Is there evidence in "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" by William Wordsworth that the speaker regrets his loss of youth? Please explain.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker in this poem in no way regrets his loss of youth. He praises nature and recalls what joyful experiences he had in the countryside as a youngster. (For a moment we should remember that William Wordsworth was one of the first-generation Romantic poets. He was particularly disenchanted with society's interest in science, while forsaking nature. One theme consistently found in the poetry of the Romantics was the idealization and praise of nature.)

In "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," the speaker returns after five years. And although he has not seen this natural landscape in person, he has kept the memories of this place in his mind—with a vivid recollection of the places he has missed. They have buoyed him up "'mid the din / of towns and cities."

Though absent long,

These forms of beauty have not been to me,

As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,

And passing even into my purer mind

With tranquil restoration:—feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure...

This lets the reader know that in the midst of "civilization," these images have remained. He recalls with clarity his youth, running through the greenery, hearing the waterfall, seeing the colors of nature—how it fed his soul:

For nature then...

...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...


The speaker declares that he remembers more of nature than of who he was "back then." However, the speaker is clear that he does not regret the loss of his young years and the pleasure he found in nature then, for he believes he has been more than compensated in other ways because he is older.

That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts

Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,

Abundant recompense. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth...

The narrator speaks of a deeper appreciation of nature in his "older" years, speaking of things that interfere with inner-peace—the "still, sad music of humanity" has often subdued his spirit, but something that has brought him pleasure as it can only for one older is...

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts...

These thoughts have enabled him to become aware of something greater than the singular elements of nature ("ocean," "air," "sky")—something that run through all things in the world, including people:

...a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused,

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean, and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,

A motion and a spirit, that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought,

And rolls through all things.

The speaker notes that nature has always been at his center—a part of his human and spiritual essence:

...of all the mighty world...

well pleased to recognize

In nature and the language of the sense,

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,

The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul

Of all my moral being.

Youth is not what the speaker desires, but nature itself.

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