Genre: Greater Romantic Lyric. [complete text of poem]
Form, Meter, & Rhyme Scheme: 159 blank verse lines in five verse paragraphs.
1. The actual title of this piece is "Lines" — the rest is subtitle. Wordsworth frequently gives us very precise information about the circumstances in which he composed his poems. Why does he locate this poem so precisely in time and space?
2. Compare this poem based on Wordsworth's contemplation of the landscape near Tintern Abbey with Keats's ode based on his contemplation of a Grecian Urn (text with notes). Of course the poems differ, but what differences can you attribute to the difference in type of subject? (You might also compare "Tintern Abbey" with a poem like "Ode to a Nightingale," where the object is natural rather than a manmade work of art.)
3. Throughout the first half of the poem, we hear about the poet's joy in revisiting this particular site and what his recollection of it has meant to him during the PAST five years. Now he stands there again,
not only with the sense
Of PRESENT pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For FUTURE years.
But this re-visiting turns out not to be a simple recharging of his esthetic batteries. Time has passed, and he has changed. Try to summarize line 66-110: what has he lost, and what is the "abundant recompense" for that loss?
4. "I have learned/ To look on nature, not as in the hour/ Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes/ The still sad music of humanity . . . ." He looks on nature and hears the music of humanity? How? What are the intermediate steps in this association? What is that music?
5. "Romantic writers, though nature poets, were humanists above all, for they dealt with the non-human only insofar as it is the occasion for the activity which defines man: thought, the process of intellection." Do you think this statement is true of Wordsworth? Which poems would you use to illustrate your argument?
6. In both "Tintern Abbey" and "Dejection," the last verse paragraph speaks of the poet's most intimate personal relationship. Why? What has such an association got to do, in either poem, with "the shaping power of imagination"? Is there anything in the poem that accounts for this movement?
7. John Stuart Mill credits this poem by Wordsworth with teaching him that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation, and that such contemplation does not separate one from mankind but felicitates an interest in common feelings and the common destiny of human beings. Do you find this to be true of the poem? Which sections do you think he was talking about? Might this have something to do with Hartley's associationism ?
Incorporated in the Victorian Web July 2000