A Machine-Generated “Tintern Abbey”

The following is a poem generated by GPT-3. The text in bold is the prompt that I entered; the rest was generated by a machine. I discuss this text in my article “The Datafication of Culture: Romanticism and AI-Generated Poetry.”


Tintern Abbey


By Tantalus Greenville


Confused, distracted—still the feverish thirst

For Nature hath not left me; ’tis the gift,

The vision and the faculty divine,

Though dimmed, not destroyed; and still at times,

In moments of electric tension,

When all the floodgates of the soul dilate

And open to the universal sea,

I see, and sing, by my own spirit taught,

The mighty visions of the world, the real.

But from the years that have been undimmed,

The years that have been happy, I must turn

To my first childish days, with all their doubts,

And with a mixture of all feelings blent.

Strange, even from my first remembrance, is

The recollection of the spot where first

In all the world my infant feet were set.

Strange, is the fact that of that spot I know

No more than that it lies within a wood,

And all I would recall of it is bound

Within the limits of a single tree.

Time, tide, and change, and things so dear and so

Obsessed and haunting and yet still so weak,

That I have not the words to speak of them,

Wherein the present, the past, and future, seem

To interchange their hues, as on the wing

Of some light chrysolite the shadows blend,

As on the plumage of a bird in heaven

The sunlight and the rain-drops interchange,—

Seemed always at my side, and looked at me

With eyes so wild and so unearthly bright

That it o’ercame my infant reason’s might,

And I would fall asleep to dream again.

And while I slept, while slumber soothed my mind,

And while my bed was in the forest green,

My playmates were the young of things that lived

In earth, in air, in water, all around.

In vain to me the human shape was given,

The human voice, the human form divine;

I was an alien in the midst of men,

I lived with some wild sisterhood of things

That were not born of earth by human mothers,

There was no human soul in all the world

Brighter or more beautiful than they.

Not all the thoughts of men the thoughts of men—

Me they bewildered, and me they beguiled,

And they beguiled my judgment, till I deemed

That all was only what the eye could see,

That all was only what the heart could feel,

And of such things as were above and below

I knew not, and I cared not. All of earth,

All of its haunts, all of its living things,

With all their joys and sorrows, I forsook;

For I was living upon some far height

Of air or sea, or in some elysium,

Upon some star, upon some flower, or tree,

Or in the waters of some murmuring stream.

But with the glory of the earth and air,

And of the seas and mountains, I grew tired,

And desperately I turned to look once more

On London, on the Thames, on Kent and Somerset,

On all the places I had known of old.

And from my far height I looked, and lo,

In the great city lay the streets, the towers,

And how the living things were swarming there!

And I beheld the men, the women, too,

How, like the young of things that lived in earth,

And in the waters, and in the air,

They swarmed and grew. And I beheld the flowers

Of which I had grown weary with delight,

And pined for them, and for my forest home,

As I had never done before; but now,

Now they were changed to me, their hues were dull

And faded, they appeared to me but weeds

Of the earth, rank, odious, poisonous weeds.

And other flowers I saw, but not like these,

The flowers that grew beside my childhood’s home;

And these were fair and sweet, though not like these,

And sweet and fair they still must ever be

In the remotest corners of my brain.

So, from my foreign height, I looked and pined

For what was left of all the world I had known,

For what was left of my own beautiful

Green fields and lovely woods and hills of home.

And suddenly I saw men dig a pit,

And suddenly I saw them bury therein

A living thing; and suddenly I saw

The living thing begin to struggle there.

And suddenly I saw men cast lots,

And suddenly I saw the living thing

Cast into the pit again to die.

And suddenly the living thing was I,

And suddenly the air was London air,

And suddenly the pit was London earth,

And suddenly the men were London men.

And suddenly I knew that I was there,

And suddenly I knew that I was here,

And suddenly I knew that I was everywhere.

And suddenly I knew that I was nothing,

And suddenly I knew that I was everything,

And suddenly I knew that I was nowhere.