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Tintern Abbey: Wordsworth’s Philosophy of Nature

Alternate question: Wordsworth’s Philosophy of Nature in Tintern Abbey

William Wordsworth is one of the world’s most loving, penetrative and thoughtful poets of Nature. Tintern Abbey is one of his representative poems revealing a more deeply philosophical and unified expression of his thoughts about nature.

Wordsworth is high priest and greatest worshipper of Nature. His entire poetic work expresses his attitude towards Nature. His Nature poetry is singular and unique in its spiritual appeal. It casts an elevating influence upon the reader’s mind.

William Wordsworth is known for his philosophy of Nature. This philosophy has passed through four stages. In Tintern Abbey one can easily trace all these four stages. Here the poet has presented the development of his love of Nature. In short, here Wordsworth gives an outline of his philosophy of Nature.

At the first stage the poet is a child of five to ten years. He gets delight from walking, bathing, basking and leaping in the lap of Nature. His early intercourse with Natural objects developed in him a calmness and tranquillity of soul. During this boyish stage Nature is:

But secondary to my own pursuits
And animal activities, and all
Their trivial pleasures.

When the poet becomes a teenager, the beauty of Nature begins to attract him. The sights and sounds of Nature make their appeal to the heart and imagination of the poet. The colors and forms of Nature generate youthful feelings and emotions. At this second stage the mind of the poet experiences aching joys and dizzy raptures. This stage has been clearly reflected in the beginning of Tintern Abbey. In this part of the poem the poet simply expresses the beauty of Nature along with the rivers, mountains and fields.

With the growing years, there comes a change in Wordsworth’s attitude towards Nature. The second stage of aching joys and dizzy raptures came to an end. What happens is that his love for Nature turned into a kind of religious love. His love of Nature became linked with the love of man. He finds music in the natural objects. In a way he feels homeliness with Nature. He bursts out in a different tone:

…….For I have learned
To look on Nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing often times
The still, sad music of humanity.

In the final stage Wordsworth views Nature as a philosopher. At this stage he finds spiritual joy in Nature. His soul begins to see the soul of Nature. He finds a divine presence in Nature. His mind stoops before this living presence in mystic adoration of worship. The poet moves on to more reflective, moral and philosophic pleasures of maturity. Nature becomes the anchor of his thoughts. It is the guide and guardian of his emotions. It is the soul of his moral being. In Tintern Abbey the poet says that Nature is:

The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart and soul
Of all my moral beings.

Wordsworth identifies himself with a special message of Nature’s relation to man and of man to Nature. He creates a gospel of Nature and Man. Nature is a mystery to him. It is apparelled in heavenly light. According to the poet the divinity can be experienced by the human mind because it is a sharer in infinity.

Thus the relationship between Man and Nature is systematically developed in Tintern Abbey. All the stages of man’s communion with Nature is marked by supreme awareness of the matter and the spirit. There is a joy all around. In Wordsworth’s philosophy of Nature the duality between classical and Christian ethics is admirably dissolved.

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