The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

This 160-line poem is autobiographical, written in the first person and in the poet’s own persona. The poem is subtitled “On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour.” It is set at Tintern, a ruined abbey next to the River Wye in the West of England.

The poet opens with the observation that five years have passed since he was last there. He continues with a description of the peaceful landscape. Line 23 marks a transition in time and place. He recalls that in moments of weariness in noisy towns, the memory of this landscape has calmed and restored him in body and mind. These pleasant feelings promote kind and loving actions in life. They also bring with them a more sublime gift: transcendental experiences, beyond the everyday state of consciousness, which William Wordsworth was to refer to in his later poem The Prelude (1850) as “spots of time.”

The poet describes such an experience as a serene and blessed mood capable of lightening life’s burdens. The awareness leads into a state of such deep rest that the breath and heartbeat are suspended, though the mind is wide awake—“we become a living soul.” In this joyful and harmonious state, the poet says, sense perception is directed inward. There are no objects of perception for the eye to see. Instead, the perception is opened to the inner spiritual life that informs creation.

At line 66, the poet shifts his attention to comparing his passionate,...

(The entire section is 496 words.)