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Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

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What historical events and social issues of the time are connected to Wordsworth’s "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"?

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In "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth presents absorption in the beauty of nature as a balm for the social and political disconnection he feels from the world around him. The last time the speaker visited this place, five years before, he was going through a very turbulent period in his life. In autobiographical terms there are clear parallels with Wordsworth's own life, when he was caught up in the enthusiasm of so many English radicals for the French Revolution. While he was in France, the young Wordsworth also fathered an illegitimate child with a French woman whom he subsequently left, further emphasizing the unsettled nature of his life at this point.

Then as now, the speaker was healed by "The landscape with the quiet of the sky". Yet although the speaker is much more at peace than he was in his turbulent younger days, he cannot entirely escape from rapid changes to the world around him.

"Tintern Abbey" was written during the early years of the Industrial Revolution, when large swathes of the English countryside were being disfigured by factories, foundries, and mines. The speaker of the poem refers almost mournfully to "the wreathes of smoke / Sent up in silence from among the trees." The distant clouds of smoke, rising up from some industrial concern or other, act almost as funeral palls spread across a landscape succumbing to the effects of industrialization.

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