Tintern Abbey (poem)

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Tintern Abbey, in full Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey on revisiting the banks of the Wye on a tour, July 13, 1798, was the most striking of William Wordsworth's poems in his and Coleridge's epoch-making collection, Lyrical Ballads (1798). It was also the one which, for Keats and others of Wordsworth's younger contemporaries, was the defining Wordsworth poem.

The composition was the result of an impromptu walking tour proposed by Coleridge and undertaken in July 1798. Wordsworth later said that the poem was composed entirely in his mind and not written down until he returned to Bristol, where it was written down unaltered. It was therefore a late addition to the Lyrical Ballads volume, and it appeared at the end. Whether or not this was intentional, it provided a balancing conclusion to a collection which had begun with the impact of The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. It may have been unaltered at the time, but Wordsworth was an inveterate reviser of his own work, and made various changes in later years, particularly to the opening description.

The poem is in blank verse, but in a note added to the 1800 edition, Wordsworth expressed the hope that it might be considered as having the character of an ode, referring (rightly) to "the impassioned music of the versification". It starts off with natural description, but soon becomes concerned with the effect of Nature, on his past self (as he perceives it), on him at the moment, and on his sister Dorothy at that moment and in the future.

There are 160 lines in the original (or 161 if one counts a line cancelled in the Errata), and 159 in the final (1850) version, where the work is among the "Poems of the Imagination". In the original, lines 1—23 describe the scene on the banks of the Wye; lines 23—58 describe the inward effect that these aspects of Nature have had upon his moods and actions during the five years since he last saw them; lines 58—112 contrast his present, more mature, state with his previous enthusiasm, and look forward; while at line 112 he turns to Dorothy beside him, seeing her full of his previous ardour, and predicting the value of Nature's working in her mind.