Youth in “Tintern Abbey”

In the poem “Tintern Abbey”, William Woodsworth narrates his contrasting experiences of a much beloved place he had visited earlier. In this piece, he alludes to a developed maturity in the time between his previous visit and the present, which he narrates in the poem, illustrated by the first statement, “FIVE years have past…and again I hear these waters…” (Lines 1-3). In describing his previous visit to the Tintern Abbey, he hints at a description of youth based on the past experience he had at Tintern Abbey, with the main characteristic he attributes to this time of his life being one of ‘going along with the wind’ for want of a better description, emphasizing that his current thoughts and state of maturity is different from when he was last there, by using the expression, “From what I was when I first came along these hills…” (Lines 66-67). Consequently, Woodsworth describes his old self as “a roe” (Line 67), an animal which is known for its athleticism and vibrant nature, traits germane to the youth, which was directed “wherever nature led” (Line 70), a somewhat hedonistic nature of self-satisfaction he was prone to, and further contextualizing that period as “boyish days” (Line 73). In contrast with his somewhat fly-by -the-pants youthful days, he says, “…I have learned to look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth…” (Lines 88-90) alluding to his current maturity as opposed to the less considered youthful ways he had. Woodsworth’s description of youth in the early part of this poem is mainly one of non-direction and self-satisfaction, in contrast to the measured and thoughtful demeanor of the matured character he presents towards the end of the poem.


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