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Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

by William Wordsworth

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"Nature Never Did Betray The Heart That Loved Her"

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Context: When the French Revolution broke out, Wordsworth, though an Englishman, rejoiced in what was happening and viewed with disfavor the British antagonism to Republican France. As time passed, however, the bloody excesses of the Revolution caused Wordsworth great emotional stress and he changed his mind about it. He came to believe that mankind, whom he had trusted, had betrayed that trust. Only nature, he now thought, would never fail him. In 1798, while on a walking tour, he stopped on a hill overlooking the peaceful valley of the River Wye, to spend an hour musing on the world of men, and how his views had changed in the five years since he had once before stood looking down on the peaceful valley. The poem expresses three consecutive attitudes which Wordsworth believed that he had held toward nature: a simple animal response to it, a response in which the love of mankind had predominated, and a response in which he found the presence of God in nature. The portion of the poem in which this quotation is found is addressed to Dorothy Wordsworth, the poet's sister, who was with him at the time and had helped him in his emotional crises.

Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.

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