What elements of Romanticism do you find in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey" and Coleridge's "Frost at Midnight"?

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The first two elements I notice are solitude and connection with and meditation on nature. Other Romantic themes are nostalgia and hope for the future. These themes are all interconnected through one of Romanticism’s major themes which is the connection between humanity and nature, or imagination and the world.

In “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” the ruined abbey invokes a simpler time in the past. The speaker’s references to the past five years and his current state of mind ground the poem in a sense of nostalgia, yet solace in his current wisdom. The speaker perceives the abbey differently now and this corresponds to his change in mentality. He used to look at nature and exude passion effortlessly. Now, he is less passionate but more thoughtful because he understands perception is an active rather than a passive function. Being more mentally engaged, his thoughts are more profound.

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. And I have felt

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts: of a sense sublime

Of something far more deeply interfused, (89-97)

One of the most common elements of romantic poetry was the connection between perception (especially with nature) and the imagination. This is a connection between humanity (the mind) and nature. After recollecting his times at school, in “Frost at Midnight,” the speaker compares the infant’s silence in sleep with images in nature such as “the quiet moon” and the “ministry of frost.” The form of this poem also supports the theme. It is a conversation. The speaker is talking to nature, then to the infant and also to himself. The speaker in "Tintern Abbey" exhibits these same techniques.

In “Frost at Midnight,” the speaker compares the sleeping infant with nature:

But thou, my babe! shall wander like a breeze

By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags

Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,

Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores

And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear

The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible

Of that eternal language, (55-61)

The speaker foresees this child experiencing nature as he did. And he speaks of this connection as something inherently spiritual.

In both poems, the speakers wish for continued tranquility and naturally inspired imagination for future generations. In “Frost at Midnight,” the speaker wishes this for the infant:

Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee, (66)

In “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” the speaker wishes this for his sister, Dorothy:

Therefore let the moon

Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;

And let the misty mountain winds be free

To blow against thee: (135-138)

Romanticism’s stress of the importance of the imagination encourages idealism, dreams and visions. Both of these poems illustrate dreams of past, present and future.

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