The poem's title reveals that it has a very specific setting: the Wye Valley, on the Welsh side of the River Wye. The title also lets the reader know the context that has led to the poem: a walking tour that Wordsworth took with his sister, Dorothy Wordsworth, in the area. The title even establishes the exact date the poem was written (July 13, 1798)! The title thus grounds the poem in real, lived experience, almost as though it were a diary entry of the speaker.
Lines 1-5 continue to ground and orient the reader within the landscape and to reveal the speaker’s relationship to it. The speaker begins by saying that it's been five years since he last visited this spot. He emphasizes how long this time has felt to him by noting that each year has contained both a “summer” and “the length” of a “long” winter. This emphasis is heightened by the speaker’s use of anaphora, as he recounts “Five years … five summers … five long winters.” This repetition establishes that the speaker visited this area before, while also implying that the speaker felt the weight of his absence palpably and repeatedly during that stretch of five years that he was away.
The opening lines go on to paint a lush visual and auditory picture of the scene, as the speaker notes the sound of rivers and streams flowing down from the mountains, as well as the sight of high, impressive cliffs that he recalls from his previous visit. The speaker once more uses anaphora for emphasis, in this case repeating “again” to remark on how he feels upon re-experiencing this landscape. Where the previous repetition of “five” heightened the reader’s sense of how the speaker experienced his time away, here the repetition of “again” heightens the reader’s sense of the restoration and completeness the speaker feels in returning. This repetition suggests that the speaker recalled these aspects of the landscape many times during his absence, and now experiences a kind of relief in the setting, which is the same as he remembered it.
These opening lines also introduce adjectives important to the sense of the natural world within the poem. The streams and rivers are described as moving with a “soft inland murmur,” while the cliffs are “lofty.” These descriptions suggest that the landscape is, in some fundamental way, private and internally whole (the water moves “inland,” which recalls the word “inward,” and it “murmur[s],” or speaks, but quietly and not in a language known to humans). This sense of internal coherence is heightened by the subtle consonance of /r/ sounds in "rolling" and "murmur." At the same time, the word “lofty” suggests that the cliffs are high—but also that the landscape conveys some truth that is elevated and higher than ordinary human thought.
Importantly, too, these lines establish the tense in which the poem is written, as the speaker records his current experiences in the present tense: “I hear … I behold.” This use of present tense connects the reader to the speaker’s immediate experience, and also emphasizes the sense that the poem was composed within this very moment, as though the speaker’s words emerged spontaneously and organically upon coming back to this setting.