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.

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One thought on “Tintern Abbey: The Picturesque

  1. I like your thoughts on Wordsworth’s feelings of “insignificance in comparison to nature’s strength.” I had been of the mind that he felt awed with the powerful scenery around him, and had not considered, or noticed, that it made him feel insignificant.

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