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“Tintern Abbey” (1798) was Wordsworth’s final and climactic contribution to the volume of Lyrical Ballads. The scene of Wordsworth’s walk was a destroyed abbey, which in 1798, was frequented by gypsies and homeless people. The Industrial Revolution was beginning to pollute the Wye River. Looking back, the poet announces that in his youth, five years previously, nature was to him “all in all.” This line explicitly equates a supreme being with nature, that they were one in the same and not separate entities. This is the precise definition of pantheism (pan=all, theos=God (Greek)). Now, he has come to appreciate “the still sad music of humanity.” At poem’s end, he addresses his sister, standing before him. She is a mirror or repetition of what he once was. The poem’s main subjects are remembering and recollecting through the theme that God is all around us and even in our remembrances of a divine nature.
The speaker’s argument is subtle. He believes that a spirit
both in and beyond Nature speaks to human beings at special or
heightened moments. It is a two-way street: The individual must be
willing both to see and listen, knowing that eyes and ears also help
create the experience that allows the speaker to find this “presence”
in the world. The setting is therefore fully integrated into the speaker’s philosophy. Without the two-way relationship (the speaker bringing his thoughts, experiences, and responsiveness to the scene; Nature providing the beauty from which many of his intellectual and emotional responses spring), the philosophy would not have its coherence and emotional power.
Nature, the speaker believes, has the power to create scenes
of beauty which, in their overwhelming power and effect upon the
mind and senses, bring the receptive viewer to a state in which “we
are laid asleep / In body, and become a living soul,” (lines 45–46) and penetrate to the essence of reality and of life itself. The “cheerful faith” (line 133), shared by the speaker and his “friend” (i.e., his sister) is that the Spirit of Nature will never fail to give this joy if people continue to love Her. With the strength given by this happiness, people can withstand life’s disappointments or human betrayals, and they will see that everything around them is “full of blessings” (line 134). This is the very nature of Pantheism.
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