Now, ordinarily, I’m not a fan of William Wordsworth; the endless melancholy, the continual references to the sublime; it can become quite exhausting, fifteen pages into the Lyrical Ballads. However, one particular poem, “Lines Written A Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” (often abbreviated to “Tintern Abbey”) is somehow rather different, because it moves, ever so slightly, away from the style of his earlier, rather introverted style of poetry, and focusses a little on the relationship with Wordsworth and Dorothy, his sister.
Ordinarily, I tend to veer away from the topic of feminist criticism, because it can be contentious, and not necessarily an objective approach when criticising the actual entity that is a text. In terms of cultural and contextual criticism, it’s a fundamentally necessary approach, however in terms of the text itself, it can be somewhat narrowing in terms of interpretation. However, “Tintern Abbey” differs from much of Wordsworth’s earlier poetry, because it focusses on someone other than William, and also on Dorothy’s position in his life.
The relationship between William and Dorothy therefore is one of paramount importance within Wordsworth’s writing, and can be examined in relation to feminism due to the prominence of Dorothy’s absence. Despite being such an important literary figure herself, she had little opportunity to express it, or develop her talents; it is possible to imagine the literary significance she would have had, had she not been bound by the expectations of her gender.
I like the subtlety of “Tintern Abbey”; it is reflective, calm, and far less melodramatic, when compared with much of the earlier poetry, for example The Ruined Cottage. The structure of the poem, in five stanzas that are irregular, shows a more meandering approach taken, almost as though it is a thought process, in the writing of the poem. The poem was written several years after he actually sat above the abbey he discusses; this is very important, because the time that has passed represents a growing maturity and a rather different perspective on the world; this would also include a change in the relationship he has with his sister. The early radicalism that Wordsworth had so heartily supported was firmly pushed away, in favour of calm, peaceful poems and a more contemplative approach taken within his writing.
I like to read the Romantics only really in conjunction with aestheticism, however it is impossible to think that they were without literary merit, and their poetry is perhaps some of the most accessible ever written.