In “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth empathizes how nature and the course of time shape human, more specifically his, experiences. The narrator uses nature in order to emphasize how profound and timeless his experiences are, as well as how nature allowed him to mature and grow into the person he is now. The beginning section of the poem mentions the time since he has visited this area of bliss as “[f]ive years…five summers…with the length/ Of five long winters.” During those five years he has remembered the passion that nature has left him, claiming how all the sounds and scenes were “[f]elt in the blood, and felt along the heart” regardless of the time passed. Along this section, he also states how in his boyish days, nature “[h]aunted [him] like a passion,” which again is how strong his passion of nature is, as well as how that passion allowed him to grow from the boy he was to the man he is now. However, not only has nature emotionally helped him grow, but spiritually as well. He refers to how nature shined light on “the burthen of the mystery” and “the heavy and the weary weight / Of all this unintelligible world.” Also, he uses words such as “blessed mood” to explain that these moments and the power nature allowed him to see “the light of things.” Arguably, it can be assumed that nature is considered a religion to the narrator, because of how much it has helped him through the difficult courses of their time.
In a philosophical sense, this poem is revolutionary to a person growing from young to old. It does not necessarily mean it involves a political change, or a innovation that affects the population, but more so to the emotional and spiritual growth of a person.
I think that Wordsworth is revolutionary in Tintern Abbey because of how he seems to revere nature. In the poem, he describes how being in nature and specifically Tintern Abbey makes him feel. He describes it as an almost religious experience for him and he actually alludes to the book of Psalms saying “If I were not thus taught, should I the more/ Suffer my genial spirits to decay:/ For thou art with me, here, upon the banks”. I consider this to be revolutionary because it seems like he is challenge the common thought at the time that only through God could true enlightenment be achieved. Wordsworth describes this out-of-body experience he had “Almost suspended, we are laid asleep/ In body and become a living soul”. He describes religious recluses in his story as “hermits” as if to say that they are not truly experiencing life to the fullest. Wordsworth tells of the benefits of nature as a window into the heart and soul. He says “Nature never did betray/ the heart that loved her” and “thy mind/ shall be a mansion for all lovely forms”. Wordsworth seems to believe that nature is the key to understanding oneself and that was very revolutionary at the time.
Wordsworth’s use of the concepts of time and nature in “Tintern Abbey” makes it a revolutionary poem. In fact, the first line of the poem relates to time, as the narrator states that “[f]jve years [had] passed” since his last visit to that spot in nature (Wordsworth 1). The purpose of the author using time in his poem is to demonstrate how moments survive time and change, through memories; this seems appropriate as the author lived in an ever-changing Europe. After recollecting on previous trips, the narrator describes how “in this moment there is life and food / [f]or future years” (Wordsworth 65-6). The narrator infers from his nostalgia at this moment that he will have the same nostalgia in the future.
However, as the years have passed, the narrator observes nature differently than he used to; he learns “[t]o look on nature, not as in the hour / [o]f thoughtless youth, but [to hear] oftentimes / [t]he still, sad music of humanity” (Wordsworth 90-2). The narrator no longer views nature and humanity as entirely disconnected. One can infer since the author describes hearing the “still, sad music of humanity” within the wilderness, Wordsworth believes there is a bond between humans and nature that has been forgotten by most (Wordsworth 92). As humans of Wordsworth’s period furthered themselves from nature, Wordsworth emphasized the importance of a continued relationship between nature and humans; his poem is revolutionary in this sense. People of Wordsworth’s period failed to remember their origins in nature; Wordsworth insinuated humankinds need to remember their origin. As the narrator feels nostalgia upon reconnecting with nature, the whole of humanity will too.
Throughout this story, Elizabeth Gaskell makes the them of Darwin’s “natural selection” very evident. Natural selection is define by google as: the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring. The author focused heavily on the external aspects of the characters describing some as “20 shades prettier” and others as sickly and pale. This represents the difference between those who may have been “selected” as opposed to those who have slim chances. The idea is that beauty is connected to strength and adaptability but it is not always the case. Some may have all the physical aspects yet not be able to adapt. This is manifested in her writing. The only character that represents all the qualities as explained in the previous stated definition is Miss Jessie Brown. She being the only one that survives proves that and especially being able to adapt and get married. Which is the second part of the definition; to produce more offspring. Being one that survived and adapted she will produce offspring who will be stronger and more capable of serving as well which will reinforce the idea that Darwin put forth.
It is very clear that the qualities we talked about in class (sweetness and beauty) are representative of the ability to adapt and survive. Darwin may suggest that maybe inherently people are subconsciously looking for a “mate” who will allow their offspring the best chance at survival.
Edmund Burke defines the sublime as something that is provoked by a feeling of great astonishment, which is linked, in a way, to horror : “The passion caused by the great and sublime in nature, […] is astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror” (Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful). In his poem, entitled “Mont Blanc”, Percey Shelley puts this definition into practise. Indeed, the narrator of the poem is facing the natural element that is the Mont Blanc, that is to say the highest mountain in Europe. This simple contemplation turns itself into a huge flow of emotions and reflexion. Shelley defines his contemplation as a “trance sublime and strange” (L35). He uses here the word “sublime” itself, and associates it to the word “strange”. The latter is related, in a way, to fear, because it is unexplainable and unknown. Yet, it appears that, according to Burke, fear is one of the feelings that one needs to feel in order to reach the sublime. We can thus affirm that the poet is having the experience of the sublime.
In this way, the one way in which Shelley’s poem exemplifies Burke’s ideas on the sublime that stroke me the most is the one of infinity. Indeed, Burke writes that infinity “has a tendency to fill the mind with that sort of delighful horror, which is the most genuine effect, and truest test of the sublime”. In this poem, infinity is indeed omnipresent: infinity of space and of time. We can read from the first line : “The everlasting universe of things”. Firstly, the word “universe” itself connotes the idea of infinity, both infinity of time and space. Secondly, the adjective “everlasting” insists on the idea of infinity of time. Moreover, this theme of infinity comes again and again all along the poem : “for ever” (L9); “eternity” (L29); “unremifting interchange” (L39); “the infinite sky” (L60); “perpetual stream” (L109) … So, when the poet faces the Mont Blanc and the ravine of Arve (which is the spokesperson of the poem’s narrator), he becomes aware of the infinity of nature, and then experiences the sublime, as it is defined by Edmund Burke. And this engenders terror in the poet’s mind – as it is supposed to be, according to Burke’s theory. We can indeed read line 15 that the landscape is characterized as an “awful scene”. Plus, this terror is linled to a kind of malevolant spirit (an entity related to infinity, as immortal) who came to spread it on earth. So we can say that here, sublime is characterized by the paradoxal feelings engendered by the infinity of nature : at the same time marvel and terror.
Other elements of the sublime as defined by Burke can be found in this extract. Some of them are directly related to the idea of infinity, such as power – a word we can find written with a capital letter line 16, as if it was a deity, which insists on his strength. We can also find the theme of vastness, thanks to the Mont Blanc; or even the theme of obscurity. So as a conclusion, I will say that Shelley’s poem is a good example of Burke’s ideas of sublime, because it uses many of his definitions and allows the reader himself to reach the sublime.
In the poem “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-ree” written by William Wordsworth, it is noticeable nature and internal working are the appropriate terms to describe the man and his own way of living; this features consist of the Romanticism and are completely the opposite of what Enlightenment sensibility is all about.
Nature can be seen throughout the poem in scenes like this ones, “Far from all human dwelling” (line 2) showing us readers the first point; the man is not in the city, he is just by this tree with no pressure to run anywhere else in the search of money or work or any ‘greed’. “Went forth, pure in his heart, against the taint” (line 15) is a clear representation on how economy has no place next to the Yew-tree; he is prepared for the world but in his own thoughts, ways and reflections. Finally “whose eye / is never on himself” (51-52), is the best way to explain how the man was not attached to anything else rather than its communion with nature instead of its manipulation; in other words it is a pure description of his love and way of survival within it.
The man’s way of learning was by experience rather than by critical reflection, making his connection with nature, emotion and humanity much more powerful, rather than just an insensible and systematic way of seen things that represent the Enlightenment.
After reading “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” I find that it contrasts the Enlightenment sensibility mostly in regards to privacy, self-reflection, and nature. In the poem the man flees from society feeling neglected and tries to embrace his solitude in nature. Yet he cannot forget his time and he has been changed by it and by his pride. The poem suggests that having privacy and inward reflection is healing, “True dignity abides with him alone/ Who, in the silent hour of inward thought,” unlike the Enlightenment ideal that the way to happiness is through industriousness and working for the public good. This can also be seen in the beginning of the poem where the “Traveller” is beckoned to come and clear his mind, “if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves/ That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind.” Another significant contrast is view of harmony with nature being a source of wisdom. In the Enlightenment reason and religion are sources of wisdom but in the poem harmony with nature brings about “inward thought” and “true knowledge” which leads to love.