). Wordsworth also fills his poem (especially the first stanza) with imagery and descriptions of Tintern Abbey that allow the reader to tap into the character’s senses during the experience. The descriptions of “steep and lofty cliffs” go hand in hand with Gilpin’s idea that picturesque beauty is not “smooth” or “neat” but instead raw and unassisted. Through Wordsworth descriptions of Tintern Abbey and the emotion that he felt upon his return, the poem epitomizes the picturesque philosophy.

William Wordsworth and the Picturesque

“No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this.” – William Wordsworth

The feeling that resonated most strongly with me after reading Tintern Abbey was not the appreciation of nature and peaceful calm that I have come to expect when reading pastoral poetry but rather an intense feeling of understanding. In presenting readers with this poem I feel that William Wordsworth has given modern readers an opportunity to understand him as a writer and as a human being. While the poem does celebrate the landscape and magnify nature, it does so in a way that reveals Wordsworth’s strong emotions against enlightenment and helps explain to us why his poems seem to flit about in a picturesque dreamscape all their own and refuse to be grounded in clinical, scientific thought.

This poem presents Wordsworth as both a lover and worshipper of nature. He says that the “quietness and beauty that so feeds / with lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues /  rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men / Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all / The dreary intercourse of daily life / Shall e’er prevail against us.” Those lines reveal Wordsworth’s view of nature as a protector from the sneering, evil world and imply that nature is in some way his benefactor. While this poem illustrates picturesque imagery quite well, what was most picturesque to me were Wordsworth’s quietly inserted thoughts about society and nature. He spent the vast majority of the poem magnifying the landscape but the underlying theme seemed to be that nature had in some way healed him. By including these brief looks into his soul, Wordsworth successfully grounds this poem in personal conviction rather than merely discussing how beautiful the trees are. He viewed nature as a lovely work of art and created this poem to reflect back to us a perfect example of the picturesque ideal of beauty.


Wordsworth and Gilpin; Two Williams, one Theory

The picturesque, in its simplest form, is ‘that which is fit for painting,’ but by what model do we define the picturesque? William Gilpin, in his Three Essays describes the idea of the picturesque. There is a certain amount of “roughness” to what should be painted. Rather than the perfect, the smooth, the elegant and flowing, the picturesque has a rugged and imperfect quality to it. The ruin is more acceptable than the newly constructed building. The overgrown woods is more pleasing than the trimmed garden. This idea of “roughness” in the picturesque is to bring some interest to the painting; surely, the trimmed garden is pleasing to look at as you walk through it, but it doesn’t capture your attention when it is painted on canvas.

This seems obvious. All forms of art try to capture the attention; visual, audio, and, last but not least, the literary arts. During this time period many poets were influenced by the ideas of the beautiful, the picturesque, and the sublime, and William Wordsworth is no exception. In his poem “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth paints a picture of woods and cliffs, and buildings overgrown by nature’s unknown bounds. The first stanza has a very vivid description of the narrator’s surroundings:

“Once again / Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, / Which on a wild secluded scene impress / Thoughts of a more deep seclusion; and connect / The landscape with the quiet of the sky. / The day is come when I again repose / Here, under this dark sycamore, and view / These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts, / Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits, / Among the woods and copses lose themselves, / Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb / The wild green landscape. 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” [lines 4-18].

I duplicated most of the stanza here to illustrate how Wordsworth uses the ideas of Gilpin’s picturesque to add a visual interest to his poem. Rather than rolling, smooth hills, there are “steep” and “lofty” cliffs, which give a striking vision of a stark drop, of rocks and treacherous climbs. There are “tufts” of orchards, which give the impression of scattered clusters, rather than a cohesive whole. The unripe fruit brings to mind the unfinished, the continuing journey, rather than some perfect conclusion. The word “wild” is used several times, to describe what the reader may otherwise think simple and orderly; the hedge-row, and the green landscape. The third stanza also has some vivid nature imagery; “the tall rock, / The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood” [lines 78-79], and here, Wordsworth is juxtaposing the original serene and calm at the landscape with a kind of blissful horror at these different surroundings. I feel confident in using the term sublime to describe this “Haunted…passion” [line 78] the narrator feels at the woods and the mountains, in part because he used the term himself earlier in the poem, in the second stanza [line 48], to describe how he felt about remembering the vivid landscape while he was away from it, and also in the third stanza [line 96] to describe “A presence that disturbs [him] with joy / Of elevated thoughts” [lines 95-96], a strange mix of emotions that ultimately he defines as “joy” which he feels at the sight of the landscape. Another characteristic of the picturesque as described by Gilpin is the picturesque travel; traveling to find the picturesque. Wordsworth states that he “came among these hills; when like a roe / [He] bounded over the mountains, by the sides / Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, / Wherever nature led” [lines 68-71]. Also, when Wordsworth describes the landscape, we only see the most picturesque parts of it; there is none of this “how nature truly is” business. Is the hedge-row really wild, are the orchards truly in tufts? Or is it, as Gilpin put in his third essay On The Art of Sketching Landscape, an adorned sketch of what is truly seen? This adorned sketch is what nature should look like, according to the picturesque; for in nature we do not find all perfect, smooth, and elegant, but neither do we find the exact ruggedness, imperfection, and wild foliage that is depicted as “pleasing” in the idea of the picturesque.

For these many reasons—the wording of the poem, what is described, the feelings portrayed and the values instilled—I believe that “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” certainly follow the guidelines, and possibly epitomize, the idea of the picturesque.

“Tintern Abbey” and the picturesque

The aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque is the middle ground between the beautiful and the sublime. The picturesque can be viewed as a mediator between the two rationally idealized states. While the beautiful offers elements of smoothness and color, and the sublime illustrates the unknown and vast, the picturesque offers a third term, almost like a middle ground, a more practical way to think about landscape.

In “Tintern Abbey”, one of, if not the greatest work of William Wordsworth, Wordsworth is thoroughly grounded with the picturesque philosophy. He hears the “waters, rolling from their mountain springs” running along the edge of the “steep and lofty cliffs.” (390) The scenes he describes is not smooth or colorful yet is also does not provoke a strong emotion of the unkown or vast. It is the middle ground between those to ideas that allow “Tintern Abbey” to epitomize the aesthetic philosophy in the picturesque.


Wildness and Feeling Nature in Tintern Abbey

                William Gilpin opens his first essay with the assertion that that which is “neat” and “smooth” is removed of any “picturesque beauty.” William Wordsworth matches that concept in “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” with the repeated use of the word “wild.” He writes about the “wild secluded scene,” the “wild green landscape,” his sister’s “wild eyes,” and the “wild ecstasies” of the land and of himself and his sister. Wildness indicates a measure of coarseness and roughness, as well as a sense of the unrefined; wild is unpolished. At the time the poem is written, everything is dead, or at least it is not harvest season. Wordsworth describes the “dark sycamore,” the cottage and orchard yielding “unripe fruits,” and later the “misty mountain winds” blowing free, creating a forlorn and almost desolate image. That loneliness is advanced by his descriptions of the “vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods” and the “hermit’s cave, where… [he] sits alone.” Both the hermit and the vagrant blend in with a rugged, unkempt interpretation of the picturesque beauty of nature because, like the wild earth and misty winds, they are base and unsophisticated.
                Wordsworth‘s poem embodies Gilpin’s idea that “[w]e [travelers] rather feel, than survey [the land].” The memory of Tintern Abbey is something that is “[f]elt in the blood, and felt along the heart,” and invokes a sense of “tranquil restoration” and “unremembered pleasure,” turning the one remembering into something better than human. When Wordsworth is overcome by the memory of the abbey, he is “almost suspended” and transforms into something more, something that respects the “power [o]f harmony, and the deep power of joy, [and] see[s] into the life of things.” When he was younger, the poet’s passion for his environment was like an “appetite.” Wordsworth feels the power of the “green earth” and the “steep woods and lofty cliffs,” so he does not have to describe them specifically, as he would in a surveying poem. He communicates back in “the language of the sense” the beauty and wonder that overwhelm him, so that his readers feel that they too have been with him all along.

Tintern Abbey and its representation of the Philosophy Picturesque

Picturesque is the idea that a certain structure or idea is suitable for painting; whether it has imperfections, it is perfection, or both. Tintern Abbey is perfectly suitable for painting, in fact, it’s structure is what the philosophy of picturesque is all about. When Gilpin describes the ruins of Tintern Abbey, he describes it with regards to a distance view compared to a nearer view. “But if Tintern Abbey be less striking as a distant object, it exhibits, on a nearer view (when the whole together cannot be seen, but the eye settles on some of its nobler parts,) a very inchanting piece of ruin.” (Gilpin 47). The exotic nature of this structure allows one to view not only its imperfections but its wondrous beauty in what remains. Even the recent additions, such as the ivy that has grown up the walls, creates a perfect contrast between perfections and imperfections of the structure.

Picturesque philosophy has been described as elegant, yet with imperfections to create a balance between the two. Tintern Abbey is described and classified particularly as picturesque, that which is suitable for painting. Through this comes a way of elegantly painting a picture that represents the balance between life’s perfections and imperfections. The representation of picturesque philosophy through Tintern Abbey particularly emphasizes how it is possible to see the perfections and imperfections from a distance as well as a nearer view. The different perspectives allow us to see the true philosophy of picturesque

Tintern Abbey and the Picturesque

The aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque is something that is suitable for painting.  It is based on the pleasant.  It has a sense of the erotic.  It is unusual, vivid, and visually attractive.  However, is not what some would think as beautiful where everything is perfect, smooth, and neat.  It is more rough or rugged which involves lines and color but out of balance and requires some imperfection.

William Gilpin description of “Tintern Abbey” epitomizes the philosophy of the picturesque.  He describes the ruins seen from a distance is not picturesque at all by saying “No ruins of the tower are left, which might give form, and contrast to the walls, and buttresses, and other inferior parts.  Instead of this, a number of gabel-ends hurt the eye with their regularity; and disgust it by the vulgarity of their shape.”  However, on a closer view he describes how picturesque it really is.  He speaks of its irregularity and ruggedness and being very pleasing to the eye.  He says “But if Tintern-abbey be less striking as a distant object, it exhibits, on a nearer view (when the whole together cannot be seen, but the eye settles on some of its nobler parts,) a very inchanting piece of ruin…Time has worn of all traces of the rule: it has blunted the sharp edges fo the chissel, and broken the regularity of opposing parts.”  He describes the whole experience as being delightful by saying “When we stood at one end of this awful piece of ruin; and surveyed the whole in one view – the elements of air, and earth, its only covering, and pavement, and the grand, and venerable remains, which terminated both – perfect enough to form the perspective, yet broken enough to destroy the regularity; the eye was above measure delighted with the beauty, the greatness, and the novelty fo the scene.”

“Tintern Abbey”: A Representation of the Picturesque

The understanding of the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque requires the groundwork of that which is suitable for painting. After learning more in depth about the meaning of picturesque to these Romantic writers, it is understood that something that would normally be thought to be suitable for painting, such as: a large willow tree or a fresh blanket of snow, may not fit this meaning. In addition to the beauty and pleasant ideas of what can be thought as picturesque, there must also be a sense of imperfection that can further help grasp the view.

In William Woodsworth’s incredible poem, “Tintern Abbey”, the true meaning of the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque is represented in several parts. Woodsworth describes his journey through the understanding of beauty. When writing about his first experience with nature as a child that ” The sounding cataract Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock, The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood, Their colours and their forms, were then to me An appetite: a feeling and a love…” In this quote Woodsworth tells us what inspired him about the different beauty that he saw in nature. The pleasant feelings that consume him. Later in the poem, Woodsworth continues about his experience with the beauty of nature by saying, “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.” Woodsworth’s writes about his sister and how throughout her whole life the joy and blessings followed her. Woodsworth is revisiting his childhood and remembering the beauty that was once brought to him. His completed journey represents the aesthetic philosophy of the picturesque by reminding himself of the wonders during his life and simply acknowledging the not so wondrous and imperfect parts.

Crusoe vs. Barbauld; The Enlightenment vs. Romanticism

I noticed an over whelming percentage of posts about Crusoe and Shelley; this makes a lot of sense, and was my original plan. I find it far easier to compare fiction with fiction than fiction with poetry, but in an effort to add a sense of differentiation to the first few posts in this blog, I will discuss Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Barbauld’s “Eighteen Hundred and Eleven.”

The first thing I noticed inthe excerpt of Crusoe was the amount of observation. He “observed” this and he “observed” that, and he made decisions on what to do based on these observations. He had no place to eat or write, and so he made a table and a chair. He had no place to put his things, so he expanded his cave. A problem was found, it was analyzed, and a solution was formed and implemented. This is the normal progression of any narrative, though very little is explained in terms of how our main character, Robinson Crusoe, feels about the problems and the solutions. Yes, he wants the table to eat and write, and he says these things bring “so much pleasure,” but not that they bring him pleasure.

This is certainly in contrast to Barbauld’s poem. Romantic poetry is often characterized by the individual, the way they react to the world around them, and particularly how they feel. The narrator is speaking to the country of Britain, and discussing the problems it faces, has faced, and will face in the year eighteen hundred and eleven. There is a strong sense of nationalism in the poem, especially in the fifth stanza, lines 61-112. The narrator assures the country of Britain that, even though “Commerce leaves they shore… / Leaves thee, perhaps, to visit distant lands, / And deal the gifts of Heaven with equal hands” [lines 62-66], its legacy will live on in the land of America, where “Thy stores of knowledge the new states shall know” [line 87]. Perhaps the most important part of mentioning this is that the narrator seems to be remorseful about what is happening. Unlike in Crusoe, the narrator expresses some emotion for what is happening in the poem.

Shelley vs Defoe

The passages from Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe share similarities and differences. Both depict solitary figures striving to make a life in a world new and unfamiliar to them. Similar in construction, both passage describe day to day activities. In Robinson Crusoe, the description of day to day activities is formal: “I have already observed how I brought all my goods into this pale, and into the cave which I had made behind me.” Victor Frankenstein describes some of his daily tasks with “I collected bones from charnel houses; and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame.” Both passages portray solitary figures. Victor Frankenstein is alone in his quest to create human life; his monster is alone as the only member of his race on earth, a cursed and wretched figure. Robinson Crusoe is stranded on an island, alone in his own tropical universe. Because they are alone, the figures portrayed in the passages turn to reflection as a means of self-expression.

Frankenstein vs. Crusoe

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe presents the ideals of the Enlightenment through Crusoe’s reliance on reason. His character is exacting and pays particular attention to detail, even recounting that he “worked sideways, to the right hand, into the rock; and then, turning to the right again, worked quite out, and made [himself] a door.” This emphasis on reason and the use of logic reflects the time period in which the book was written. However, Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, has some of these same characteristics. Frankenstein works meticulously on his creation. The Monster later recounts that Frankenstein kept a “journal of the four months that preceded [his] creation” and that he “minutely described in these papers every step [he] took in the progress of [his] work” (693). Yet despite this attention to detail and similar emphasis on logic, Shelley’s work does not reflect the Enlightenment but instead reflects the Romantic period. One of the key reasons that Frankenstein falls in the realm of Romanticism is the prevalence of imagination in the work. Frankenstein dabbles in darkness, striving to create creatures out of his own imaginings, directly defying natural laws. Unlike Crusoe’s cheery tale of success at having followed his human logic, Frankenstein realizes his goal but discovers that the creature he imagined is monstrous and frightening.

Rational Thought vs Self-pity

Although both characters are deep in reflection over their separate words, they differ in the way they think.  Robinson Crusoe says, “I began to apply myself to make such necessary things . . . particularly a chair and a table; for without these I was not able to enjoy the few comforts I had in the world,” despite being shipwrecked and alone.  This line is evidence that he maintains rational thought as he fights to survive his hardship as opposed to feeling sorry for himself.  As for Victor Frankenstein, he looks to supernatural beings to explain why he is “wretched, helpless, and alone.”  He blames Satan for his condition and feels that “[God] has turned from [him] in disgust.”  If Victor Frankenstein found himself in Robinson Crusoe’s situation, I believe he would experience self-pity and die not fighting to survive like Crusoe.

Despite their differences, I believe a connection can be made between the two.  Although not driven for the same reasons, both are driven for what they believe.  Robinson Crusoe for his survival, “I had never handled a tool in my life” yet he builds the items by hand he needs to survive and Victor Frankenstein for creating a new creature that would be proud of their creator, “No one can conceive the variety of feelings which bore me onwards, like a hurricane, in the first enthusiasm of success.”