The sublime soul

William Wordsworth’s “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is such a romantic poem. Literally and periodically. “Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” is composed of five stanzas in iambic pentameter which adds a natural cadence mimicking regularly paced human speech. Writing from the point of view of a returning admirer, Wordsworth deeply immerses his soul in the calming beauty of this specific setting of nature that in fact, never mentions this “Tintern Abbey”.

Right away in the first two opening lines of the poem, our attention is drawn to the repetition of “five” that occurs three times: “Five year”, “Five summers”, and “Five long winters” (l. 1-2).  This repetition immediately emphasizes just how long these five years felt to him that time has passed in nature’s equivalent to five summers and five winters. Further on, seclusion is also repeated which invokes an image of nature as separate from the world of man in its own wild “secluded” world where everything is untouched. Thus, when the narrator is in “towns and cities”(l. 27) where he experiences “hours of weariness”(l. 28), all he has to do is remember the undisturbed tranquility of the landscape to feel “sensations sweet”(l. 28). In other words, it is like a man being revived by the memory of sensations his lover has ingrained into his heart and brain. 

It’s not just his own mood that changes though. His entire being comes into focus when he is induced into the sublime peace: 

“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:” (l. 44-47)

As described in these lines, Wordsworth looks within and sees in his mind’s eye that he has transformed into “a living soul” as he has been guided to being free of his “corporeal frame” that bears human burdens previously described as “hours of weariness” (l. 28)  and “the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world” (l. 40-41)

2 thoughts on “The sublime soul”

  1. Very interesting that Tinturn Abbey itself is never directly mentioned in the poem! I think there is something extremely romantic about this in itself, as it leaves both the author and the readers to imagine the beauty of this setting; allowing it to become anything the audience may desire it to be. While the descriptions in the poem are vivid, I think the mere allusion to a specific place is quite beautiful. In doing this I think Wordsworth is almost forcing readers to search inside their own “mind’s eye” as you described the speaker doing in the poem itself.

  2. I love this idea of the mind’s eye and the poet’s consciousness of how they experience the sublimity of nature through the body. The smallness that those final lines evoke reminded me to Charlotte Smith’s “Beachy Head” where the speaker seems totally overwhelmed by the capacities of nature, “A whispering shade; where haply reclines / Some pensive lover of uncultured flowers…Heart-shaped and triply folded” (l. 360-362). The speaker of the poem recognizes that they must reflect long enough on one place to encounter the sublime, and ends up finding themselves among nature: in very human hearts and whispers in the flowers.

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