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Published 20 November 2013

"Tintern Abbey" (1798) by William Wordsworth - the original and most authentic text

This poem is arguably the greatest lyrical poem in the English language [1].

It was first published in 1798 in what is probably the most famous book of poetry in the language: Lyrical Ballads, which, in addition to ground-breaking works by Wordsworth exploring the speech and the social situation of the common man in the framework of a nature-centred vision, also contained works by by his close friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, notably his great epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This book is generally considered to have heralded the beginning of the English Romantic movement.

The 1798 text of Tintern Abbey was republished unchanged in later editions of Lyrical Ballads in 1800 and 1802, and slightly modified (lines 13-14) in the edition of his collected works published by Wordsworth in 1815.

However, it differs significantly in a number of places (lines 1, 4, 6, 13-15, 22-23, 33, 39 and in the title (!)), and in punctuation, from what we might call the "received versions", the ones - they are not all by any means identical - found in authoritative modern anthologies such as The Oxford Book of English Verse and The Norton Anthology of Poetry, and on the Internet [2].

We suggest that the original 1798 version of this landmark text, shown below, should be the reference version, with precedence over all others (including the slightly revised 1815 version), as modifications made so many years after the initial creation and publication of a major work, by a writer whose creative period was in later years long in the past, have their proper place in footnotes, and not in the core text.

The passages or words which differ from the modern "received" version(s) are highlighted below in bold typeface, with footnotes showing the verses used in the modern versions.

A "clean" version of this original 1798 text, without footnotes, is included below.

e-book versions of this original text are also available for downloading below.


date of last update: January 8, 2017. [3]

LINES WRITTEN [4] A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE WYE DURING A TOUR, JULY 13, 1798.

1
Five years have passed [5]; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet [6] inland murmur [7]. [8]Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which [9] on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts [10],
Which, [11] at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
 [12]
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows [13], little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreathes [14] of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees, [15]
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit’s [16] cave, where by his fire
The hermit [17] sits alone.

23
’_________________________Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
 [18]
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye: [19]
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid [20] the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart, [21]
And passing even into my purer mind [22]
With tranquil restoration: [23]—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence [24]
On that best portion of a good man’s life; [25]
His little, nameless, unremembered [26] acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen [27] of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world [28]
Is lighten’d: [29]—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on, [30]
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame, [31]
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul: [32]
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

50
’____________________________If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft, [33]
In darkness, [34] and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light [35]; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart, [36]
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee [37]
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

59
And now, with gleams of half-extinguish’d [38]thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
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. And so I dare to hope [39]
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, [40] when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led; [41] more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, [42] than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by, [43])
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: [44] the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: [45] a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or [46] any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: [47] other gifts
Have followed, [48] for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence [49]. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, [50] but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man, [51]
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, [52] both what they half-create [53], [54]
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

112
’____________________Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, [55] here, [54] upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, [56] my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, [57] and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our chearful [58] faith [59] that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, [60] when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place [61]
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! [62] then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, [63]
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance, [64]
If I should be, [65] where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, [66] wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came, [67]
Unwearied in that service: [68] rather say
With warmer love, [69] oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves, [70] and for thy sake.

LINES WRITTEN A FEW MILES ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON REVISITING THE BANKS OF THE WYE DURING A TOUR, July 13, 1798.

Five years have passed; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
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,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
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.

’___________________Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten’d:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.

_____________________________If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!

And now, with gleams of half-extinguish’d thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
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. And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur: other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Not harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.

’____________________Nor, perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our chearful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves, and for thy sake.


NB: click on the note number to return.

Tintern Abbey - the original text (Kindle version)
Tintern Abbey - the original text (ePub version)

Notes

[1and I would so argue.

[2the Norton version of Tintern Abbey can be seen elsewhere on this site (by clicking here).

[3with:
- identification of all of the typographical and punctuation variants between the modern and the original Lyrical Ballads texts;
- a separate, notation-free copy of the original 1798 text;
- Kindle and ePub attachments for downloading to an ebook reader.

[4Title: WRITTEN was later changed by Wordsworth to COMPOSED in the 1815 edition of his collected works.

[5l.1: the archaic form "past" is used in The Oxford Book of English Verse and a few other editions (but not in the Norton) - apparently incorrectly, as the modern form "passed" was used in the original 1798 version, as well as in the 1800 and 1802 editions of Lyrical Ballads, and in the 1815 edition of his Collected Works, which Wordsworth prefaced and had obviously reviewed and approved.

[6l. 4: "sweet" has been revised to "soft" in the Oxford and Norton anthologies, and elsewhere. The original term "sweet" was, however, used in all of the editions of the poem published under Wordsworth’s supervision until and including the 1815 edition of his collected works, at least.

[7l. 4: The river is not affected by the tides a few miles above Tintern (Wordsworth’s annotation in the Lyrical Ballads editions).

[8l. 4: this dash is omitted for obscure typographical reasons in most modern editions (but not in the Oxford).

[9l. 6: "Which" has become "That" in the modern versions, but not in the 1815 version of his Collected Works.

[10l. 11: "cottage ground, these orchard tufts" in the Norton anthology and others (but not the Oxford).

[11l. 12: this comma is (curiously) missing in all modern editions.

[12l. 13-15: these 3 lines were later revised by Wordsworth in the 1815 edition of his Collected Works as follows:

"Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
Among the woods and copses, nor disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
"

they were apparently further revised in a yet later edition, and appear in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, The Oxford Book of English Verse and almost everywhere else as follows, reduced to 2 lines:

"Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
’Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
"

[13l. 16: "hedgerows, hardly hedgerows" in modern editions

[14l. 18: "wreathes" was changed to "wreaths" in the 1815 edition of the Collected Works, and in later editions.

[15l. 19: this comma was changed by Wordsworth to a semi-colon in the 1815 edition, but has become an exclamation mark in almost all modern editions, including the Norton and the Oxford.

[16l. 22: "Hermit’s" in modern editions.

[17l. 23: "Hermit" in modern editions.

[18l. 23-24: these 1 1/2 lines, unchanged as late as the 1815 Collected Works, appear as follows in the "received" version to be found in the Norton and Oxford anthologies and elsewhere:

"_________________________These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
"

[19l. 25: this colon has become a semi-colon in the Norton and other modern editions, but not in the Oxford.

[20l. 26: "mid", unchanged in the 1815 edition of the Collected Works, has been somewhat pedantically changed to "’mid" in modern editions.

[21l. 29: this comma was changed by Wordsworth to a semi-colon in the 1815 edition of his Collected Works.

[22l. 30: a comma was inserted here by Wordsworth in the 1815 edition of his Collected Works.

[23l. 31: this colon has been dropped in the Norton edition, but not in the Oxford.

[24l. 33: appears as follows in the Norton and Oxford anthologies and elsewhere, but not in the 1815 edition of the Collected Works:

"As have no slight or trivial influence"

[25l.34: this semi-colon was replaced by a comma in the 1815 edition.

[26l. 35: a comma has been inserted here in the Norton edition and others (but not in the Oxford.

[27l. 39: the original "burthen" has been changed to the modern form "burden" in The Oxford Book of English Verse and in some other editions (but not in the Norton) - apparently incorrectly, as the archaic (and poetically-charged) form "burthen" was systematically used by Wordsworth in all his writing and poetry until at least the 1815 edition of his collected poems, where it was used 11 times in all.

[28l. 41: a comma appears (bizarrely) here after "world in all modern editions.

[29l. 42: "lightened" with no colon in all modern editions.

[30l. 43: this comma became ",—" in the 1815 Collected Works and in the Oxford, and "—" in the Norton and other modern editions.

[31l. 4: this comma was omitted in the 1815 Collected Works and in almost all later editions, including the Oxford and the Norton.

[32l. 47: this colon became a semi-colon in the 1815 edition and afterwards.

[33l. 51: this comma, still there in the 1815 Collected Works, has become a dash in modern editions.

[34l. 52: this comma, which was still there in the 1815 Collected Works, is omitted in modern editions.

[35l. 53: "day-light" has become the somewhat shorter-sounding "daylight" in modern editions.

[36l. 55: this comma, still there in the 1815 Collected Works, has become a dash in modern editions.

[37l. 56: a comma was inserted after "thee" in the 1815 Collected Works, and has remained in all later editions.

[38l. 59: this became "half-extinguished" in the 1815 edition and thereafter.

[39l. 66: a comma was added after "hope" some time after 1815.

[40l. 67: this comma, still there in the 1815 Collected Works, has disappeared in modern editions.

[41l. 71: this semi-colon was changed to a colon in the 1815 edition; it has become a dash in the Norton (but is still a colon in the Oxford).

[42l. 72: this comma is omitted in the Norton edition (but not in the Oxford).

[43l. 75: this comma has been dropped in modern editions.

[44l. 78: this colon was changed to a semi-colon in the 1815 Collected Works.

[45l. 81: this colon was changed to a semi-colon in the 1815 Collected Works.

[46l. 83: "nor" in modern anthologies.

[47l. 87: this colon was changed to a semi-colon in the 1815 Collected Works.

[48l. 88: this comma has become a semi-colon in modern editions.

[49l. 89: "recompence" was changed/corrected to "recompense" in the 1815 edition.

[50l. 91: this comma was changed to a semi-colon in the 1815 Collected Works.

[51l. 100: this comma was changed to a colon in the 1815 Collected Works.

[52l. 107: this comma, still there in the 1815 edition, has become a dash in the Norton and a comma followed by a dash in the Oxford.

[53l. 107: "half-create" was changed to "half create" in the 1815 Collected Works and in all following editions.

[54l. 107: in the Lyrical Ballads editions, there is the following footnote by Wordsworth here: This line has a close resemblance to an admirable line of Young, the exact expression of which I cannot recollect.

[55l. 115: this comma has been omitted in modern editions.

[56l. 116: this comma has been omitted in modern editions.

[57l. 117: this comma has become a semi-colon in modern editions.

[58l. 134: "chearful" was changed/corrected to "cheerful" in the 1815 edition.

[59l. 134: a comma was inserted here some time after 1815, and appears in all modern editions.

[60l. 140: this comma was changed to a semi-colon some time after 1815.

[61l. 142: "dwelling place" in the Norton edition (but not in the Oxford).

[62l. 143: changed to "oh!" in modern editions.

[63l. 144: this comma has been omitted in the Norton edition (but not in the Oxford).

[64l. 147: this comma was changed to a long dash some time after 1815.

[65l. 148: this comma was dropped in the 1815 edition and afterwards.

[66l. 150: this comma was changed to a long dash some time after 1815.

[67l. 153: this comma has been omitted in modern editions.

[68l. 154: this colon, which was still there in the 1815 edition, has become a semi-colon in the Norton edition (but not in the Oxford).

[69l. 155: this comma, which was still there in the 1815 edition, has become a long dash in modern editions.

[70l. 160: this comma was omitted in the 1815 edition, and thereafter.