Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798

From Lyrical Ballads

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone.
                                           Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lightened:— 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.
                                                       If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft–
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart–
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
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, or 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,
Not 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 recognize
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.
                                                 Nor, perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance–
If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence–wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love–oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.


  1. The poem ends on an encouraging note as Wordsworth contemplates his experience on the River Wye with his sister. He understands that with time, she will mature and her youthful passions will diminish. Nevertheless, he prays that she may fondly recall this moment together and draw inspiration from nature’s capacity to physically, emotionally, and mentally enliven and uplift her.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Introduced with the negating phrase “Nor, perchance—,” Wordsworth describes the possibility of his death, when he can no longer hear or “catch from thy wild eyes these gleams / of past existence.” If he should die, he hopes that Dorothy will still remember this experience together, surrounded by nature and profoundly affected by its unique beauty.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. The noun “exhortation” refers to the act of making a strong appeal. Through this final stanza, Wordsworth exclaims that he has reached the conclusion of his argument. He has documented each way nature has served as a guide and refuge for him during times of grief. He hopes that he can pass on this wisdom to his sister during their visit to the abbey.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. In his prayer, Wordsworth further connects nature to memory. He hopes that Dorothy’s mind might be a “mansion” to hold all her memories of nature so that she might be able to remember its beauty for consolation during difficult times. Similarly to how he recalls nature while in the city, Wordsworth imagines Dorothy’s memory as a “dwelling-place” where all the beautiful forms and colors of nature might reside and resurface when called on.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. The word “ecstasies” describes a state of overwhelming delight. Here, Wordsworth returns to the theme of maturation, elucidating how age can transform one’s perception of nature. With maturity, youthful passions—“wild ecstasies”—transform into “sober pleasure.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Contrasted against the slicing “s” alliteration in the lines above, the use of the “m” alliteration creates a sense of mellifluous ease. Nature, which “is full of blessings,” provides Wordsworth and his sister refuge. Instead of encountering “evil tongues,” they encounter freedom and solitude in the “misty” mountains and moonlight.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. The phrase the “sneers of selfish men” seems to cut through the otherwise eloquent, grandiose language Wordsworth employs. With the alliteration of the hissing “s” sounds, Wordsworth denounces the modern, urban culture that gives rise to selfish, skeptical men. He claims that nature will “prevail” against the “dreary intercourse of daily life.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. The speaker utters a prayer, in which he asks that Dorothy find the same sense of tranquility and serenity in nature as he does. Through repetition and variation, he creates a sense of the grandeur of nature, suggesting its capacity to restore the human spirit. Personifying nature as a “she,” he states that she can “so inform… so impress… so feed.” The repetition with “so,” combined with the various ways in which nature can bring transformation, adds to the complexity of what nature can offer.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The speaker contrasts his decaying “genial spirits” to “thy wild eyes” of a new character in the poem, his younger sister Dorothy. Wordsworth and his sister, also a writer and poet, were very close throughout their lives. Through Dorothy, Wordsworth is able to live vicariously and recapture a sense of his more youthful days, intimated in the line when Wordsworth exclaims, “Oh!... May I behold in thee what I was once.” Although he does not mourn the passage of his youth, Wordsworth recalls his memories fondly and nostalgically.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. While nature provided the speaker’s younger self an outlet for his animalistic energies, nature now serves a different, more profound purpose. Through metaphor, the speaker likens nature to a variety of roles, including anchor, nurse, guide, and guardian. As these lines indicate, the speaker imagines a kindred, overarching spirit that moves like a guiding force through nature and into the human consciousness.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. With his newfound appreciation of nature, the speaker recognizes something he failed to recognize in his youth: a presence that pervades all of nature. With this more philosophical understanding of nature, the speaker imagines that this seemingly divine force inhabits and passes through the ocean, the air, the sky, and “the mind of man.” With various literary devices—the repetition of the word “and,” as well as the use of spondees, specifically the two consecutive strong stresses on the words “round ocean” and “blue sky”—the speaker accentuates his reverence for the enormity and grandeur of nature.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Instead of looking to nature to provide a source of release, the speaker now looks to it for its “ample power / to chasten and subdue.” The verb “to chasten” means to restrain while the verb “to subdue” means to bring under control. Both verbs suggest that over time nature has afforded the speaker the maturity to think inwardly.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. The poem undergoes another shift as the speaker considers his current relationship with nature. Instead of finding the chaos and passion within nature, he hears “the still, sad music of humanity.” This phrase intimates a more nuanced and mature appreciation for nature. Wordsworth can find pleasure in its stillness rather than its movement; its melancholy rather than its joyfulness.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. The phrase “dizzy raptures” aptly illustrates the speaker’s previous relationship with nature. The former word “dizzy” describes a whirling sensation in the head, while the latter word “rapture” describes an experience of overwhelming emotion. With the power of hindsight, the speaker is able to look back on his passionate, emotional connection with nature. However, as he suggests in the following line, he does not yearn to return to that stage in his life.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  15. The noun “cataract” refers to a large, powerful waterfall that runs over a precipice. As a child, nature was awe-inspiring for the speaker—the cataract, the mountains, and the woods “haunted [him] like a passion.” The overwhelming colors and shapes were like “a feeling and a love,” suggesting that he and nature were connected on an instinctive level.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. With a second simile, the speaker conveys how, although as a child he was deeply connected with nature, he acted impetuously. He was someone who ran away instead of someone who appreciated and “sought” what they loved to the fullest extent.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  17. The speaker romanticizes his childhood, when he possessed a different appreciation of nature. He says, through the use of simile, that he was “like a roe,” or a small deer. He once “bounded” through the mountains and rivers with relentless, youthful energy, yet he never stopped to appreciate it.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. In this stanza, the poem shifts tone as the speaker, enlivened by nature, awakens out of his reverie and realizes where he is. Nature has several effects on the speaker: it helps to stir his memory, as well as jolt him out of “dim and faint” thought into the sensuous reality of the present moment.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  19. Through repetition of the phrase “how oft” and its variant “how often” throughout this stanza, the speaker highlights how frequently he has turned to the thought of nature for consolation.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. The word “sylvan” means “wooded” and derives from “Silvanus,” the Roman God of woods and fields. By characterizing the Wye as sylvan, the speaker personifies the river as a “wanderer” of the woods and thanks it for all the times the thought of it has provided a sort of refuge for the speaker.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  21. The speaker contrasts the dismal, dark imagery associated with city life to demonstrate the uplifting qualities of nature that restore the speaker’s spirit. His life without the presence of nature is like a “fever” or “joyless delight.” The speaker demonstrates that by imagining nature, which he often did while living in the city, his spirit is renewed.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  22. Here, Wordsworth suggests how imagining nature can leave one in a state of reverie—with the death of the body or “corporeal frame,” the mind comes alive as “a living soul.” The “blessed mood”—that state of euphoria and joy the speaker describes above—transcends the corporeal and informs the inner spiritual life instead. In this way, the mind is able to “see into the life of things.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. According to Wordsworth, imagining nature allows readers to cope with our complex and incomprehensible world. By reminiscing on the beauty of nature, readers can reach a “sublime” state—the “blessed mood”—where the burdens of life and all its mysteries are alleviated. Wordsworth employs juxtaposition to demonstrate what the “blessed mood” can achieve. Set against negative terms such as “burthen,” “heavy and weary weight,” and “unintelligible,” the blessed mood instead lightens.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  24. In these lines, Wordsworth’s speaker explains how the best parts of his life were not moments of great heroism. Instead, they were the small, seemingly insignificant actions barely remembered, characterized by “kindness and[...] love.” Wordsworth’s attunements to the subtleties of human experience, memory, and perception were among his great strengths as a poet; it is little surprise that his speaker expresses these qualities.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Wordsworth employs a litote, an understatement of the affirmative which uses the negative of the contrary. By stating that the memory of nature had “no trivial influence,” Wordsworth’s speaker means that, to the contrary, nature had a significant influence during his time in the city.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. Since his last visit to the Wye River, Wordsworth’s speaker has spent time living in the city—likely London—where he remembered nature’s “forms of beauty” fondly. His memories of this landscape provided him the necessary “sensations” to sustain him during his weariness “‘mid the din,” the loud urban noises. Unlike “a landscape to a blind man’s eye,” Wordsworth could vividly imagine and recall on nature. Doing so provided “tranquil restoration” that calmed both his mind and body, “felt in the blood, and felt along the heart.”

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. From Wordsworth’s perch, he sees a rising “wreath of smoke” within the green landscape and fantasizes about where it might originate. He imagines, through two metaphors, that the smokes rises from the fire of “vagrant dwellers” and the fire of a “hermit’s cave.” According to Romantic beliefs, hermits, who lived secluded in nature, were viewed as emblems of piety, virtue, and special wisdom. By envisioning the hermit’s cave, Wordsworth asserts that even the smoke rises from a sacred, natural source.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. Here, the speaker’s bird’s-eye view skews his vision. As he looks down at the man-made hedges, he sees that they are “hardly hedge-rows” and more like “little lines / or sportive wood run wild.” His physical view of nature changes depending on his perspective, just as his philosophical view of nature changes depending on his age and stature—a theme Wordsworth touches on later in the poem.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  29. Used repeatedly throughout the first stanza, the descriptors “green” and “wild” illustrate a fertile, abundant landscape beginning to become contaminated by signs of industrialization. Romantics envisioned a simple past and disapproved of the corruption of nature by factories and pollution.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  30. The word “copse” refers to a thicket of small trees. In line with the idea of blurring colors and objects together, the speaker sees from above how the copses combine and conceal the cottages and orchards.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. One of the major visions of the Romantic movement was to paint and write about landscape with newfound reverence. Here, Wordsworth praises nature through his description of his surroundings, specifically in the blurred distinctions between the objects in nature—how the landscape “connect[s]” with the sky through the imprint of the cliffs; how the color green extends to every door. The melding of land and sky, as well as the broader conception of Nature as a unified whole, is a motif that characterizes much of the art of the Romantic movement.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  32. In addition to the exclamation in the second line, the phrase “once again,” which is repeated twice throughout this first stanza, emphasizes Wordsworth’s return to his place under the sycamore tree. By placing this phrase at the end of line four, Wordsworth enjambs the sentence, causing the reader to pause and recognize the importance of the speaker’s return before describing the place.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. The first piece of imagery the speaker recognizes is the sound of the River Wye as it flows from the mountains through the valley, which he likens to a “murmur.” The noun “murmur” describes a soft, indistinct, and continuous sound or utterance. Here, Wordsworth creates an auditory image of the River Wye as a quiet, constant accompaniment to the visually stimulating scenery around him. This murmur echoes throughout the following lines as Wordsworth employs alliteration of the “s” sound (“steep,” “secluded scene,” “seclusions,” and “sky”), evoking a sense of whispering and murmuring.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. Wordsworth opens his first stanza by establishing the context of the poem. This poem, as clearly described in the title, was written five years after a walking tour from London to North Wales in 1793. Now, five years later on July 13, 1798, Wordsworth returns to the same spot, which overlooks the village of Tintern on the west bank of the River Wye in Wales. The title provides a sense of perspective—both physical and temporal—and indicates that Wordsworth stands on a secluded cliff “above” the village below. This intimates a sense of distance from the village, as though Wordsworth were standing back and observing both the village and his life from afar.

    — Tess, Owl Eyes Staff