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Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

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What are the figures of speech in Wordsworth's "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey"?

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Figures of speech in "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" include apostrophe, repetition, exclamation, alliteration, metaphor, imagery, and polysyndeton.

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Wordsworth uses apostrophe when he addresses his sister with the following words:

For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend.

This direct speech to another person makes the poem feel more personal and heartfelt.

Romantic poets like Wordsworth wished to write lyrical poetry, poetry that expressed emotion. Wordsworth's speaker shows his deep emotion and love for his sister (his friend) when he uses repetition to call her "dearest Friend" and then "dear, dear Friend." Later, he uses an exclamation—"Oh!"—to express strong feeling, and once again repeats he word "dear, dear" to show how much his sister means to him.

Wordsworth employs antithesis to contrast the "dreary" quality of everyday life with the "cheerful faith" the speaker and his sister develop through communing with nature.

The poem uses metaphor, a comparison that does not use like or as, when the speaker compares his sister's mind to a mansion. He also uses alliteration in the repeated "m" sounds, which creates a sense of rhythm and puts the emphasis on the following words beginning with "m:" mind, mansion, and memory in the lines below:

when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory.

Wordsworth uses the literary device of polysyndeton, which is when words are connected with a series of conjunctions that are not strictly necessary. This slows the reader down and puts emphasis on the words divided by the conjunction. An example is the following, which repeats "or:"

If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief ...

Finally, Wordsworth weaves imagery throughout the poem. Imagery is description that appeals to any of the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. An example is:

these steep woods and lofty cliffs.

We can see the visual images above in our mind's eye.

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There is personification in these lines:

These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses.

Personification is when the poet gives human qualities or traits to things that are not human. Wordsworth attributes selves to various green aspects of nature and gives them the ability to feel lost amid the verdant, abundant scene. This emphasizes not only how alive the scene feels to him but also how overwhelmingly green and lush it is.

Wordsworth employs a simile when he writes the following:

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye....

A simile is a comparison of two unalike things that uses the word like or as. He's saying that though it has been a really long time since he has seen the scenes he describes, it as not as though he's never seen them. Instead, these scenes have stayed with him, in memory, and they have brought him wonderful joy and tranquility despite his five-year absence.

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In Wordsworth's poem, "Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," in his Lyrical Ballads collection, figurative language abounds as he uses a variety of literary devices to create a personal experience within the reader who may not be with him during his experiences and observations.

In these lines, Wordsworth uses personification:

These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a soft inland murmur.

Water does not murmur: only people do this. Another example of personification is shown in the following lines as Wordsworth speaks of nature "clad" in green, meaning "dressed."

Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,

Are clad in one green hue...

Wordsworth uses the poetic device of alliteration, found in the repeated sounds of "h's." Note the bolding I have added with these sounds, which provide a musical quality to the poem, most noticeable when read aloud:

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows...

Imagery is something that Wordsworth makes stunning use of in the descriptions of this place—note the "green" and the "wreaths of smoke:"

...these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees...

The author uses repetition, which is generally included to draw the reader's attention, sometimes like a list. This repetition is also a sound that draws the reader's ear:

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight...

Wordsworth uses a metaphor (which is also paradoxical) when he describes something like death, which is actually a coming to life:

…that serene and blessed mood,

In which the affections gently lead us on,—

Until, the breath of this corporeal frame

And even the motion of our human blood

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep

In body, and become a living soul...

In essence, a peace overcomes the observer of nature, and stills him as if he were dead. Note the reference to "this corporeal frame," "the motion of...blood / Almost suspended," a reference to "sleep" that is often associated with death, but also the "becoming a living soul" which very much seems like a description of death, except that the "blood" is "almost suspended"—"though the mind is awake." In this moment, the body rests so that the soul may take over, live, and—in this quiet—experience:

...harmony, and the deep power of joy...

This Romantic poet, so taken with nature, also uses a simile in comparing himself in his travels through nature and the waterways to the eggs of fish:

...when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led...

Wordsworth, like his partner Samuel Coleridge (with whom he wrote Lyrical Ballads) had a deep appreciation for nature, as can be seen throughout the poem—descriptions and references to a world alive around him as seen at Tintern Abbey.


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