Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

Like Samuel Taylor Coleridge in “Eolian Harp” and Percy Bysshe Shelley in “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” and “Mont Blanc,” William Wordsworth explores ideas of a universal spirit that connects humanity to the natural world. The source for this spirit, however deviates from what Shelley and Coleridge suggest, Shelley’s source being intellectual beauty and Coleridge’s being God. Wordsworth, in his meditations on the landscape around Tintern Abbey,  identifies the natural world itself as a divine place. To Wordsworth, the natural landscape takes the place of religion, becoming itself a means of moral instruction and spirituality:

In nature and the language of the sense,/ The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,/ The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul/ Of all my moral being./ Nor, perchance,/ If I were not thus taught should I the more/ Suffer my genial spirits to decay.

Perhaps the poem’s title itself reinforces Wordsworth’s decision to replace organized religion with nature as spiritual and moral guide. The poem is set not in the Abbey, but a few miles above it. Wordsworth thus comes to these realizations not among a religiously spiritual place, but in the landscape surrounding. Wordsworth is humbled not by the splendor of the Abbey, but by the splendor of nature.

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