Commentary

Wordsworth is reminiscing about a walk he took with his sister Dorothy five years before. But that’s not why he wrote the poem. Tintern Abbey is really about the way we’ve changed over time, and explore how and why we feel about the change.

The location is Tintern Abbey on the banks of the River Wye in south-east Wales. The poet remembers in minute details his visit five years ago: the sound of the mountain-springs, and the sight of the dark sycamore, and the hedge-rows. He recalls how he has relied on his memories of the beauty of nature in the surroundings to keep him sane when he was living in the prison-like setting of the city.

He’s now back in the same spot again, looking out at the landscape and experiencing a rush of feelings of what he felt before, and that in the future he will look back on this moment in time. He imagines he will change as time goes by from what he was during his first visit.

Now, he has learnt to look at nature with a broader perspective on life, and not just for the sake of a great view. In other words, he used to enjoy nature, but didn’t fully understand it. Now he looks and is able to sense and appreciate a deeper, wider meaning to the beauty in nature. He also understands now that everything in nature is interconnected.

Dorothy is with him during his current visit of the area, and he says she still looks at nature in the same way that he did when he was a child. He imagines how his sister will go through the same development and transformation that he did. One day she will be able to look out at nature and imagine the interconnectedness of things, too. Then he imagines her coming back to the same spot years in the future, after he is dead, and remembering the time she came here with her brother.


Contents  |  Back