“Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”
1. Why do you think the poet wants to emphasize in his opening that he is returning to a place from which he has been absent? What details does he present, and is it useful that these portray a specific scene?
2. What do you think of the poem’s sounds? What effect is created by its form? Its divisions into stanzas?
3. What is the poet’s response to the scene? Which words convey his attitudes toward what he observes? Is the scene uninhabited? What is added, if anything, by the traces of human presence?
4. What are some of the effects that the memory of this and similar scenes have had on the speaker? What portions of his life does he ascribe to its influence? (“the best portion of a good man’s life”) What effect does it have on his moods, and how? The poet speaks of an experience in which “we are laid asleep/ In body, and become a living soul.” To what does he seem to refer? What meaning does he read when he sees “into the life of things”?
5. What problems, doubts or regrets does the speaker seem to have? How had he reacted to nature when a boy, and how has he changed?
6. What does he see as the adult equivalent of his boyhood symbiosis with nature? Is he content with the loss of “thoughtless youth”? What new perception or experience has come to him? Is Wordsworth a “pantheist”? Is his perception of “a motion and a spirit, that impels/ All thinking things, all objects of all thought,/ And rolls though all things” essentially spiritual?
7. What is added by the section in which the poet addresses his Friend (his sister Dorothy)? How is it bound to the earlier sections of the poem?
8. What opinions does the poet seem to hold about the outer world of social relations? What anxieties does the poet express about his future, and how does the thought of his sister calm them?
9. What are some of the themes of this poem? In what ways is the speaker of Wordsworth’s poem a “deep ecologist”?
“The Tables Turned”
1. Who is the poem’s speaker? Do you think he is rude to his friend? (If not, why not?) How would you describe the poem’s tone? The effect of its stanzas and rhymes?
2. Why, according the speaker, should we prefer the experience of nature to academic study? What are aspects of nature which he notices for comment?
3. What attitude toward life should we learn from nature? What can reflection in nature teach us about morality?
4. What does the poet mean when he says, “We murder to dissect”? In what way may our intellects be “meddling”?
5. What is the final pun on “leaves”? According to the final stanza, what should be our response to experience? How is this a moral and/or aesthetic experience?
Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals, selections
1. How are Dorothy Wordsworth’s nature observations different from those of her brother? Which features of nature seem of special interest to her?
2. What seems to be her relation to her brother? To his poems? How does she convey her emotions about human relationships?
3. Do her journals seem consistent with her brother’s descriptions of her in “Tintern Abbey”?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, selections from journals
1. Which aspects of Coleridge’s observations seem similar to those of Dorothy? To William’s writings on nature?
2. What, if anything, seems distinctive about his approach?