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Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

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How is "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" a philosophical poem?

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"Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" is philosophical in that it constructs reality as an inner spiritual state produced by the interaction of a gifted observer and nature. Nature is constructed by the observer through his ability to perceive beauty, but this perception in turn constructs the observer, changing him.

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"Tintern Abbey" is philosophical in that it represents a particular kind of epistemology, or way of knowing things, and posits a particular relationship between subject and object.

In the poem, Wordsworth returns to Tintern Abbey, a site he last visited years before. He is drawn by the beauty of the place and writes evocatively about the landscape. But there is also a sense that the place has described him. That is, the perception of the poet constitutes the landscape, but in being perceived the landscape also changes the poet. Rather than perceiving outside reality as separate and objective, the poet is able to "see into the life of things," a phrase that suggests that reality is as much a "seeing into" as it is any sort of essential "life." It is through beholding this landscape that Wordsworth is able to appreciate the difference between the person who first visited here five years ago and how he is now; somehow the passage of time, and even the concept of memory itself, is made understandable or brought to the foreground by the poet's reaction to the landscape.

The poem is also philosophical in that it asserts the importance of aesthetics. It is the poet's ability to perceive beauty that forms the vital link between him and the landscape. In fact, the articulation of this relationship is aesthetic, since it can only happen in poetry. In this sense, poetry becomes the language of philosophy, since the essential nature of reality is poetic.

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