In "Tintern Abbey," how does experience help Wordsworth rethink the value of innocence?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, the speaker revisits a place of great natural beauty that has been incredibly important to him. However, as he revisits it, he finds that his feelings about it and his awareness of what it represents to him have changed greatly as a result of the intervening years and the way that he has matured as a result. Although he recognises that he has now lost some of the first youthful excitement that he had when he visited Tintern Abbey as a young man, he does not regret this loss of innocence, because he believes that this loss has been more than balanced by the gaining of a maturer outlook on life and a deeper relationship with nature:

For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes

The still, sad music of humanity,

Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power

To chasten and subdue.

The speaker has seen that perhaps his view of nature and the joyful innocence it portrayed was not necessarily the most accurate view of the natural world that he could have formed. Now that he is older and more mature, he is able to reflect on the way in which his relationship with nature is inextricably intertwined with the "still, sad music of humanity" that gives him a more sober outlook and understanding of life. Wordsworth is able to appreciate his new insights as being something that forms a worthy exchange for his innocent outlook that he has lost.

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