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Wordsworth: The Young and the Wise

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“Resolution and Independence” and “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey” respectively illustrate the difference between a young and nave poet-wanderer to a traveler who has found wisdom through time and nature. Furthermore, the two poems are also able to elucidate dissimilar types of acquired wisdom through the poet-figure “Tintern Abbey” who ultimately receives abundant recompense for the loss of the sounds of his youth and the old leech-gatherer of “Resolution and Independence” who receives no recompense for his lost vibrancy.

A prominent emblem for youth in “Resolution and Independence” is the music of the natural world surrounding the character, thus explaining how the loss of it becomes an indication of the loss of youth for the speaker in “Tintern Abbey.” The younger figure expresses delight in “The birds…singing in the distant woods… / The Jay [making] answer as the Magpie chatters; / And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters” (Resolution, lines 4-7). The imagery of familiar sounds of the outside world presents a dynamic life, wanting of nothing outside what the earth offers. “Tintern Abbey” starkly contrasts this passage in a discourse of the aged man: “…I have learned / To look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes / The still, sad music of humanity” (Tintern Abbey, 88-91). The latter character evidently shows great effort in having to learn to transition beyond the noise of youth into silence; he now “looks on nature” containing him rather than having the freedom to hear “the air…filled with pleasant noise.”

The manners in which the two speakers address the other characters in the story again demonstrate the differences between their experiences. The elder character not only reminisces on his happier times in the woods of Wye, he realizes the solitude of having lost the marvelous youthful part of his own personhood. Turning to his sister, he, almost desperately, wishes her strength for the future, fully anticipating the time when she, too, will have to look back to remember the vivid events of her younger years, as he is seeking to do: “Therefore let the moon / Shine on thee in they solitary walk; / And let the misty mountain-winds be free / To low against thee…in after years / …these wild ecstasies shall be matured / Into a sober please” (134-139). The speech of the speaker to his younger sister provides a warning for the adulthood awaiting her in the future which will leave her bereft of the vivacity of life as she presently knows it.

The young poet in “Resolution and Independence” does not yet grasp the idea of the involuntary solitude the aged man in “Tintern Abbey” is trying to impart on his sister. In meeting the leech-gatherer, he inquires the reason for the worker’s solitude: “What occupation do you there pursue? / This is a lonesome place for one like you” (Resolution, 88-89). The speaker from “Tintern Abbey” gives the idea that with age comes inescapable isolation from nature while the poet from “Resolution and Independence” seeks reason for the old leech gatherer’s loneliness. The younger character does not accept solitude as inevitable. He does not yet understand the experience of the older speaker that with development of maturity comes the necessary price of seclusion from nature.

Although the older character of “Tintern Abbey” mildly regrets the loss of “pleasant noise” both his sister and the younger speaker still hear and gently laments the presence of inescapable solitude that the young man does not yet feel, he is still fortunate in that in lieu of the presence of his youth he experiences a mellowness and settling in his older age. The same cannot be said for the leech-gatherer whose solitude the young poet from “Resolution and Independence” so clearly draws attention to. The speaker from “Tintern Abbey” finds himself grateful for solitude in the midst of the grieving for his lost youth: “…for such loss, I would believe, / Abundant recompence…And I have felt / A presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts” (Tintern Abbey, 87-95). Even though he has been forced into solitude by maturity, he is still able to find joy in experiencing a much quieter nature than the nature of his younger days.

The leech gatherer does not receive “abundant recompence” in his maturity. When the young wanderer inquires the reason for his loneliness, the leech gatherer replies “that to these waters he had come / To gather leeches, being old and poor: / Employment hazardous and wearisome!” (Resolution, 99-101). The response of the leech-gatherer expresses loneliness as a necessity, not inevitability. He is forced to choose the road of solitude, if he expects to continue living in the most basic sense. The speaker of “Tintern Abbey” does not have the same difficulty as the leech-gatherer. The loss of his youth is partly replaced by “The picture of the mind [reviving] again.2E.with the sense / Of present pleasure…with pleasing thoughts / That in this moment there is life and food / For future years” (Tintern Abbey, 61-65). Though the speaker has lost his youth, he has gained security. The leech gatherer has lost both: “Such seemed this Man, not all alive nor dead, / Nor all asleep — in his extreme old age: / His body was bent double, feet and hand / Coming together in life’s pilgrimage” (Resolution, 64-67). Two entrapping adversities face the leech-gatherer: the loss of his youth and the decline of his occupation. The elderly figure does not get an abundant recompense for the loss of his former youth since he continually finds himself having to face difficult labor in a dwindling occupation only to stay alive.

In both “Resolution and Independence” and “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey,” there exists two central dispositions: joy for the young and melancholy for the old. Unfortunately, the mood of joy for the young becomes an immediate cause for grief due to the lucid foreshadowing of the inevitable solitude age will eventually bring. The atmosphere of melancholy for the elder characters is split into categories: a melancholy with compensation and one without. Both poems revolve around characters that have, or will ultimately have, reasons for lamentations. Though the reasons are present, however, none of the characters in either poems actually do lament their situations: the speaker of “Tintern Abbey” is appreciative of his abundant recompense, the young poet of “Resolution and Independence” comes to see the leech-gatherer not as a ruined figure but as a source of strength and inspiration for when he himself will become solitary, and the obscure leech-gatherer, in the face of misfortune, finds the power within his decrepit self to hold on to a firm mind and the sustains a strong constitution to live.

Bibliography

Wordsworth, William. “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey” and “Resolution and Independence.”

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