The Influence of Nature

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.


Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth

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.

What makes Wordsworth revolutionary?

In William Wordsworth’s poem titled, “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”, he begins the poem by talking about how long it’s been since he ventured back to where he last felt truly free and relaxed, stating, “..five summers… with the length of five long winters!”(line 1) Right from the beginning, you can tell he really cares about nature and the natural beauty of all living things. Throughout the poem, Wordsworth talks a lot about nature, stating the “secluded scene impress…the landscape with the quiet of the sky.”(lines 6-8) I think what makes this poem revolutionary is not only the language and imagery drawn, but also the formatting. This poem is formatted more like a story than a poem. This is revolutionary because it does not follow the ‘normal’ poem standards. Especially during a time where a lot of creative outlets were limited and regulated by others. Most poems during this time were cut up into short stanzas and often rhymed. Here, the stanzas are long, often run-on sentences that need to be read repeatedly in order to understand the meaning. Moreover, I believe the meaning of this poem is much deeper than just a wholesome, naturistic view to what he saw on his tour with his sister at the River Wye. Wordsworth wants to be free again. Like a child. One key portion of this poem that I believe exemplifies his desire to turn back the clock and be young once more starts on line 135. He says, “Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk….: and in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be mature Into a sober pleasure…Thy memory be as a dwelling place For all sweet sounds and harmonies” (lines 135-144). I think what he is saying here is that no matter where you go in life, you will never forget the places that make you feel free and let you forget your worries. Even if it’s 10, 20 years later. In this poem, I think Wordsworth is recounting the last time he truly felt free and during this time, (1798), with the French Revolution about over, I think most people in Europe were used to those of a higher class (the wealthy, the elite…) telling them what to feel and how to feel because this way of living had worked for so long. The fact that there was someone who spent time talking about their own experiences and didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear is radical and ultimately revolutionary.

Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree

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.

Solitude and Value in “Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree”

There are many instances where Lines contrasts the ideals of the Enlightenment. One such moment is found in lines 20 through 29. In these lines, starting with “And with the food of pride sustained is soul – In solitude,” there is more focus on the individual self than with his place in society. The subject “nourishe(s)” a “morbid pleasure” and  in this, we are drawn to his internal workings instead of whatever economic value he may have around him. This “morbid pleasure” would be ignored or cast out of attention by the ideals of the Enlightenment, but it is seen as a source of wisdom in this Romantic piece. The last lines are a direct attack against the Enlightenment teachings. The subject is said to have an “unfruitful life” and yet the subject is also seen as wise to have this life. This type of Romantic rhetoric attacks the Enlightenment idea of the self only having value as an economic unit. Instead, a contemplative, internal, and “unfruitful” life makes one valuable.

“Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” Analysis in relation to Enlightenment ideas

Wordsworth’s “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” addresses the Romantic idea of seeking peace through immersion in nature, an idea not concurrent with the industrious ideals of the Enlightenment thinkers. However, Wordsworth doesn’t wholeheartedly believe that seclusion from civilization is the most fulfilling way to live life; he acknowledges the pleasure of admiring nature (“he then would gaze / On the more distant scene; how lovely ’tis”) but ultimately recognizes the beauty of human interaction (“Nor, that time / Would he forget those beings, to whose minds / Warm from the labour of benevolence”). Initially, the poem seems to solely contradict the notion that time should be spent working towards a realistic goal as opposed to pondering nature, but in actuality it contradicts something deeper than that. To the Enlightenment thinkers, each citizen is an economic unit with a value tied strictly to monetary output, but, as illustrated through this poem, Romantic writers believe people are much more than the number on a price tag. Wordsworth affirms that mankind is a beautiful, essential part of nature by stating that “The world, and man himself” become “a scene of kindred loveliness”.  “Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” rejects the Enlightenment idea that people are merely commodities to be used for economic profit, and instead admires them as unique members of the natural world.

“Lines left upon a seat in a Yew-tree”, by William Wordsworth

This poem entitled “Left upon a seat in a Yew-tree” by William Wordsworth, is one of the first British romantic poems, a movement which was built in reaction against the Enlightenment. The first striking element which contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values is the emphasis on nature. Indeed, nature is in the center of the poem. First of all, the main character of this poem seems to be not a human being but a “yew-tree” on which the man is sitting. Moreover, the semantic field of nature is omnipresent in this text. We can actually notice that everytime a natural subject is mentioned, it is along with a meliorative adjective. We can quote, for instance : “No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb” (L3). The melioratives adjectives used here are “sparkling” and “verdant”. They are both used in order to underline the beauty of nature. But above all, nature appears as a supreme element with which humans are supposed to be unified to. Indeed, the final morality implies that humans are not supposed to be alone but to be in harmony with nature. In this poem, William Wordsworth condemns the man who saw nothing but himself, and who decided to live in his own lonely world, ignoring every other form of life : “Stranger ! Henceforth be warned ; and know, that pride […] is littleness” (L 46 and 48). The use of the noun “littleness” emphasises the greatness of nature, compared to humans. Thus, this general emphasis on nature contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values, which advocates the mastery of nature by human beings.

The second striking element which contrasts with the Enlightenment’s values is the emphasis on feelings. Indeed, many feelings are itemized, good ones or bad ones : “jealousy” (L16) ; “pride” (L20) ; “pleasure” (L28) ; “joy” (L39). But the supreme feeling, advocated by the author, is actually love. Indeed, it is the first feeling quoted, but also the last one. It is considered as the best feeling a man can have : “instructed that true knowledge leads to love” (L56). It is not only related to the good but also to the truth, as if William Wordsworth knew the truth about life. This is also a typical romantic point of view, which is that the writer is supposed to deliver a message to mankind and has to be a guide for the people. Plus, the feeling of love is seen here as a global feeling, that not only humans but also animals can have : “what if these barren boughs the bee not loves” (L4). Here, love as a universal feeling reinforcing the idea of a vital harmony between human beings, animals and nature. The flood of feelings created by the author clearly contrasts with the cold writing style of the Enlightenment writers, who advocates reason (brain, head, body), instead of feelings (heart, soul).