On: William Wordsworth

In, the poem, “Tintern Abbey”

  • There is Wordsworth’s realization of God in nature
    • got sensuous delight in it- probably the only sensuality in his poetry especially in contrast to Byron, Keats, and Shelley
      • Tintern Abbey impressed him most when he had first visited this place.
        • again come to the same place where there are lofty cliffs, the plots of cottage ground, orchards groves and copses.

‘In his poetry Wordsworth reveals his own response to nature and the relationship between nature and human kind’
Romanticism was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied strongly in the arts, particularly in the world of literature and poetry, which was heavily influenced by the work of William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth’s poetry transcends time, teaching modern readers just as he taught the people of the 18th century about the power of nature and its importance in our lives. In his poetry, he reveals his own response to nature and the relationship between nature and human kind. The poems which I was particularly struck by are ‘To My Sister’, ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’, ‘Skating’ and ‘Tintern Abbey’.

One of the most uplifting of Wordsworth’s poems is ‘To My Sister’, which he wrote to his sister Dorothy. The poem expresses the poet’s love for his sister as well as his love for nature and his belief that there is a divine aspect to nature. In the poem, Wordsworth describes the beauty of ‘the first mild day of March’, which ‘seems a sense of joy to yield’. He pleads with his sister to leave her tasks and books and to join him outside. He believes that nature has much more to teach than what one can learn in books, and that that ‘one moment now may give us more than years of toiling reason’.

In a time of revolution, Wordsworth realised, where many others did not, that true beauty lay not in technological advances or industrial development, but in the world of nature. I was particularly struck by this idea and found that it is as relevant to modern readers as it was to those who lived hundreds of years ago. There is an interconnectedness between nature and humankind, ‘from earth to man, from man to earth’, which cannot be matched. Wordsworth effectively depicts the importance of appreciating nature and the need to forget the things around us in order to fully understand its beauty.
‘Then come, my Sister! Come, I pray,
With speed put on you woodland dress;
And bring no book: for this one day
We’ll give to idleness’

In contrast to ‘To My Sister’, where Wordsworth almost seems to shun modern life, he recognises the beauty of the city in ‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’. This poem is unusual in the sense that romantic poets do not normally celebrate the beauty of a city, generally portraying the city as a place of loneliness and alienation. However, Wordsworth seems to realise that beauty can be found in every part of the world. He describes the ‘majesty’ of the city of London, which ‘like a garment, wear the beauty of the morning’. The hectic and ugly city which Wordsworth hates has disappeared, even ‘the houses seem asleep’, and has been replaced with a tranquil and peaceful scene where beauty can be found. This poem reminds us that peace and beauty are not confined to the world of nature, and that the beauty of nature can be represented in the ‘bright and glittering’ city as well as in the country side.

‘Composed Upon Westminster Bridge’ also highlights the importance of solitude. Wordsworth believed that great poetry was ‘emotion recollected in tranquillity’, and in this poem shows us that even amidst a seemingly hectic city landscape, one can find peace and tranquillity, and in turn find one’s place within the universe.

Wordsworth explored the theme of solitude throughout much of his poetry. In ‘Skating’, Wordsworth portrays the importance solitude, which he felt even as a young boy. ‘Skating’ is an autobiographical poem in which the poet describes his fascination with nature. He describes the ground, which is covered with ‘polished ice’ that reflects the starlight, leafless trees and echoing hillsides, the stars sparkling in the east as the ‘orange sky’ of the evening slowly fades.

In this poem, the poet is clearly still a carefree child, ‘heeding not the summons’ of his parents to come inside and skating so fast with his friends that it is as if they have ‘given [their] bodies to the wind’. However, even at this young age, Wordsworth felt a need for solitude, to ‘retire’ to the ‘silent bay’. It is clear that the poet had a very strong affinity with nature and sought comfort and solace in the world of nature. He shows that in order to find true peace, one must leave behind the people around them and take solace in the world of nature.
‘I stood and watched
Till I was tranquil as a dreamless sleep’

‘Tintern Abbey’ also describes Wordsworth’s boyhood relationship with nature, and how that relationship changed throughout the course of his life. His initial response to nature was animal-like and unthinking, as he delighted in the unconfined freedom of the countryside: ‘when like a roe I bounded o’er the mountains’. Gradually, Wordsworth fell in love with the sights and sounds of nature, delighting in its ‘aching joys’ and ‘dizzy raptures’.

While most of us do not go beyond this emotional or passionate response, Wordsworth’s relationship with nature deepened and matured, to the point where nature helped him to better understand the universe and his place within it. Through nature Wordsworth understands the harmony of the universe: God, man and nature are ‘deeply interfused’. He sees that the same divine spirit ‘rolls through all things’. While he still appreciates nature’s sensuous pleasures, it has in fact become his moral guide and spiritual guardian, ‘the anchor of [his] purest thoughts’.

Through his poetry, Wordsworth shows us the beauty of nature and its ability to teach, to comfort and to heal. He encourages us to open our eyes and minds to the power and beauty of the world of nature. By sharing his insights with us, he helps us to better understand ourselves and our place within this world.

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About Milka

I watched "The Shining" one day and then started referring to movies as "films."
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