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William Wordsworth's 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey' is not a convention ballad when we think of what traits it possesses. From the term ballad we expect a narrative that can be sung, usually containing a consistent structure and a formal rhyme scheme, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shallot'. 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey' engages with the crucial significance of the relationship between man and nature. Wordsworth deals with the themes of time, darkness, human experience, and nature in this passage and takes the reader through a journey via an intense and complex dramatic narrative.
Firstly, it is apparent this is not his first visit to the banks of the Wye and the reader is inclined to assume that since his last visit, 'Five years have passed' instantaneously creating a reminiscent, reflective experience whilst also introducing the theme of time. He continues to stress the years passed, 'five summers' and 'five winters', this repetition not only seeks to emphasise how long it has been since his last visit but also to establish the themes of nature, and of transformation by mentioning the seasons. Wordsworth continues with the introduction of 'these waters, rolling from their mountain-springs', directly referring to the river Wye itself. The river runs a course from source to sea and is symbolic of the journey of life, from birth to death. This is perhaps best illustrated later in the poem when Wordsworth states 'For though art with me, here, upon the banks /Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend'. In these two lines, the river, symbolic of life, almost transforms into his sister Dorothy, not only continuing the notion of the symbolism via an invisible metamorphosis but also highlighting how Wordsworth has skilfully intended to walk the line between the natural and the human world. This reference also provides some explanation to the structure Wordsworth has adopted; writing in blank verse instead of couplets as earlier accomplished writers such as Pope may have used allows this passage to flow much like the river does through Tintern Abbey. The use of blank verse also sanctions an uninterrupted thought sequence. Wordsworth's long sentence structure and frequent use of punctuation dictates the rhythm of his verse and helps to navigate the reader throughout.
Wordsworth use of negative words such as 'secluded', 'seclusion' and 'dark' can be deemed as more than just merely descriptive as they create a very abstract dissimilarity to the beauty he has used when referring to the 'sweet inland murmur' of the river. It would have been possible for Wordsworth to use other, more positive words such as tranquil and shady, but the intentional dramatic contrast could be understood as his way of asking how nature should be interpreted with a voice of doubt and uncertainty.
However, it is possible to argue that this poem is an individual, unmediated experience describing a personal response to a natural landscape as Wordsworth continues with a vivid, flowing description of his surroundings. The picturesque imagery of the 'steep and lofty cliffs', 'These plots of cottage-ground', and 'these orchid-tufts' permit Wordsworth to demonstrate a very intuitive process of perception. He uses repetition throughout this passage to highlight his central ideas and themes, this is particularly apparent when he refers to 'their green and simple hue', 'The wild green landscape' and 'these pastoral farms/Green to the very door'. The word green is synonymous with nature, and the function of its repetition in this instance is to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind of what Wordsworth sees immediately around him. Wordsworth's act of physical perception is integral to the passage as it further involves the reader with his surroundings.
At the end of the first stanza, Wordsworth compares the smoke from the 'pastoral farms' with that of smoke from 'some hermit's cave, where by his fire/The hermit sits alone.' This is direct comparison between the rural and the hermit could create the idea Wordsworth is associating beauty with the rural and, loneliness as human trait. The idea of being alone is a crucial one as throughout 'Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey' he is emphatic about the personal, slow and intensive experience he is able to find in the Wye and in the woodland that accompanies him.
The poem then moves through change, it becomes less descriptive and more personal, not only to Wordsworth, but to human nature generally. He creates an internal transformation making the landscape no longer a product of visual beauty but a journey within oneself, an internal landscape. Wordsworth states how he has '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:' In this section, he almost induces the natural landscape into himself, stating how he reminisces when in 'lonely rooms' or 'mid the din/ Of towns and cities' of the beauty and comfort that once surrounded him. This Romantic submission to nature begins a slow and complex stanza in which the poem beings to contend with the 'body' and the 'soul'. Wordsworth continues by encountering much deeper, human, and almost philosophical matter when he refers to the 'weary weight /Of all this unintelligible world /Is lighten'd:' this part of the passage illustrates how he is able to use nature as a form of psychological escape.
Wordsworth then describes a trance like state whereby '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:' this slow and intensive transcendental experience suggest to his reader that more than a normal existence can be found. He proceeds to state 'with an eye made quiet by the power /Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, /We see into the life of things.' Wordsworth's end to the second stanza possesses a very personal and reflective tone which looks intensely into the self and completes the transformation from actual nature, to human nature.
In the third and shortest stanza, Wordsworth repeats 'how oft' displaying his familiarity to the feeling of escapism provided by the 'sylvan Wye'. The repetition also acts as a way of Wordsworth claiming the landscape. He then proceeds to address the Wye and surrounding woodland with a Pagan tone, stating 'How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee /O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods, /How often has my spirit turned to thee!' Wordsworth seems to be declaring the natural setting is his sanctuary. This is particularly interesting and slightly controversial as the poem was written above the potentially ivy and moss covered ruins of a Christian church. The repetition of 'I turned to thee' generates a feel of dependence, and creates a very spiritual bond to the natural setting Wordsworth earlier described.
In conclusion to the analysis of the opening to 'Lines written above Tintern Abbey', it is vital to understand Wordsworth's main themes of time, nature, human experience, the spiritual and the dark. The sense of movement that flows throughout Wordsworth's poem is crucial in creating understanding and igniting a complete and vivid picture in the readers mind. He then uses this understanding to establish a deep connection between self and nature, inviting the reader to share an 'inner' landscape. At the end of the selected passage, Wordsworth raises the theme of religion by claiming the natural environment as his sanctuary, stating how he has 'turned' to it searching for an escape. The journey Wordsworth invites his reader on offers an interesting appreciation of nature and challenges traditional structural ideas of the ballad. However, it is still possible to argue the journey the reader is taken on via his dramatic narrative still has many qualities of a traditional ballad.