Thursday, May 30, 2019
Taoist Reading of Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth :: Poetry Religion Taoism
Wordsworths hs towards a Taoist reading of Tintern Abbey Five years have passed five summers, with the aloofness Of five long winters And again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain springs With a sweet inland murmur. (1-4) Tintern Abbeys opening lines prepare the reader for a reunion, remarkable in tone not only for the sense of anticipation with which the poet apprehends this moment, but equally so for the poignancy which immediately inflects the poems proceedings. My reading of Tintern Abbey takes as its most grownup concern the sense in which Wordsworths Revisiting the Banks of the Wye represents a haven-seeking of sorts. Since his visit to the Wye in 1793, much has happened to Wordsworth he has found, and relinquished, his first romantic love in Annette Vallon. As a offspring would-be radical, sympathetic to the ideals of the French Revolution, he finds himself at odds with Londons entrenched conservatism. In 1795, after well over a decade of on ly intermittent contact with his sister, Wordsworth and his beloved Dorothy are reunited at Racedown, at about the same time that they make the acquaintance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Within devil years of this happy occasion, the two Wordsworths will move to Alfoxden to be near Coleridge. The ensuing years of intense friendship and creative discourse will yield, by 1798, the collaborative Lyrical Ballads, to which Tintern Abbey belongs. As we consider the tumult and activity that have characterized this period of his life, we might well speculate upon the nature of the thoughts going through Wordsworths mind as he surveys the Abbey from his vantage on the riverbank my own temptation is to equate the quietly reflective tone of the poem with the Taoist notion of hs. In Taoism hs is defined -- in describing a state of mind -- as meaning absolute peacefulness and purity of mind and freedom from worry and selfish desires and not to be disturbed by incoming impressions or to allow what is already in the mind to disturb what is coming into the mind. Hs-shih means unreality and reality, but hs also means profound and mystifying continuum in which there is no obstruction. (Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University Press, 1963.