Ringgold- Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”


     And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity,                               60

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man                            70

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all.–I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love,                              80

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.–That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures.

        In this passage, Wordsworth reflects on the different ways in which he has viewed nature and in symbol, life, in his past and in the present.  In his current state of mind after his absence and travels to “towns and cities” (line 27), he recognizes that his mind is not the verdant bright mind it once was.  However, now that he is back at Tintern Abbey immersed in his memories, he feels at ease again and writes that “in this moment there is life and food for future years” (64-65).  This line is interesting because he uses the word “moment;” he is not talking directly about the landscape and its abundant fruits.   Rather, there is life and food in a figurative sense as a form of mental sustenance for people like Wordsworth who can build memories and search for self there as well.   

            Wordsworth writes that he was “more like a man flying from something that he dreads, than one who sought the thing he loved” (70-72).  He realizes that though there was pleasure in his boyhood adventure, there was also ignorance and not enough quiet observation.  The younger version of himself is someone Wordsworth “cannot paint” (75); he can’t remember having a fully realized identity.  Nature’s “colours and their forms…had no need of a remoter charm, By thought supplied” (79-82).  His younger form did not participate in any examination of nature or of self, no interest “Unborrowed from the eye” (83) and therefore seemingly breezed through his days with “animal movements” (74) not seeing anything beyond the surface of things. 

            We also see the word “love” in two places in this passage, and they appear to be contradictory on the surface.  In one instance as mentioned above, Wordsworth writes that he “bounded…Wherever nature lead: more like a man flying from something that he dreads, than one who sought the thing he loved” (68-72).  Later, his same younger self was overcome by “a feeling and a love” (80) for the rocks, mountains, and landscape around him.  These two uses of the same idea exhibit the maturation of Wordsworth; as an older self he is able to view these memories and see that this “love” (in the second phrase) was a shallow love because it was not accompanied by any deeper thought.  With this in mind, the usage of the word “loved” in the former phrase is how Wordsworth is able to see the situation now; since his younger self had no true understanding of a love for anything, he would not have known the feeling of seeking something he loved. 

            All in all, this excerpt displays Wordsworth’s self-examination of the pros and cons of a younger vision of life versus an older one, his present view.  In his memory, Wordsworth had a zest and an “appetite” (80) for the “coarser pleasures” (73) of nature.  However, these strong feelings when not supported by thought or further examination are described as “aching joys” (84) and “dizzy raptures” (85).   Now instead, though Wordsworth has “recognitions dim and faint, And somewhat of a sad perplexity,” (59-60), he is still able to find pleasure in the same sights and feelings as before, and though he is more grounded to the realities of humanity, life and death, he still “dare[s] to hope” (65).

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