Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Thrace to Topeka >> Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey

nature, poem, lines, wordsworths, simply and ode

TINTERN ABBEY, is at the same time intensely subjective, and hence is al most as lyrical in essence as Wordsworth's so called 'Ode on Immortality,' with the ideas of which it has so much in common. The two in both thought and style are Wordsworth's great est poems; each complements the other; and taken together they form the locus classicus of the Wordsworthian faith and doctrine. The Platonism that informs the 'Ode,' though less fundamental to 'Tintern Abbey,' yet colors the latter throughout.

Thepoet distinguishes three successive i periods in his attitude toward nature: his first. and merely animal delight, grows into a sen suous appreciation of natural beauty, and this in turn finally develops into a moral and con templative attitude and brings the "philosophic mind" that identifies nature, man and God (compare

poem, taken singly, was new to the world; but certainly never before had they been fused into a whole and stated with such impressiveness and splendor as the utterance of one great per sonality. The style of the poem, though it un deniably drops toward the end in the poet's ad dress to his sister, is in the main superb. Here is Wordsworth's "grand manner," as in the 'Ode,) no less appropriate and perfect in its way than the beautiful simplicity of his 'Mi chael' (q.v). No other of his poems contains so many of his most felicitous lines, such as the still, sad music of humanity ", " the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love", 'nature never did betray the heart that loved her".

Its faith in the entire beneficence of nature is of course the obvious weakness of the poem considered philosophically. How far 19th cen tury theories and discoveries have invalidated its teaching cannot be discussed here. It is doubtful whether the average reader is at all affected by Wordsworth's failure to see the other side of nature, by his lack of scientific vision. Here he speaks simply as a seer; and the passage in which he declares his sense of the Power "whose dwelling is the light of setting suns" is perhaps as moving and sublime as any in the whole range of English poetry, as incom parable, at least in style, as anything in Shakes peare or Shelley. Whether considered as the self-revealing utterance of a great personality, or as the statement of a doctrine that has im mensely influenced the course of modern poetic thought, or simply as an example of magnificent diction, 'Tintern Abbey' has a permanent place among the supreme achievements of modern poetry.