· Assignment Paper: 3
Ø Topic : preface to Lyrical Ballads
v Student’s name : Gandhi Pooja S.
o Roll no : 15
§ URL :gandhipooja151011.blogspot.com
ü Semester : 1
· Batch : 2010-11
Dr. Dilip Barad
Department of English
v Preface to Lyrical Ballads:
In the “Advertisement” to the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordswrorth and Coleridge state that the poems in the collection were intended as a deliberate experiment in style and subject matter. Wordsworth elaborated on this idea in the “preface” to the 1800 and 1802 editions which outline his main ideas of a new theory of poetry. Wordswrorth explained his poetical concept:
“The majority of the following poems are to be considered
as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to
ascertain how far the language of conversation in the
middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the
purpose of poetic pleasure.”
The focus on simple, uneducated country people as the subject of poetry was a signal of the modern literature. One of the main themes of “Lyrical Ballard” is the return to the original state of nature, in which man led a purer and more innocent existence. Wordsworth subscribed to Rousseau’s belief that man was essentially good and was corrupted by the linked with the sentiments spreading though Europe just prior to the French Revolution.
Rejecting the classical notion that poetry should be about elevated subjects and should be composed in a formal style, Wordsworth instead championed more democratic themes-
1. Poetry should be about the lives of ordinary men and women, farmers, paupers, and about the rural poor.
2. Poetry should be written in the ordinary language of people, not a highly crafted poetical one.
3. The poems depict realistic character in realistic situations, and so contain a strong narrative element.
Wordsworth and Coleridge were also interested in presenting the psychology of the various characters in “Lyrical Ballads”. Wordsworth also discussed the role of poetry itself, which he views as an aid in keeping the individual “sensitive” in spite of the effects of growing alienation in the new industrial age. The poet as Wordsworth points out, is not a distant observer or moralist but rather “a man speaking to men”, and the production f poetry is the result of “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”, recollected in tranquility, not the sum total of rhetorical art. In this “preface” to the Lyrical Ballads Wordsworth presented his poetical manifesto, indicating the extent to which he saw his poetry, and that of Coleridge, as breaking away elaborate and contrived quality of eighteenth century poetry.
The ‘preface’ is itself a masterpiece of English prose, exemplary in its lucid yet passionate defense of a literary style that could be popular without compromising artistic and poetic standards. Yet it is also vital for helping us to understand what Wordsworth and Coleridge were attending in their collection of verse, and also provides us with a means of assessing how successfully the poems themselves live up to the standards outlines in the ‘preface’.
The ‘preface’ covers a number of issues and is wide-ranging in its survey of the place of the Lyrical Ballads. The topics are:
· The principle object of the poems:
Wordsworth, in this extract, places the emphasis on the attempt to deal with “nature man”, arguing that such men live much closer ton nature and, therefore, are closer to the well-springs of human nature. Behind this we can see how much Wordsworth owes to that eighteenth century preoccupation with “natural man” as Michael.
o The argument is developed when he outlines his reasons for dealing with “humble and rustic life.”
For Wordsworth end Coleridge this choice of subject matter necessarily involves a rethinking of Language of poetry.
§ Poetry and its effect on the reader:
Wordsworth’s project is an idealistic one, and clearly poetry, for him, has a vital role in educating the mind and sensibility of his readers, a moral purpose.
Ø What is poet?
Poet is a genius, as special person, capable of re-articulating thought feelings so as to educate the reader.
v Critical Reception:
Early critical reception of The Lyrical Ballads was mostly negative and at times even hostile. Reviewers cited uninteresting subject themes and, the unread ability of The Ancient Mariner, with its archaic style and murky philosophical theme. Francis Jeffrey, one of the chief reviewers for the influential Edinburgh Review, was so offended by Wordsworth’s flaunting of poetic convention in the Lyrical Ballads that he engaged in a long and vitriolic campaign against what he termed the “Lake school of poetry.” While this initial critical response impeded acceptance of the Lyrical Ballads and its authors, acknowledgement did come eventually.
Other reviewers praised the earnestness and simplicity of the poems in Lyrical Ballads and their focus on the usually neglected subject of the rural poor. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Victorian critics demonstrated a special interest in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as a moral and philosophical puzzle, and Wordsworth and Coleridge already figured as preeminent English poets, the leaders of the first wave of Romanticism. Critical interest in the Lyrical Ballads has continued into the twentieth century, with scholars fully recognizing the role of the collection in bringing about new ideas regarding poetry and society. The language and style of Lyrical Ballads remains a central focus of criticism. Scholars have investigated some of the influence on the Lyrical Ballads as well, including those of Horace, the events of the French Revolution, and contemporary anti- Jacobin satire. Many critics have studied the collection in terms of Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s artistic and intellectual development and have highlighted paradoxes and inconsistencies in their critical thinking as evidenced by the ‘preface’.
· Wordsworth’s definition of poetry:
Wordsworth had set out in the preface to Lyrical Ballads. In the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1802), he wrote preface to defend himself from the negative reviews.
“Wordsworth argued that poetry should be written in the real language of common man, rather than in the lofty and elaborate dictions that were then considered “poetic”. He believed that the first principle of poetry should be pleasure through a rhythmic and beautiful expression of feeling. All human sympathy, he asserted, is based on a subtle pleasure principle that is “the naked and native dignity of man.” Wordsworth’s poetic creed initiated the Romantic era by emphasizing feeling, instinct, and pleasure above formality and mannerism. More than any poet before him, Wordsworth gave expression to inchoate human emotion.
· Wordsworth’s views on the theme and subject matter of poetry:
Ø Object (subject matter of poetry):
The principle object, then proposed in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate and describe them, throughout, as far as possible in a selection of language really used by men, and, throughout, as far as time is concern to he at the same time, to throw over then a certain colouring of imagination, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect; and further, and above all, to make these situations and incidents interesting by tracing in them, truly through not ostentatiously, the primary laws of our nature: chiefly as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.
· Humble and rustic life (subject matter of poetry):
Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition. Our life, our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently, may be more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from these elementary feelings, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.
Ø Language (style of poetry):
From all lasting and rational causes dislike and disgust because such men communicate with the best objected from which the best part of language is originally derived; and because from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the influence of social variety, they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. According, such a language, arising out of the 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. His views of poetic diction can be summed up as:
‘There neither is nor be any essential difference between the language of the language of prose and metrical composition.’
Ø Definition of poetry:
For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling: and through this be true, poems to which any value can be attached were never projected on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also through long and deeply.
By contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each over, we discover what is really important to men, so by the repetition and continuance of this art. If we be originally possessed of such sensibility, such habits of main will be produced, that by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of these habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments of such a nature, and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the Reader must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections strengthened and purified.
o What is a poet?
- The poet is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness.
- The poet has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than one supposed to be common among mankind.
- He is a man pleased with his owe passions and volitions, delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested on the going-on of the Universe, and he does not find them.
- The poet, to these qualities he has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present especially in those parts of the general sympathy which are pleasing and delightful. He can better remember the passions produced by real events which other men are accustomed to feel in themselves.
- Then, from practice, he has acquired a greater readiness and power in expressing what he thinks and feels, and especially those thoughts and feelings which, by his own choice, or from the without immediate external excitement.
· The function of poetry:
‘Poetry’, according to Wordsworth, “is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge, the impassioned expressions that is in the countenance of all Science.”
Poetry seeks to ennoble and edify. It is like morning star which throws its radiance through the gloom and darkness of life. Poetry is “the instrument for the propagation of moral thoughts.” Wordsworth’s poetry does not simply delight us, but it also teaches us deep moral lessons and brings home to us. Wordsworth believes that ‘a poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference indifference toward life.
· Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction:
Wordsworth’s entire effort in renovating the language of poetry was guided by the feeling that ‘all conventions of pedantry must be discarded in order to evolve the true poetic style, which should not only be simple and unaffected but should possess the power and truth of feeling.’
Ø Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction:
Wordsworth stated, “The principal object proposed in these poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate to describe them throughout, as far as this was possible in a selection of language really used by men” and at the same time, ‘to throe over them a certain colouring of the imagination’.
Ø Main principles of Wordsworth’s poetic diction:
1. The language of poetry should be the language ‘really used by men’, but it should be a ‘selection of language. All the words used by the people cannot be employed in poetry.
2. It should be the language of men in a state of vivid sensation. The poet should give the colour of his imagination to the language employed by him in poetic composition.
3. The words of prose and poetry are not clearly discriminated so that words which be used in prose can find place in poetry and vice-versa. Through the power of imagination the poet can select words fit for poetic composition. when the poet is truly inspired his imagination will enable him to select from the language really used by men.