Friday, March 20, 2009

Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey
By William Wordsworth

Kinda long; the text can be found here:

Here is what Tintern Abbey looks like to us this very day:

This poem is fascinating to me because it explores the Romantics' concept of the "sublime." In the poem, Wordsworth describes this mood as:

that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
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:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

I think that the last line of this stanza is particularly interesting. The idea of something being "sublime" is an idea that philosophers have discussed since ancient times. Basically, we have this feeling when are confronted by something that reminds us of our smallness. We are filled with awe and terror at the same time, like when see a huge mountain or vast dessert, or even a tiger or bear. It reminds us that we aren't the creators of this world, we are merely inhabitants.

The last line suggests that when we witness the sublime, we see some sort of "inner life" of things. Wordsworth seems to focus way more on the joyous half of the sublime mood, as opposed to the frightening part. He seems to suggest that when we see the sublime, we are privy to the inherent harmony of the earth. We even feel that we are part of this harmony. When we witness a sublime scene, all of our earthly cares and stresses go away. It is a distraction from our material world, and it soothes us. The sublime mood is a divine experience. Wordsworth is telling us that we should celebrate this.

Also, sublime is a pretty rockin' 90's band.


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