Tintern Abbey – The Examination of Youth

“For I have learned To look on nature, not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes The still, sad music of humanity, Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power To chasten and subdue” (Wordsworth, William).

This line in the poem leads me to believe that the author views youth as a time in a person’s life in which one does not think critically about the world around them. As this excerpt shows, the author is insinuating that he was listening to nature and heard the music of humanity, in opposition of viewing/listening to it in the hour of being a thoughtless youth. Throughout this poem I interpreted his tone as critical of his time of youth, as though he is now a more intellectual being since he has outgrown his youthful mindset. This poem was written 5 years after his last visit to the Banks of Wye, and it is clear that much has changed. Not only the author, but even his interpretation of the environment around him has drastically evolved. His older eyes and mature ears now see and hear things he once had all but noticed. The tone is clearly critical of the person he once was, but also is joyous for his eyes have opened and he is seeing the world around him as it really is.

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One thought on “Tintern Abbey – The Examination of Youth

  1. You mention that the author expresses a critical distance from his own youth and seems to experience the Wye and its environs with greater awareness. But let’s take this a little further. In what stage of life does the poet seem to be, and what insight does that grant him into youth generally?

    Also, please be sure to use the Tags field (lower right) to add any authors or major concepts, such as William Wordsworth and Nature. The tags will create a semantic navigation system that readers can use to find interesting content.

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