The Enlightenment, a period of reason, intellectual thought, and science, led some writers to question those values over emotion. Instead, as the Romantic movement gradually developed in response, writers began to look at a different approach to thought. The Romantic period, roughly between the years of 1785 to 1830, was a period when poets turned to nature, their individual emotions, and imagination to create their poetry. Romantic poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats rejected conventional literary forms, regular meters, and complex characters and experimented with emotion and nature subjects in their poems which marked a literary renaissance. Besides a response to the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution also influenced the Romantic sentiments. Poets quickly reacted towards the widespread change from a predominantly agricultural society to a modern industrial one. For example, England’s landscape started to emerge of smoky factories and crowded cities. The effects of the industrial revolution fueled the return of basic human emotion found in Romantic poetry. Among the Romantics who were one of the most influential and accomplished was William Wordsworth.
Wordsworth’s most famous work is his collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Lyrical Ballads published anonymously in 1798. Wordsworth wrote nineteen poems in Lyrical Ballads, and Coleridge wrote four including his famous “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. These poems are a collection of their experimental poetry that embarked Romantic literature. At first, the appearance of Lyrical Ballads did not receive positive acclaim from critics due to its controversial technique and subject matter. The Wordsworth and Coleridge executed an unadorned style of writing and basically opposed all conventional poetry standards of the eighteenth century. As a defense to his critics, Wordsworth wrote Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads to serve as “revolutionary manifesto about the nature of poetry” (Norton Anthology 1435). In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth explains that he chose “incidents and situations from common life” because under that condition of “[l]ow and rustic life”, lets a person “speak a plainer and more emphatic language… [since] our elementary feelings co-exist in a sate of …simplicity” (Wordsworth 1438). The last poem of Lyrical Ballads and probably his most strongest, displays all these elements he proposes in his Preface. Written only in a four days, “Tintern Abbey” or “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798” strikingly exhibits the relationship between nature and man and also many of the values and themes during the 19th century Romantic period.
Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” uses a controversial yet innovative theme of nature. Romantic poetry is many times referred to as “nature” poetry because of its use of nature as a primary subject or theme. People during that time period were still accustomed to the conventional literary form of poetry predominant from the eighteenth century; therefore, nature poems caused quite a controversy and were not accepted immediately. Despite the criticisms, Wordsworth continued to write poetry that displayed his principles from his Preface and used nature as a major theme. Towards the beginning of “Tintern Abbey”, five years have passed and Wordsworth returns to a familiar nature scene:
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs;
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky. (5-9)
There are two types of “natures” that are simultaneous in this poem; “the nature of a poet’s imagination and that imagination’s relation to external Nature” (Bloom 132). Wordsworth’s detailed descriptions of nature are still brand new to his readers. Romantic...