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Thematic route: Nature.

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Thematic route: Nature.

Thematic route: Nature.

Key idea: Nature as a guide to moral sphere.

Extract analysed: "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1798".

From the collection of poems Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth.

 

Introduction. Key idea and general work. The key idea Nature as a guide to moral sphere is well expressed in / effectively conveyed by / dealt with by William Wordsworth's poem Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey on Revisiting the Banks of Wye During a Tour. July 13, 1798 published in the collection of poems Lyrical Ballads.



Tintern Abbey, located in the valley of the river Wye, in Wales, was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131 and destroyed at the beginning of 1500. Wordsworth visited its ruins when he was 23, and returned there 5 years later.

Summary and commentary in relation to the key idea. Written in blank verse, the poem is Wordsworth's first major explicitly autobiographical work and the best expression of his thought, since in it he deals with the different phases of his life (childhood, youth, maturity) and gives the most complete definition of his concept of nature.

The poem begins with an evocation of the past. The various elements of the scene blend with one another, a connection which is strengthened by the effective use of enjambments. The image of greenness here is associated   with spring-time freshness, and with peace and rest.

Five years have past; five summers with the length 242e45c

of five long winters! and again I hear

these waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

with a soft inland murmur. Once again

do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs

In the second section Wordsworth considers what he has gained from the memory of his first visit to the Wye valley five years before.  His recollections have brought him tranquil restoration in hours of weariness. Significantly, this weariness is specifically associated with urban life. Anxiety and despondency are experienced when the poet is away from the soothing influence of nature. He also attributes to his remembrances of the Wye valley a benign, although unconscious, influence upon his moral growth.

Wordsworth describes a state of heightened perception in which he is aware not of the material forms of nature but of an inner life force which permeates the natural world and exists within himself as well. That influence has encouraged

"acts/of kindness and love".

The third and most important gift is a

"serene and blessed mood"

which enables him to

"see into the life of things".

As a young man, although Wordsworth responded passionately to the natural elements, his perception of nature appears to exclude the love of humanity. He responded with the senses to the sounds, colours and forms of landscape but the experience did not engage his intellect. The poet's adult response to the natural world includes human as well as inanimate nature. He is now often able to hear 

The still, sad music of humanity

A line which suggests a new sensitivity to human suffering while "music", in addition,  suggests harmony.  The poet is now able to penetrate into the reality which is in nature and in himself.

The most important lines of Wordsworth's poem are in the last section. This section ends with one of Wordsworth's clearest statements, where the notion of nature as a guide also extends to the moral sphere.                                                

Wordsworth considered nature as the guide to the spiritual and moral life of man.

It is from the nature that man learns joy and love, and is bound to think in a more elevated way.

"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."

The theme of nature. Wordsworth therefore was deeply interested in the relationship between the natural world and the human consciousness.  Indeed one of his most consistent ideas is that man exists not outside the natural world but as an active participant in it, so that "nature" means something that includes both inanimate and human nature, each is a part of the same whole.

Main facts of life in relation to the key idea and general theme. William Wordsworth was born in Cumbria, in the beautiful region of the Lake District, where he spent his childhood and most of his adult life.  He was in France where the contact with the Revolution filled him with enthusiasm for the democratic ideals.  The destructive developments of the Revolution brought to him disillusionment only healed by the contact with nature.  Together with Samuel Tailor Coleridge he wrote a collection of poems called Lyrical Ballads whose preface became the Manifesto of English Romanticism.

Main features of English Romanticism. The cult of feeling in opposition to reason. Interest in the less conscious parts of experience. The importance given to imagination and childhood. The importance of the individual. The cult of the hero. The "cult of the exotic". The clash between the real and the ideal. Nature was seen "as a living force" and, in a pantheistic vein, as the expression of god in the universe.  Interest in  the supernatural and in the mystery. Support of the French Revolution with its ideals of freedom and equality; subsequently disillusionment and conservative views.


LINES COMPOSED A FEW MILES

ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON

REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE

WYE DURING A TOUR. JULY 13, 1798

Five years have past; five summers, with the length 242e45c

Of five long winters! and again I hear

These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a soft inland murmur.--Once again

Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,

That on a wild secluded scene impress

Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect

The landscape with the quiet of the sky.

The day is come when I again repose

Here, under this dark sycamore, and view 10

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. Once again I see

These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines

Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,

Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke

Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!

With some uncertain notice, as might seem

Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, 20

Or of some Hermit's cave, where by his fire

The Hermit sits alone.

These beauteous forms,

Through a long absence, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;

And passing even into my purer mind,

With tranquil restoration:--feelings too 30

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As have no slight or trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man's life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,

To them I may have owed another gift,



Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,

In which the burthen of the mystery,

In which the heavy and the weary weight

Of all this unintelligible world, 40

Is lightened:--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:

While with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.

If this

Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft-- 50

In darkness and amid the many shapes

Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir

Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,

Have hung upon the beatings of my heart--

How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,

O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro' the woods,

How often has my spirit turned to thee!

And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,

With many recognitions dim and faint,

And somewhat of a sad perplexity, 60

The picture of the mind revives again:

While here I stand, not only with the sense

Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts

That in this moment there is life and food

For future years. And so I dare to hope,

Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first

I came among these hills; when like a roe

I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,

Wherever nature led: more like a man 70

Flying from something that he dreads, than one

Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then

(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,

And their glad animal movements all gone by)

To me was all in all.--I cannot paint

What then I was. The sounding cataract

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,

Their colours and their forms, were then to me

An appetite; a feeling and a love, 80

That had no need of a remoter charm,

By thought supplied, nor any interest

Unborrowed from the eye.--That time is past,

And all its aching joys are now no more,

And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this

Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts

Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,

Abundant recompence. For I have learned

To look on nature, not as in the hour

Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes 90

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 100

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 110

Of all my moral being.

VERSI COMPOSTI ALCUNE MIGLIA A MONTE DELL'ABBAZIA DI TINTERN, RIVISITANDO LE RIVE DEL WYE DURANTE UNA GITA.

Cinque anni sono passati; cinque estati, con la lunghezza

Di cinque inverni lunghi! e di nuovo sento

Queste acque, scorrere da sorgenti montane

Con un dolce mormorio dell'entroterra. --ancora una volta

Guardo queste rupi ripide ed elevate,

Che a una scena selvaggia e appartata imprimono

Pensieri di isolamento più profondo; e congiungono

Il panorama con la quiete del cielo.

Il giorno è venuto quando io di nuovo riposo

Qui, sotto questo scuro acero, e rivedo

Queste trame di appezzamenti di terra, questi ciuffi di alberi da frutto,

Quali in questa stagione, con i loro frutti acerbi,

Sono rivestiti di unico colore verde, e si perdono

'Tra boschetti e sottoboschi. Ancora una volta vedo




Queste siepi, a malapena filari, piccole linee

Giocoso bosco inselvatichito: queste fattorie pastorali,

Verdi fino alla; e anelli di fumo

Spedito su, in silenzio, fra gli alberi!

Segno incerto, come potrebbe sembrare

Di abitanti vagabondi nei boschi, 20

O della grotta di qualche eremita, dove accanto al suo fuoco

L'Eremita siede solo.

Queste belle forme,

tutto il tempo ch'io fui lontano, non a me son state come all'occhio d'un cieco il paesaggio

ma sovente, in solinghe stanze, e in mezzo

al frastuono cittadino, grazie ad esse,

in ore di stanchezza, dolci sensazioni

sentii fluir nel sangue e pel mio cuore,

e penetrar nella più pura mente

con tranquillo sollievo: sentimenti

d'un piacere di cui non s'ha ricordo;

tali da avere non poca o insignificante influenza

su quella parte migliore della vita dei buoni:

piccoli atti d'amor, di gentilezza,

senza nome, di cui non s'ha ricordo.

E forse un altro dono più sublime

lor debbo, quello stato di letizia

in cui s'allevia il peso del mistero,

la soma ponderosa e faticosa

di tutto quest'incomprensibil mondo

è alleggerito -- quel sereno stato di letizia,

durante il qual ci guidano gli affetti

soavemente, fino a che il respiro di questa nostra forma corporale e fin il moto dell'umano sangue

sostano quasi, e noi siamo assopiti

nel corpo, e fatti un'anima vivente:

mentre con occhio, che l'intensa gioia

e l'armonia possente fan sereno,

vediam dentro alla vita delle cose.

Se questa

Sia una credenza vana, ancora, oh! come spesso

In oscurità e tra le molte forme

Di luce del giorno senza gioia; quando l'irritabile mescola

Ciò che è stizzito e vano, e la febbre del mondo,

Si aggrappa sulle sconfitte del mio cuore

Come spesso, in spirito, mi rivolgo verso te,

O silvestre Wye! tu vagabondo tra i boschi,

Come spesso il mio spirito si è rivolto verso te!

E ora, con barlumi di metà-estinto pensiero,

Con molti ricordi confusi e vani,

E piuttosto di una perplessità triste,

Il quadro della mente si rianima di nuovo:

Nel frattempo sto in piedi qui, non solo con i sensi

Sono presente con i miei piaceri presenti

In questo momento ci sono vita e cibo

per anni futuri. E così oso sperare,

Sebbene sono cambiato, senza dubbio, da quello che ero quando primo Sono venuto fra queste colline; quando come un capriolo Saltavo per le montagne, dai lati

Dei fiumi profondi ed i ruscelli solitari,

Dovunque natura ha condotto: più simile un uomo

Che fugge da qualche cosa che teme, che uno

Che ha cercato la cosa che ha amato. Per natura allora

(I piaceri più rozzi dei miei giorni di ragazzo,

E i loro movimenti contenti animali tutti trascorsi)

A me era tutto in tutto.--non posso descrivere

Quello che allora ero. La cascata risuonante

Mi assillava come una passione: l'alta roccia,

La montagna, ed il bosco profondo ed oscuro,

Loro colori ed i loro moduli, erano allora a me

Un appetito; un sentimento ed un amore,

Quello non aveva bisogno di un fascino remoto,

Ma provvisto, nè alcuno interessa

Che non fosse prestato dall'occhio.--Quel tempo è passato,

E tutte le sue lancinanti gioie non ci sono più,

E tutte le sue estasi vertiginose. Non per questo

Mi sgomento, nè piango nè mormoro, altri doni

Seguo; per tale perdita, credo,

di meritare una ricompensa abbondante. Ho imparato a Considerare la natura, non come all'ora

Al tempo della giovinezza spensierata; ma più volte sento

Ancora quella musica triste di umanità

Nè aspra nè stridente, benchè ampiamente capace di calmare e dominare. E mi sono sentito

Una presenza che mi disturba con la gioia

Di pensieri elevati; un senso sublime

Di qualche cosa lontana più profondamente infusa,

In cui dimora la luce al tramonto del sole,

E l'oceano rotondo ed l'aria vivente,

E il cielo blu, nella mente di uomo;

Un moto ed un spirito, che spinge

Tutte le cose pesanti, tutti gli oggetti del pensiero

E rotola attraverso tutte le cose. Perciò io sono ancora

Un innamorato dei prati e dei boschi,

E di montagne; e di tutto ciò che vediamo

Da questa terra del verde; di tutto il mondo possente

Di occhio ed orecchio,- ambo quello che loro mezzo crea,

E quello che percepisce; sono compiaciuto nel riconoscerlo

In natura e la lingua del senso,

La àncora dei miei pensieri più puri, l'infermiera,

La guida, il guardiano del mio cuore, ed anima

Di tutto mio essere morale.







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