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Compare & Contrast Mont Blanc & Tintern Abbey

By PERSEPHONESLAIR8 Apr 21, 2013 1342 Words
Shelley’s “Mont Blanc” and Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” are poems written regarding nature and its connection to humanity, deities and the human consciousness; these poems can be read as a conversation between each other and their creators. A conversation where Shelley not only echoes and agrees with many of Wordsworth’s views regarding: nature and its awe- inspiring beauty, ability to mesmerize and the presence of majestical divinity amongst all things natural but also, a conversational moment where Shelley steps away from Wordsworth by expressing different views regarding the type of power nature exudes and how nature should affect and effect the human consciousness and life. Where Wordsworth feels peace, Shelley feels fear; Wordsworth sees himself amongst nature, Shelley sees himself amongst man and gains a greater understanding of the surrounding natural world.

In the poems, “Mont Blanc” and “Tintern Abbey” their is a description of a landscape that, for the writer, the sight brings upon a philosophical questioning and reflection in which both writers gain a better and deeper relationship with nature. In “Tintern Abbey”, Wordsworth writes:

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 recognize
In nature and the language of the sense, (104-109)

Wordsworth believes that the natural world they see and their mind are directly connected, a philosophy that Shelley agrees with and echoes in his writings of “Mont Blanc”:

I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy,
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencing,
Holding and unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around (35-40)

Wordsworth writes of the “eye” and “ear” and their conjoined and equal creative force, meaning it is not only what is seen but also what is heard that works with the minds understanding of viewing the natural world. Neither man can look at nature without looking at their mind and pondering on their ability to aid in the creation of the scene that unfolds. For Shelley, it is not the “eye” nor “ear” of Wordsworth’s writings but instead it is “My own, my human mind” (MB 37) rapidly “rendering “ and “receiving” a clear depiction of nature.

Shelley echoes the musings of Wordsworth regarding a divine presence amongst the workings of nature. Wordsworth writes of “A motion and a spirit...” that “rolls through all things”; while Shelley writes of, “The everlasting universe of things” that “flows through the mind”. Shelley’s poem echoes Wordsworth’s ideas by writing of a “flowing” movement to reflect upon Wordsworth’s “rolling” movement; the use of both words depict a definitive unstoppable force, constant in motion, guided by unseen momentum and most importantly something that is being controlled by neither nature nor their minds; this use relates both poems to that of a divine being or guiding force.

While the inclusion of their mind in the experience and the presence of a greater being are in agreement, it is regarding the importance and feeling of humanity and the power of nature, are where the ideas and views of Wordsworth and Shelley begin to differ. Shelley diverts from the original musings of Wordsworth and that of “Tintern Abbey” regarding the feelings of nature altering or taking over the soul, transforming it from that of human to that of nature. In “Tintern Abbey”, Wordsworth is one with nature; he feels disconnected from humanity and his mind, body and soul work together with nature. When he thinks back to a particular scene and moment, he is then transported there and becomes one with the nature around him. No longer being a human witness but instead becoming a part of nature itself. Wordsworth writes:

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...
...To me was all in all... (66 - 75)

Wordsworth’s relationship with nature is honest and nurturing, he gives life to the scene through his mind and in return the moment gives him peace and comfort, he steps away from his humanity and becomes one with nature. However, Shelley’s view of nature differs from that of Wordsworth’s and is shown within his writings; his relationship with nature is one at odds with man; nature grows and lives to its immense godlike power and this display of power effects the ease and comfort of the human mind and humanity. The size, depth, danger, darkness and power of nature reminds him of his fragile humanity while also creating the question of how it can it be so powerful and all consuming when the human mind is its partial inventor. Wordsworth states that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” (TA 122), Shelley believes, nature revels in its power, fear inducing and awe inspiring capabilities, instability and ability to make small of the human observing in its wake. Shelley believes nature tricks the human to believe it is inconsequential in not only relation to but also in opposition to nature; he also proves nature dishonest in its created feelings of ease and safety.

The fields, the lakes, the forests and the streams,
Oceans, and all the living things that dwell
With in the [intricately formed] earth: lightning and rain
Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane. (84 - 87)

In this passage, Shelley mentions the peaceful nature of Wordsworth, followed immediately by the nature he sees and feels; the nature of power, destruction, instability, and terror. Shelley speaks of deception and secrets regarding the mighty mountain and its being; from the “Dizzy Ravine!” (MB 34) to “some shade of thee, / Some phantom, some faint image...” (MB 46 - 47) and “The glaciers [that] creep / Like snakes that watch there prey, from their far fountains, (MB 100 - 101); his use of these descriptions and words creates a strong feeling of uncertainty regarding the comfort and safety that is empowered in Wordsworth’s writings. Shelley turns away from the tame “landscape with the quiet sky” (TA 8), “The banks of this delightful stream” (TA 150) and the clear, bright and exact view seen through Wordsworth’s mind and eye; instead he gives us the wild and untamed:

Thus thou, Ravine of Arve - dark, deep Ravine-
Thou many-coloured, many-voiced vale,
Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
Fast cloud shadows and sunbeams: awful scene...
Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame
Of lightning through the tempest;... (12 - 19)

The use of “many-coloured” and “many-voiced”, emphasizing the wild, untamed unpredictability that Shelley believes to be true in nature.
Shelley’s feeling of deception regarding nature and humanities place amongst it questions the answers Wordsworth has deposed upon Dorothy and the reader in “Tintern Abbey”. Wordsworth is purely content believing nature to be the nurturing mother to his human imaginative and spiritual mind, there is no question or doubt within his mind that nature will ease him in times of need, bring him life and peace when driven to thoughts of nature; he feels that his mind is along for the ride that nature beauty has unveiled and it will always result in a feeling of comfort, acceptance and oneness with the wilderness. However Shelley questions who is the nurturer, the creator and the holder of power. While we are minute in physical size to the depth of nature and its beauty, the mind is the inventor of the feelings and visualizations of such sublimity. In other words, how does the human mind pale in comparison to the mighty godlike force of nature if the human mind is what created such a formidable foe; “And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea, / If to the human mind’s imaginings / Silence and solitude were vacancy?” (MB 142 - 144).

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