And it is wise of Wordsworth to form a ground for this new poetry through the Preface to the Lyrical Ballads. Poetry is not about imitating the classical writers. Out of the discussions between the two men about what poetry ought to be and how it should affect its audience came a growing desire on the part of the two poets to collaborate on a volume of verse. This principle is the great spring of the activity of our minds, and their chief feeder. However painful may be the objects with which the Anatomists knowledge is connected, he feels that his knowledge is pleasure; and where he has no pleasure he has no knowledge.
It is the most philosophic of all writings: its object is truth, not individual and local, but general and operative. Besides, the Poet spake to him in the character of a man to be looked up to, a man of genius and authority. The emotion was in both cases delightful, and no wonder if he confounded the one with the other, and believed them both to be produced by the same, or similar causes. Lyrical Ballads was a clear and intentional challenge to this literary tradition. Perhaps in no way, by positive example could more easily be given a notion of what I mean by the phrase poetic diction than by referring to a comparison between the metrical paraphrase which we have of passages in the Old and New Testament, and those passages as they exist in our common Translation.
In succeeding times, Poets, and Men ambitious of the fame of Poets, perceiving the influence of such language, and desirous of producing the same effect without being animated by the same passion, set themselves to a mechanical adoption of these figures of speech, and made use of them, sometimes with propriety, but much more frequently applied them to feelings and thoughts with which they had no natural connexion whatsoever. Furthermore, he thought the difference between poetry and prose was substantial, and it lay in the different ways they treated the same subject. Wordsworth's position in his later work grew closer to that of Coleridge. It would not be uninteresting to point out the causes of the pleasure given by this extravagant and absurd diction. He felt that Wordsworth's conception of poetry relied too much on Hartley's theories and did not adequately explain Wordsworth's poems.
The sonnet quoted from Gray, in the Preface, except the lines printed in italics, consists of little else but this diction, though not of the worst kind; and indeed, if one may be permitted to say so, it is far too common in the best writers both ancient and modern. But the rules and fetters of neoclassicism still bound literature. Again, this is making the political point that poetry is for everyone, that all men and women are capable of feeling deeply and responding to the world around them, not just the gentry. Such verses have been triumphed over in parodies, of which Dr. The subject is indeed important! Now, be men rural or urban, all of us know that both of them equally take interest in poetry.
This is not only an act of justice, but in our decisions upon poetry especially, may conduce in a high degree to the improvement of our own taste: for an accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, as Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by thought and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition. What Burns, Blake, and Cowper, his contemporaries, wanted to do and could not, he did. From what has been said, and from a perusal of the Poems, the Reader will be able clearly to perceive the object which I had in view: he will determine how far it has been attained; and, what is a much more important question, whether it be worth attaining: and upon the decision of these two questions will rest my claim to the approbation of the Public. What is the language in which a poem should be written? The obstacles which stand in the way of the fidelity of the Biographer and Historian, and of their consequent utility, are incalculably greater than those which are to be encountered by the Poet who comprehends the dignity of his art. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all Science. That is why he suggests a new language for Romantic poetry. The second edition of Lyrical Ballads appeared in two volumes in 1800 in Wordsworth's name alone.
What then does the Poet? We are fond of tracing the resemblance between Poetry and Painting, and, accordingly, we call them Sisters: but where shall we find bonds of connexion sufficiently strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose composition? Others who pursue a different track will interest him likewise; I do not interfere with their claim, but wish to prefer a claim of my own. But, as the pleasure which I hope to give by the Poems now presented to the Reader must depend entirely on just notions upon this subject, and, as it is in itself of high importance to our taste and moral feelings, I cannot content myself with these detached remarks. The Reader will find that personifications of abstract ideas rarely occur in these volumes; and are utterly rejected, as an ordinary device to elevate the style, and raise it above prose. While artful shades thy downy couch enclose, And soft solicitation courts repose, Amidst the drowsy charms of dull delight, Year chases year with unremitted flight, Till Want now following, fraudulent and slow, Shall spring to seize thee, like an ambushd foe. That is why he rejects the hackneyed poetic style of the Augustan period. Coleridge remarked that half the Preface was in fact the child of his own brain.
A language was thus insensibly produced, differing materially from the real language of men in any situation. But this would be to encourage idleness and unmanly despair. It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavour to impart. Wordsworth was England's Poet Laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850. Poetry is the image of man and nature.
So that it will be the wish of the Poet to bring his feelings near to those of the persons whose feelings he describes, nay, for short spaces of time, perhaps, to let himself slip into an entire delusion, and even confound and identify his own feelings with theirs; modifying only the language which is thus suggested to him by a consideration that he describes for a particular purpose, that of giving pleasure. Wordsworth early had misgivings and withdrew from authorship because he feared that he would botch the poem. It depends upon a great variety of causes, but upon none, perhaps, more than its influence in impressing a notion of the peculiarity and exaltation of the Poets character, and in flattering the Readers self-love by bringing him nearer to a sympathy with that character; an effect which is accomplished by unsettling ordinary habits of thinking, and thus assisting the Reader to approach to that perturbed and dizzy state of mind in which if he does not find himself, he imagines that he is balked of a peculiar enjoyment which poetry can and ought to bestow. How common is it to hear a person say, I myself do not object to this style of composition, or this or that expression, but, to such and such classes of people it will appear mean or ludicrous! They both speak by and to the same organs; the bodies in which both of them are clothed may be said to be of the same substance, their affections are kindred, and almost identical, not necessarily differing even in degree; Poetry sheds no tears such as Angels weep, but natural and human tears; she can boast of no celestial choir that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose; the same human blood circulates through the veins of them both. Johnsons stanza is a fair specimen: I put my hat upon my head And walked into the Strand, And there I met another man Whose hat was in his hand. Accordingly, such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets, who think that they are conferring honour upon themselves and their art, in proportion as they separate themselves from the sympathies of men, and indulge in arbitrary and capricious habits of expression, in order to furnish food for fickle tastes, and fickle appetites, of their own creation. Another circumstance must be mentioned which distinguishes these Poems from the popular Poetry of the day; it is this, that the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling.
Unlike other predecessors and contemporaries who used verbose and complex themes to express their thoughts, Wordsworth is simplistic, maintains a central point, and naturalistic in every aspect. He painfully notices that the Eighteenth century poets have separated poetry from the grasp of common people. Lyrical Ballads is one of the most important collections in the history of English Literature. But it may be said by those who do not object to the general spirit of these remarks, that, as it is impossible for the Poet to produce upon all occasions language as exquisitely fitted for the passion as that which the real passion itself suggests, it is proper that he should consider himself as in the situation of a translator, who does not scruple to substitute excellencies of another kind for those which are unattainable by him; and endeavours occasionally to surpass his original, in order to make some amends for the general inferiority to which he feels that he must submit. Wordsworth defines him as someone who speaks rather than writes. I am sensible that my associations must have sometimes been particular instead of general, and that, consequently, giving to things a false importance, I may have sometimes written upon unworthy subjects; but I am less apprehensive on this account, than that my language may frequently have suffered from those arbitrary connexions of feelings and ideas with particular words and phrases, from which no man can altogether protect himself. He is the rock of defence for human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love.