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In years that bring the philosophic mind.
I only have relinquished one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
The clouds that gather round the setting sun
NOTES TO TINTERN ABBEY.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
TINTERN ABBEY is a famous ecclesiastical ruin on the right bank of the Wye in Monmouthshire. It was founded in 1131. Though the Abbey is mentioned in the title, it is not referred to at all in the poem itself.
The poem was composed in a single day. In the words of Myers, "The lines written above Tintern Abbey have become, as it were, the locus classicus, or consecrated formulary of the Wordsworthian faith. They say in brief what it is the work of the poet's biographer to say in detail."
1. Five summers, etc. The poet had visited the same spot five years before, during the restless period that followed his graduation at Cambridge. 4. Once again, etc.- - As we have already learned, Wordsworth's love of nature was intense. Having once seen this beautiful spot, he could not forget it. In the following lines of this paragraph, he dwells with loving tenderness on the various objects of beauty- the lofty cliffs, the secluded landscape, the cottages, orchards, hedgerows, –
"And wreaths of smoke Sent up, in silence, from among the trees."
27. I have owed to them, etc. Wordsworth cared but little for books; nature was his great teacher. Nature filled him with feelings of deep tranquillity and delight, and taught him something of the significance of this "unintelligible world."
65. There is life and food, etc. The beautiful landscape would not fade from his memory. Both its forms and its teachings would continue to abide with him as a blessing.
67. From what I was, etc. - On his first visit, he had not yet learned the meaning of nature. Its forms and scenes filled him with a wild delight, as is beautifully described in the following lines, but they brought him no lesson of wisdom.
89. For I have learned, etc. Here we find the soul of Wordsworth's poetry. Nature and humanity are in fundamental harmony. An invisible presence pervades all things, both animate and inanimate. His highest aim is to live in sympathy with that divine presence, and to make it
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
115. For thou art, etc. - His sister Dorothy. Her sympathy with nature was scarcely less than that of the poet himself. See sketch of Wordsworth. 126. For she can so inform, etc. - The poet realized in his own character what he here describes. Calmness of soul, loftiness of thought, and
"Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
these are traits that make Wordsworth's life so beautiful.
138. And in after-years, etc. — The poet expects that his sister will pass through the same experience as himself; that her wild ecstasies in the presence of nature will be sobered by reflection and intelligent sympathy with the soul of things.
NOTES TO INTIMATIONS OF IMMORTALITY.
(The numbers refer to lines.)
IN addition to what has been said in the sketch of Wordsworth, the following account given by him of the poem will form a valuable introduction. He says: "This was composed during my residence at Town-End, Grasmere. Two year at least passed between the writing of the first four stanzas and the remaining part. To the attentive and competent reader the whole sufficiently explains itself, but there may be no harm in adverting here to particular feelings or experiences of my own mind on which the structure of the poem partly rests. Nothing was more difficult for me in childhood than to admit the notion of death as a state applicable to my own being. I have elsewhere said,
"A simple child
And feels its life in every limb,
But it was not so much from the source of animal vivacity that my difficulty came, as from a sense of the indomitableness of the spirit within me. I used to brood over the stories of Enoch and Elijah, and almost persuade myself that, whatever might become of others, I should be translated in something of the same way to heaven. With a feeling congenial to this, I was often unable to think of external things as having external existence, and
I communed with all that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my own immaterial nature. Many times, while going to school, have I grasped at a wall or tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality. At that time I was afraid of mere processes. In later periods of life I have deplored, as we have all reason to do, a subjugation of an opposite character, and have rejoiced over the remembrances, as is expressed in the lines "Obstinate Questionings," etc. To that dream-like vividness and splendor which invests objects of sight in childhood, every one, I believe, if he would look back, could bear testimony, and I need not dwell upon it here; but having in the poem regarded this as a presumptive evidence of a prior state of existence, I think it right to protest against the conclusion which has given pain to some good and pious persons that I meant to inculcate such a belief. It is far too shadowy a notion to be recommended to faith as more than an element in our instincts of immortality. But let us bear in mind that though the idea is not advanced in Revelation, there is nothing there to contradict it, and the fall of man presents an analogy in its favor. Accordingly, a pre-existent state has entered into the creed of many nations, and among all persons acquainted with classic literature is known as an ingredient in Platonic philosophy. Archimedes said that he could move the world if he had a point whereon to rest his machine. Who has not felt the same aspirations as regards his own mind? Having to wield some of its elements when I was impelled to write this poem on the immortality of the soul, I took hold of the notion of pre-existence as having sufficient foundation in humanity for authorizing me to make for my purpose the best use of it I could as a poet." 6. Of yore the childhood days of the poet. The usual sense is of old
9. The things, etc. - Compare with this Shelley's "A Lament:
Tabor a small drum.
25. The cataracts, etc. The poet had in mind the numerous cascades of the beautiful Lake District.
28. Fields of sleep. —The time is morning, and the quiet of night has not yet been broken by the noises of the day.
37. Ye blessed creatures
the objects of nature, animate and inanimate, mentioned in the preceding stanza.
39. Jubilee joyfulness, exultation. From the Hebrew yobel, a blast of a trumpet, a shout of joy, through the Lat. and Fr.
41. Coronal wreath or garland as worn at Roman and Grecian banquets.
55. Pansy = a species of violet. From Fr. pensée, a thought; "thus, it is the flower of thought or remembrance."
59. Our birth, etc. — In this stanza the poet explains the source of that glory which invests objects in childhood. He adopts for the time the Platonic doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul, and makes the glory of nature as seen in childhood a reflection of the splendor of our previous state of existence. As we grow older objects are apt to become commonplace. Compare the lines of Hood:
"I remember, I remember,
The fir-trees dark and high;
It was a childish ignorance;
But now it's little joy
To know I'm farther off from heaven
An interval of more than two years came between the writing of the fourth and the fifth stanza. The transition seems a little abrupt.
73. Nature's priest = one living in close fellowship with nature, discerning its beauty and understanding its secrets.
82. Homely nurse = this world; called homely in comparison with "that imperial palace," whence her foster-child has come.
Compare the following lines from Pope's " Essay on Man: "
"Behold the child, by Nature's kindly law,
Pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw;
Scarfs, garters, gold, amuse his riper stage,