What is the three-stage of growth that Wordsworth refers to in “Tintern Abbey”?

Introduction: Tintern Abbey, is a testament to Wordsworth’s attitude to Nature, his attitude to Man, his moral vision, and his philosophy of life. This poem was written on 13th July 1798 and published in the same year in the volume, Lyrical Ballads. In the poem, Tintern Abbey, William Wordsworth (1770-1850) represents three different stages of thought regarding nature.  

Three stages are:  

  • The boyish or animal pleasure of nature 
  • Physical or sensuous beauty of nature 
  • Spiritual or intellectual beauty of nature  

The boyish or animal pleasure of nature 

In the first stage of Wordsworth’s boyhood, he enjoyed the presence of nature. The first stage in the development of Wordsworth’s attitude to-Nature was marked by a simple delight, in freedom and the open air. Wordsworth found pleasure in roaming about in the midst of Nature. Like a deer, he roamed about over the mountains, by the side of the deep rivers, and along the lonely streams.  

His roaming in the midst of Nature is described by him as glad animal movements and the pleasure he enjoyed in the midst of Nature is called a coarse pleasure. He felt more like one who flees from something that he dreads than like one who seeks the thing he loves. He wandered about wherever Nature led him. He said,  

“like a roe 

I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides 

Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, 

Wherever nature led:” 

Physical or sensuous beauty of nature 

In the second stage, Wordsworth’s relationship and love for Nature were purely physical. Nature now appealed chiefly to sensuous beauty to him. He felt pleasure in watching the colors of Nature smelling the fragrance of Nature, touching the objects of Nature, and hearing the sweet sounds of Nature. The colors and shapes of mountains and wood to him were an attraction. The fountain haunted his heart like a passion. Wordsworth said,  

Haunted me like a passion: the tall rocks, 

The mountain and the deep and gloomy wood 

Their colors and their forms were then to me 

An appetite” 

Thus he loved Nature with an unreflecting or thoughtless passion. He experienced joy and delight in his contact with Nature. It was the outward or external sensuous beauty of Nature that delighted Wordsworth. 

Spiritual or intellectual beauty of nature  

Ultimately, in the third stage, Wordsworth’s love for Nature became spiritual and intellectual. He had now seen the sufferings of mankind and heard the sad music of humanity. Now he became thoughtful. Therefore, when he looked at Nature, he was filled with deep thoughts. He now found a deep meaning and a hidden significance in Nature. So the poet rightly says, 

A motion and spirit, that impels 

All thinking things, all objects of all thought 

And rolls through all things. 

 The external beauty of Nature he still appreciated, but it was the inner or hidden significance of Nature that mainly attracted him and moved him into thought.  

Now he found a divine spirit inside all the objects of Nature. He found that divine spirit in the light of the setting sun, in the round ocean, in the blue sky, and in all things. At this stage, he also developed the educative influence of Nature. He looked upon Nature as the nurse, the guide, the guardian of his heart, and the soul of his moral being. Thus, in the third stage, Wordsworth was a “pantheist” and a believer in spiritual communication between man and Nature. So Wordsworth advises his sister Dorothy to cultivate friendship with nature because nature did never betray her. Wordsworth remarks, 

Nature never did betray 

The heart that loved her. 

Conclusion: There are lots of disputes on Wordsworth’s philosophy of nature but his philosophy of nature and life has a great influence on human life. The poet in his Tintern Abbey explores nature, its philosophy and spirituality in such you way that really developed his thought.  

Setu Rani
Setu Rani
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