kellyrfineman (kellyrfineman) wrote,

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A bit of Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth

I spent about half an hour yesterday looking through my computer files for an article I'd written relating to the quote from Chapter 27 of Pride & Prejudice, "what are men to rocks and mountains?", only to come up empty. But I couldn't get Wordsworth out of my head, so today, I found a post I wrote in 2009 while on retreat in New Hampshire. Most of what follows is a reprise, but it seems appropriate for our P&P reading and for Poetry Friday.

Here's the quote from Chapter 27 of Pride & Prejudice:

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth, and her acceptance of the invitation was most ready and grateful. "My dear, dear aunt," she rapturously cried, "what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers."

As noted yesterday, I rather expect that Elizabeth's raptures about nature in conjunction with a mention of the Lake District are a nod to William Wordsworth, whose poem Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, and in particular this effusively meditative (yes, probably an oxymoron) passage pulled from its fifth stanza, were well-known and appear to have been loved by Austen, given that she references this poem in other novels as well, including Mansfield Park:

The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led -more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all. -I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. -That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear -both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

Form: Wordsworth's poem is written in what is called "blank verse", a term which means "unrhymed iambic pentameter." This means that each line contains five iambs, an iamb being a two-syllable poetic foot made up of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one: taDUM.

Discussion: As Wordsworth noted in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, he and Coleridge were breaking new ground with their work. The poems read unlike much poetry that came before it, most of which was rhymed (to the point that the Preface indicates that some readers may question whether what they are reading is poetry at all - it reads more like one of Shakespeare's plays than like what most nineteenth century readers would have recognized as verse). It's not just the absence of end rhyme that makes this work different, but also the use of enjambment, a poetic term meaning that a single line of text is split between two or more lines of verse. It was quite common in the days before the Romantic poets (such as Wordsworth) for each line to contain a logical phrase that could be set apart from the ones that came before it with a comma or period. Although older poets sometimes played with enjambment (heck, Shakespeare certainly did in his Sonnet 116 "Let me not to the marriage of true minds/admit impediments"), Wordsworth took it to new levels in poems such as Tintern Abbey.

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Tags: analysis of poems, austen, poetry, poetry friday, pride and prejudice, wordsworth

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