that time is past

William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is a reflective monologue written in blank verse and iambic pentameter. Although this pattern is sometimes broken so as to adhere to a more natural way of speaking, which matches the theme of self-reflection and the inner thoughts that the speaker is having as he gazes on Tintern Abbey and the surrounding nature. I chose part of the third stanza to focus on, because of the way that the speaker refers to his younger self seeing the same sights his “mature” self is seeing now. 

This stanza describes the noticeable change in the speaker’s demeanor and the way he relates to nature from adolescence to adulthood while revisiting old places that are steeped in memory. While reminiscing about his youth, the speaker does not look back sadly like nostalgia sometimes can be. Instead, he is content to remember rather than try to replicate his bond to the natural world, acknowledging that he now looks at nature in a different way. He does not “mourn nor murmur” for “other gifts have followed” (87-88) his loss of his childhood fervor for nature. Now, he looks upon the views of nature described in the poem “not as in the hour of thoughtless youth” but now “hearing oftentimes the still sad music of humanity/nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power/to chasten and subdue” (91-94). He appreciates nature more calmly now, seeing humanity in it as opposed to believing himself as one with nature, inseparable and wild. He describes this by likening himself to a deer, nature for him then, he says, was “all in all” (76). The speaker references the “coarser pleasures of my boyish days/And their glad animal movements,” (74-75) again attributing his younger self as something uncontrollable and intense like a wild animal. He describes nature as it was then passionately, “aching joys” and “dizzy raptures,” (85-86) but clarifies that those times are now past. 

2 thoughts on “that time is past”

  1. First of all, I really appreciated your extensive focus on just one stanza in this poem; reviewing your analysis prompted me to go back and reread this section of Wordsworth’s poem, this time through focusing on the binary between old and young like you suggested. This appreciation for aging reminds me of a more intrapersonal version of “Old Man Traveling”, as in “Tintern Abbey” the speaker describes their own experience growing into adulthood. I think it’s interesting that while in both poems the speaker associates peace and acceptance with maturing, this peace and acceptance is not necessarily a source of happiness. In “Tintern Abbey”, he still describes “The still sad music of humanity”, and in “Old Man Traveling” we find out (in some editions) that the man is traveling to see his dying son. I personally love this distinction between peace/acceptance and happiness; finding peace is ideal, but it is not always an immediate source of pleasure- and that’s still okay.

  2. I think this section of the poem is a great example of the tranquility Wordsworth talks about in his preface. In recompense for the restlessness of youth that you examined, the speaker gains an almost supernatural power, to feel the presence that is “A motion and a spirit that impels / All thinking things, all objects of all thought, / And rolls through all things” (101-103). He finds the thread that goes through all things, that connects the man to nature.

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