What do you think to be the central theme or themes of “Tintern Abbey”
William Unsworth, the author of “Tintern Abbey”, was a pantheist from the 18th Century, who had strong religious and spiritual outlook. The poem deals with the ideas of the nature, time and imagination; in an attempt of expressing and conveying the poet’s perplex and unsure beliefs that these important aspects make up a “one living web”. Amidst the poet’s narration, we encounter him contemplating the central themes of “Tintern Abbey”, the nature, time and the memories of Unsworth.
To fully understand the purpose and themes of the poem, we must also endeavor to closely analyze its structure as well as acknowledging the versification, such as diction and punctuality. Unsworth’s perplexity is conveyed in a prosaic and a pendulum-like structure, where the poem swings back and forth between two realms of idealism and reality. In the modern world we tend to congregate in a heavily industrialized urban, for economical benefits, inevitably resulting us to seek refugee to nature, – the nature where contingencies, obligations and the social context is temporarily absent and forgotten.
According to the poem, Unsworth also believed that the nature possessed miraculous abilities to endow him with “sensations sweet” at times of his “weariness” and provide “tranquil restoration” to mankind. However it is subtly conveyed also, that the nature has formidable power, which dominate over man. The abbey, which is ironically absent from the scene, works as a symbolism of multiple principles. Symbolic of the destructive power of time, while conveying the nature’s supremacy over man and man’s creation. Inevitably as time pass, the abbey -a great creation of man – becomes a part of the nature.
As Unsworth being a pantheist from the 18th Century, he believed that nature was in direct relationship to God. He alleged that the healing power and the devastating domination of the nature was the act of God himself. Unsworth expresses the healing power of nature, with great eloquence and subtlety through the structure of the poem. “Five years have past; five summers, with the length /Of five long winters! And again I hear… ” (1st Stanza, 1st Line) From line one to five, the lines are abruptly cut with punctuation to provide the feel of caesurae.
The caesurae and the pauses in the line imply that the poet is in the progress of deep contemplation, conveying that the “soothing” environment of the nature permit intense meditation, unlike the hectic urban cities. The undeniable acceleration of time is conveyed to be a great adversary to man. The poet states that time diminish man’s capacity to respond to nature, through the sense of passion and emotion. The bygone times when the poet was an adolescent and innocent, he had strong direct relationship with the nature, it was the poet’s “appetite; a feeling and a love. Also at times of his robust youth, he enjoyed the nature, physically and mentally; running free in the nature with “animal movements…. ”
Now considerable time have passed since his youth, “Five years passed… ” making it more intricate for him to respond to nature with passion, “all its aching joys are now no more. ” However as a compensation of age, man is granted with wisdom and memories, which allow Unsworth to enjoy the nature in a different way. (“from joy to joy… “) He can now “look on nature, not as in the hour / Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity. Also he is enabled to contemplate “elevated thought[s]… ” of the light of the setting suns, the ocean, the air itself, and even in the mind of man, which seems to him as “a motion and a spirit, that impels. ” An example of the mature version of joyance is when Unsworth encounters the “wreaths of smoke… ” If he were still an adolescent with “thoughtless mind”, he would have ignored this. However, the mature poet speculates if the smoke is from “vagrant dwellers…. / Or of some Hermit’s cave.
A hermit is a conventional figure from the 18th Century, his appearance in the poem convey Unsworth’s high form of contemplation and wisdom, gained through time and age. At stanza five, Unsworth admonishes his sister, Dorothy to never lose touch with the nature for her own good. “My dear, dear sister! And this prayer I make / Knowing that Nature never did betray…. / ’tis her privilege… ” Time a great adversary to man, ironically provide man with numerous qualities that are valued by all; the great wisdom and the forever lasting memories of pleasures in life.
In the text, an “unremembered pleasure” is introduced which might have been responsible of Unsworth’s “act of kindness and of love. ” Unremembered may imply unnoticed; there are many forms of pleasure around us that we are not aware of. Even though, we live in a modernized world, we have easy access to flawless nature, around us and we should not take this as granted. Imagination is what enables our world to develop into an enhanced place, without man’s ability to imagine, there would be no improvement, or important revolutions in our lives.
Imagination is the faculty capable of penetrating the beneath surface, the beauty of the world to its heart. However imagination is such an influential and powerful tool, that we may lose touch with the reality, leading us to, too idealistic thoughts. Usnworth who is a Romantic poet, swings back and forth between two worlds; – the ideal and the real to express his perplexity and beliefs. In the second stanza, he begins to imagine that nature can make a man into a better person, with purer mind with moralistic value.
Nature with an educative power, such idealism is sustained throughout the second stanza, “we see into the life of things. As the poet soars the loftier speculations of nature, he feels the danger of losing his touch with the reality. This is the reason why Unsworth discusses the ascertained matter and his personal experiences in the third stanza, to regain his grasp with the real world. However when the poet’s vision collapses back to the real world, he is not the man he used to be, but different in great subtlety. The experiencing of another realm has changed the poet himself. An example is this is, after the poet’s idealistic vision, he becomes aware of his sister, Dorothy for the first time.
The degree of imagination is also conveyed by the diction, such as “steep” and “lofty”. All the themes discussed in the poem, are in relationship to God. Unsworth being a pantheist, he believed that everything was a form of God. First of all nature’s ability to govern man and man’s creation can be seen as the act of God himself. Also according to the poem, the imagination, “lofty thoughts” can cleanse and salvage the world by getting rid of “evil tongues”, “rash judgments” and “the sneers of selfish”, which are again the act and will of God. Lastly the aspect of time is God’s tool to progress the world he created.
These subtle relationships prove the poet’s pantheism and his religious and spiritual outlook. Tintern Abbey written by the romantic poet William Unsworth, conveys multiple themes which are fully developed through the versification and structure of the poem. The themes are the nature, time and imagination, which are all imperative values in our lives. The poet conveys with sufficient eloquence, the dominance of the nature, the ability of time bringing and taking away treasured qualities, also the imagination, which is capable of both development and entrapment into a world of idealism.