Compare ‘Tintern Abbey’ with the ‘Immortality Ode’.

Compare ‘Tintern Abbey’ with the ‘Immortality Ode’.
Or
The `Tintern Abbey’ and the ‘Immortality Ode’ are both poems of loss. Do you agree? Discuss.


Wordsworth glorify childhoodAnswer:
‘Tintern Abbey’ (1798) and the ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality’ (1802-06) are the two great poems which express the gradual loss of a ‘visionary gleam’ and also state the poet’s self consolation, gained from maturity of knowledge. They bring into focus the two periods of the poet’s life: In his youth he had a visionary power which worked through Nature; later he found a ‘living presence’ which inspired him and was the ‘soul of all his moral being’.

Both the poems start with the poet’s memory of the past. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he says how he was charmed by the beautiful objects on the banks of the river, Wye five years ago and how their sweet memory restored his peace of mind in his critical time. The ‘Immortality Ode’ starts with the poet’s experience of his childhood when he would see divine light in every object of Nature.

Both the poems bear a sense of loss. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ the poet laments for the loss of the ‘aching joys’ and ‘dizzy raptures’ of his youthful days. A similar sense of loss is noticed in the ‘Immortality Ode’:

“But yet I know, wher’er I go
That there hath past away a glory from the earth”

The sweet recollections, however, act as a sort of inspiration to the poet. He connects the present with the past and discovers that he has not, after all, lost his visionary power. For a moment Wordsworth regains his mental strength, and this gives him joy and confidence. He understands that nature might fail him in one way but it still supports him in another. He thinks that his loss has been amply recompensed. This idea runs through both the poems.

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With the growing years Wordsworth looks on nature not with a painter’s eye but as a translator who can understand its hidden meaning. Both the poems mark this maturity of his understanding human suffering. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he says that in the sounds of nature he can hear ‘The still, sad music of humanity’. A similar idea has been presented in the ‘Immortality Ode’. The poet will gather strength from the ‘soothing thoughts that spring out of human suffering.

Through vision Wordsworth finds what he calls ‘a sense sublime’, an all pervading Spirit which rolls through all things. When he feels himself in its presence, he believes that he has transcended his temporal existence, and that, he is at the heart of reality. Thus he feels that he is passing into eternity. In his childhood he had this visionary experience very frequently but now it occurs very rarely and only at the moment of meditation and deep imagination. This idea finds expression in both the poems. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he says,

“And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts”

Almost the same idea echoes in the ‘Immortality Ode’

“Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our souls have sight of that immortal sea”

Thus through imagination Wordsworth can have a glimpse of the vast Eternity.

Wordsworth concludes the poems with a note of confidence in the moral influence of Nature. His loss has been great but his compensation has also been greater. He believes that Nature still sustains him, nourishes him and teaches him. His relation with Nature is very deep and powerful. He is almost at home with nature more than with human beings. Both the poems ends with a consolation that nature is still a source of pleasure and inspiration to understand the meaning of life.

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