Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798
by William Wordsworth
Stanza 1, Lines 1-22 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters!
- The speaker doesn't open with a description of the view or even an explanation of where he is, he starts by telling us how much time has passed since he was last here (and we know from the title that "here" is "a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey," on the "Banks of the Wye").
- And boy does he tell us. He doesn't just say "five years have past," he really emphasizes that five years is a super long time by adding up the seasons. Especially the "five long winters."
and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur. – Once again
- But now he's there again! So, "once again," the speaker can hear and see all the beautiful stuff that he remembers from his first visit.
- This is where he starts to describe those impressions, and he starts with what he can hear: the sound of the "mountain-springs."
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
- The speaker describes the "steep and lofty cliffs." They're just as he remembered, too.
- He uses the word "again" in these lines, as well, possibly to reinforce the idea that he's been here before.
- Those mountain cliffs "impress/ Thoughts" of "seclusion," or self-imposed solitude on the speaker.
- "Impress" seems like a funny word choice. It's a more active verb than you'd expect for something inanimate, like a cliff. It makes it seem as though the cliffs he's looking at have some kind of will or volition of their own. Or maybe it just seems that way to the speaker.
- Those cliffs reach from the landscape below and beyond them up to the sky, "connect[ing]" everything he's looking at, so the cliffs help to create a sense of unity to the view he's admiring.
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,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
'Mid groves and copses.
- Here's that word, "again," again. We get the picture: you've been here before!
- The speaker "reposes," or relaxes in the shade under a "sycamore" (10) and lists all of the specific parts of the view that he remembers from the last trip to the River Wye: the small gardens around the cottages and the groups of fruit trees which, in the distance, look like "tufts" instead of individual trees. Because it's still early in the summer, the fruit isn't ripe yet, so the fruit trees are all the same shade of green as the surrounding clusters ("groves and copses") of wild trees.
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
- "Once again," again. He sure wants to emphasize the fact that he's seen all this before.
- The "hedge-rows," or planted rows of shrubbery, used to mark property lines or the edge of a field, look like "little lines" (15) from his vantage point.
- He also describes the hedge-rows as "sportive wood run wild" (16), which seems odd, given that hedges are planted to keep things in order, so that the fields won't "run wild."
- The speaker then points out all the farm houses he can see, and then the little "wreaths of smoke" appearing here and there from the woods.
- Hm, so it's not just a wild landscape. There are signs of human life here, too.
- But no sounds of human life: the smoke goes up "in silence." Apparently the only sounds he can hear from his vantage point come from the "mountain-springs" he describes in line 3.
- The farms he describes are "pastoral," which is interesting because the word "pastoral" can refer either to shepherds (so these are probably sheep farms), the countryside where shepherds are likely to live (like the "Banks of the Wye"), or to poetry about shepherds.
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.
- The "wreaths of smoke" from line 18 are a bit of a mystery. The speaker imagines that the smoke could come from the fire of a "vagrant" or wandering person who's camping out in the "houseless woods."
- Or maybe the smoke is coming from a cave where a "Hermit," or solitary religious person, has chosen to live.