In William Wordsworth’s poems, “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” and “She Was a Phantom of Delight,” the theme of memory is used as a powerful and creative force. In “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth recalls a time five years ago when he took a trip to the Abbey. Through his words he is able to convey the emotion and beauty of the Abbey to his audience.
In the first several lines alone, you can visualize the Abbey and Wordsworth’s memory is what brings it to life. “Five years have past; five summers, with the length of five long winter! And again I hear these waters, rolling from their mountain-springs with a soft inland murmur,” (lines 1-4, page 47). With one glance at the sight before him, William Wordsworth has again been hypnotized by the presence of the Abbey. He talks about the time that has passed and the sounds that he can hear echoing through the air. All of this is traveling back to him and he begins to remember the first time that he saw this same sight. There is one particular part of the poem where it becomes completely obvious that Wordsworth has dreamt about this sight for quite some time. “…The picture of the mind revives again: while here I stand, not only with the sense of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts that in this moment there is life and food for future years,” (lines 63-67, page 49). The picture that Wordsworth has been carrying all these years was just a memory that he has had to hold on to until the next time that he would see the Abbey. I believe that William Wordsworth decided to construct this poem because his memory alone was not serving the purpose which was to keep the Abbey alive. He had taken a mental picture of the Abbey and tried to hold onto it for as long as he could but it became too difficult to relay the message and sight to others so thus came the arrival of “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey.”
In “She Was a Phantom of Delight,” Wordsworth also uses his memory device to get a message across to his readers. In this poem he is talking about a woman from his past that left such a lasting impression on his eyes. “She was a phantom of delight when first she gleamed upon my sight; a lovely Apparition,” (lines 1-3, page 16). The first sight of this woman left such a mark on Wordsworth.
The use of the past tense in both of these poems serves a very distinct purpose. The past tense indicates that something has occurred before. This would provoke the use of the memory. The creativity that the memory allows is quite remarkable. A poet can use memory to write fairy tale like poems that paint glorious pictures in the reader’s mind.
The memory can also be a powerful tool in the sense that when a person recites what they have seen or heard, the reader or listener becomes consumed with what the speaker is relaying. While I was reading these two poems, I was transformed from a listener to an active participant in what he was writing about. The vocabulary that Wordsworth uses also makes a big difference in the way that one interprets the poems. Words like “gleamed,” “Apparition,” “murmur,” and “pleasing” help to open up the mind and heighten the memory. William Wordsworth is known for his frequent reminiscent poems that deal with nature and his past experiences.