Compare and contrast "Tintern Abbey" to "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," using two characteristics of Romanticism.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of most profound characteristics of Romanticism is the idea of a story or narrative within human consciousness.  Romantic thinkers like Wordsworth and Coleridge believed that poetry was meant to "see into the life of things."  In Lyrical Ballads, both men articulated what they saw to be the essence of Romantic poetry: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” This idea of recollection is essential in forming how one perceives consciousness.  Romantic thinkers felt that this was an essential construction of human identity and artistic purpose.  

Both poems embrace this particular idea.  In Wordsworth's opening, there is much in way of "emotion recollected in tranquility."  The opening lines speak to this aspect:  "Five years have past; five summers, with the length/ Of five long winters!  and again I hear/ These waters, rolling from their mountain- springs/ With a sweet inland murmur."  The recollection element is seen in the time that has passed, something that Wordsworth feels is defining in his identity.  In Coleridge's opening, the nature of recollection is seen in how the mariner is placed in a position of storytelling:  

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
The opening of the poem reflects how the Mariner intends to speak a particular story. He wishes to engage in a recollection that will help to bring meaning.  It is in this manner in which both poems articulate a critical aspect of Romanticism.
 
In both poems, there is a traditional lauding of nature within the Romantic exploration.  In Coleridge's poem, the natural world occupies central importance.  The mariner's story takes place on the sea, where the natural world holds much in way of mystery and meaning.  Coleridge uses the natural setting to explore aspects of human identity.  Human beings cannot be understood without the natural world in Coleridge's poem.  In the process, there is a praising of nature, an essential characteristic of Romanticism.  Wordsworth sees the natural world as essential for human identity.  Tintern Abbey represents the power of the natural world upon the individual.  The natural world is what enables Wordsworth to examine his own life, providing the portal through which his own being is understood.  Nature is how individuals come to understand who they are and the person they will be.  In both poems, nature is shown to be extremely important to one's being in the world.
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