illustrated portrait of English poet WIlliam Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

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What is pantheism and how does it relate to Wordsworth's "Prelude" and "Tintern Abbey"?

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Pantheism is a belief system/concept that reflects the awareness of and belief in the life force in all objects in nature, including trees, rocks, water, etc. It is somewhat related to the concept of animism, which suggests that there is consciousness in nature and natural objects. Both of these ideas relate to the pagan or polytheistic views of religion, in which nature is venerated as sacred, and multiple gods (as opposed to one god) are seen as representing the cosmos and the earth. In Wordsworth's poetry, nature is a frequent topic and the sacred nature of landscape is a central theme. "Tintern Abbey" (whose fuil title is actually "LINES. COMPOSED A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE WYE DURING A TOUR. JULY 13, 1798") is one such poem that isinspired by the beauty of a particular landscape that Wordsworth saw as a sacred place. Wordsworth himself seems to acknowledge the unorthodox nature of his spiritual leanings here:

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; 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. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world

Of eye, and ear, — both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
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.

These lines hint at a larger picture than merely a meduitation upon the beauty of a place, but instead suggest a form of morality and philosophy found in nature: ideas that infuse Wordsworth's work deeply.


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