Wordsworth Reading Guide: “Tintern Abbey”
Reminder: The handout on Reading Actively, especially the material on reading poetry, will also be helpful to you as you work through Wordsworth’s poem. Because this is a poem in blank verse (unrhymed but metrical, with five “feet” or beats to a line) you will want to pay particular attention to line and stanza breaks, noting where Wordsworth places them and what relationship they bear to the syntax of his poem.
Wordsworth’s poem “Lines, Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting The Banks Of The Wye During A Tour. July 13, 1798,” is usually just referred to as “Tintern Abbey.” But what effect does the very specific placing (both physical and chronological) in the title achieve?
Tintern Abbey itself is a ruin, just over the border from England into Wales. Both the Abbey itself and the surrounding countryside were beginning to be popular tourist destinations at the end of the 18th century. Where is Wordsworth situated in the poem, and how does the Abbey appear in it?
Wordsworth was born in 1770, and his sister Dorothy was born the following year. (They had three other siblings as well.) Their mother died in 1778, at which point the siblings were separated and sent to live with other relatives; William and Dorothy did not see each other for nine years. What does the poet accomplish with his address to his sister in the final stanza of the poem? What role does she play in his sense of himself?
Wordsworth is especially known for the use of memory, especially the memory of childhood, in his poetry. What is the relationship between memory and identity in this poem?
For more on Wordsworth, see this brief biographical sketch.
For more on Tintern Abbey, you can visit Cadw website of Welsh historic environment sites.