This work, perhaps one of Wordsworth's most famous poems, takes as its theme the relations between man and nature and how man perceives nature. This is an autobiographical poem in that Wordsworth looks back and reflects on how his relationship with nature has changed over the years. He explores how perceived reality is something that is dependent upon the quality of the audience, and for him this is something that has definitely developed over the years. This is why the poem explores how his younger self had a very different impression to Tintern Abbey and the nature surrounding it than his present, older and maturer self. Now, a few years on, he is less passionate in his perception of nature and more philosophical:
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 recompence. 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...
This quote explores the difference between the speaker's first impressions of nature, which he describes as being based around a primary sensory response, as indicated by the "aching joys" and "dizzy raptures." Instead of this more passionate response, the older Wordsworth now looks upon nature and can hear the "still, sad music of humanity," showing that he has suffered a loss in some ways but overall he has experienced what he considers a gain in his more philosophical approach to nature. The theme of this poem is therefore the dynamic and changing relationship with nature and what nature can teach and show us about life.