Study Guide

Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798 Memory and the Past

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Memory and the Past

Memory's a funny thing in the world of "Tintern Abbey." It works like a portable scrapbook of all of your most amazing experiences with Nature. Having a bad day? Close your eyes and flip to page 44 of your mental scrapbook to call up the image of that visit to the banks of the river Wye! You'll feel better in a jiffy. Part of the process of maturing into the kind of person who can sense the divine "presence" in nature is knowing when and how to access your memory.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Why does the speaker find it difficult to describe his past self, the young "William" (75-6)?
  2. Is memory more or less effective than immediate experience? Why?
  3. Why does the speaker want to imagine his sister's "memory" instead of his own? Is his full?
  4. What makes the "unremembered pleasures" so important (31)? Where do they come from?

Chew on This

In "Tintern Abbey," memory is more effective than immediate experience in bringing on a transcendental state of understanding. In immediate experience, we are too distracted by our senses.

In "Tintern Abbey," memory is never as effective as immediate experience in bringing on a transcendental state of understanding; it is always "dim and faint" (59), only a feeble substitute for the real thing.

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