“The picture of the mind revives again”

Wordsworth tells us:

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”
Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, ll 24 – 28
He sings the virtues of memory, but of a special kind. Not a photographic one, such as those held in the pages of an album, but rather a multi-dimensional one. To this recollection the mind may return and explore depths of field. This act of remembering allows for an active displacement in time, a true revisiting of past events. In this way, Wordsworth can return to Tintern Abbey and enjoy a vivid experience of the past. In the same way, two years after coming across a parterre of daffodils (as told us by Dorothy Wordsworth in her Grasmere Journals), he can float above the scene, enjoying a new, free-flying point of view.
Could this be part of the essence of Romanticism? The power of the mind to remember but also reinvest past scenes with a present sense of adventure.
Keats writes:
Then let winged Fancy wander
Through the thought still spread beyond her:
Open wide the mind’s cage-door,
She’ll dart forth, and cloudward soar.
To Fancy, ll 5-8
Who is Fancy- if not the embodiment of creative remembering? Do we not read, enjoy, weep at words on the page precisely because we are encountering the past revived, shown us from ” a few miles above”…?
So while the rain has returned to the shores of the Léman, dashing all our hopes of spring.
[Fancy] will bring, in spite of frost,
Beauties that the earth hath lost;
She will bring thee, all together,
All delights of summer weather;
All the buds and bells of May
To Fancy, ll 29-33

One thought on ““The picture of the mind revives again”

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  1. Lately was reading an article (I can’t remember the title, somewhat ironic!) on the benefits of forgetting, and couldn’t help in connection to this post thinking of what Fanny Price says about the whimsical, even tyrannical, choices of memory:

    “How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time, and the changes of the human mind! […] If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient; at others, so bewildered and so weak; and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond control! We are, to be sure, a miracle every way; but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting do seem peculiarly past finding out.”

    Fanny Price in Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814)

    Fittingly enough, Fanny is the protagonist who keeps images of Tintern Abbey in her room, making this “a room of her own” by collecting things dear to her.


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