Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” and “Tintern Abbey”
Wordsworth’s poems initiated the Romantic era by emphasizing feeling, instinct, and pleasure above the formality and mannerism of the preceding neo-classical style. The themes that run through Wordsworth’s poetry and the language and imagery he uses to embody those themes remain consistent throughout most of his works. One of the loveliest and most famous in the Wordsworth canon “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” which addresses the familiar subjects of nature and memory with a particularly simple musical eloquence.
Other of his works express these themes in a more complex manner, such as “Tintern Abbey” a monologue which references a specific landscape that the speaker gains access to through the recollection his past experiences with the scene. Although different in structure, both poems embody strong romantic ideals through the use of clever poetry techniques and conventions, with a repeated emphasis on the importance of nature to an individual’s intellectual and spiritual development.
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As Romantic poet, Wordsworth had a strong affinity towards the rebellion against the industrial revolution and strove to revert back to the “bliss” of nature. His fascination with the natural world was not so much to do with nature itself, but rather the “divine” power it encompasses and its relationship with the human consciousness. “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” follows the speaker’s journey of spiritual and emotional maturity as he learns to appreciate this ‘presence’ that exists only within the natural world.
The description of this process is represented by a natural scene where the speaker, plants and the surroundings become united. Before the speaker establishes this connection with nature, he describes a state of solitude, which he likens to wandering “lonely as a cloud”. As he draws upon memories of his childhood experiences with the natural world, the choice of imagery and symbolism in the poem become brighter and more energetic as a reflection of the speaker’s mental state. For example, the daffodils in the poem are joyously personified as “tossing their heads in spritely dance. Such use of personification throughout the poem allows humanity and nature to be seen as equal the fact Wordsworth shows himself and nature as interchangeable signifies his spiritual connection to the natural world. The moments of vision that are the source of some of Wordsworth’s best poetry occur when he has a heightened sense of this unity. At such moments, he responds not to forms, shapes and colours of natural objects but to an inner force which permeates the natural world is felt within himself also.
For instance, “Tintern Abbey” begins as a landscape poem but as the poem progresses, it becomes evident that the subject of the poem is not just the beauty of the nature surrounding Tintern Abbey, but rather the speaker’s personal experiences that establish his connection with it, which he describes as “A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things, all objects of all thought, And rolls through all things. ” The structure and meter of the poem contribute to the sense of harmony that the speaker is depicting among man and the natural world.
The repetition of the word “and” connects every aspect of creation with a smooth pulsing rhythm, discouraging the traditional choppy style of reading poetry. Nearly all of the thoughts carry over to the next line, causing the poem to be read in a continuous manner, a reflection of the persona’s attitude towards the environment. The theme of memory and the past is portrayed in the structure of both ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ and ‘Tintern Abbey’ which mutually employ a constant back and forth shift between the past and present.
This is a crucial aspect of Wordsworth’s poetry, for it is through use of memory he is able to gain access to his spiritual connection with Nature. For instance, in the closing stanza of ‘i Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,?we find the speaker of the poem reminiscing in the pleasure he felt in his heart when reminded of the daffodils. He feels happy when in the company of Nature, whether ‘she’ is physically present or merely an image of his ‘inward eye’ – a metaphor for his imagination that he draws upon to reproduce the joy of the event and remember the spiritual wisdom that it provided.
Such instances of memory and tranquility attained through this appreciation of Nature are also found throughout “Tintern Abbey,” which similarly portrays a sense of time lapse that the speaker makes between his former self and his present state of mind. One can term this comparison of the past and present as “two consciousness. ” There is a sad perplexity surrounding Wordsworth which compels him to ponder upon the transformation he has under gone, and he is unable to feel those same feelings he had felt five years ago.
In the presence of the ‘beauteous forms?of Nature, he feels insignificant and he goes into a transcendental state of mind. Wordsworth feels comforted through the memory of the “sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart” that move him into a pensive mood and allow him to reconnect with Nature. by the height of spirituality he reaches through the sheer use of memory and imagination. Wordsworth sees nature as a place of introspection, a place where he can be at peace. We have seen that Wordsworth loves nature not just for its own sake, but for the pleasurable memories and feelings it evokes.
He worships nature for its ‘divine’ powers, such as the way it enables him to travel back through time and it’s ability to comfort him in times of strife. The context surrounding these ideas mean they are still extremely relevant to the current day. They were written as a protest aganst the environmental damage that occurred from the Industrial Revolution, a period which is reminiscent of the ecological issues present in the world today, such as global warming. Many scientists and ecologists have recently taken the lead in trying to persuade us of this lethal threat to the natural world by an appeal of facts.
However, it is proving unlikely that merely to know facts is enough to bring about change, because although the 21st century is going to be controlled by science and advanced technology, the basic human need for love, imagination and spirituality remains. In the midst of this fast paced, materialistic world, the importance of such qualities are often forgotten about. Therefore, in order to salvage the degrading earth, we need to draw upon the ideals of the great romantic poets (such as William Wordsworth) to rediscover this broken connection between man and the natural world.