Here is the answer and explanation to the question What are some ideas about poets and poetry proposed by William Wordsworth in his “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads (1802)?
What are some ideas about poets and poetry proposed by William Wordsworth in his “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads (1802)?
In his “Preface” to the Lyrical Ballads (1802), William Wordsworth lays out many of the ideas often associated with Romanticism in English poetry. Among those ideas are the following:
- an emphasis on the “real language” actually spoken by human beings, especially human beings from the lower reaches of society. Wordsworth thus rejects the kind of “poetic” language that had come to seem stale, artificial, and unconvincing.
- an emphasis on “vivid sensation,” or heightened emotion and perception.
- an emphasis on using poetry to provide “more than common pleasure.”
- an emphasis on “incidents and situations from common life.”
- an emphasis on using “imagination” to “throw a certain coloring over” descriptions of such incidents and situations so that
ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way . . . in order to make these incidents and situations interesting by tracing in them . . . the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as far as regards the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.
- an emphasis on “[l]ow and rustic life,” which often reveals essential human nature more readily than the kinds of lives lived by the allegedly more sophisticated persons of the upper classes.
- an emphasis on “the essential passions of the heart.”
- an emphasis on a “plainer and more emphatic language” than is usually found among the highly educated
- an emphasis on the ways human emotions are “incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.”
- a rejection of the kinds of “arbitrary and capricious habits of expression” traditionally used in conventional poetry
- an emphasis on poetry as a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” but also on the poet as a person who has “thought long and deeply”:
For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings . . . .
- an emphasis on “the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when [it is] agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature.”
- a rejection of the emphasis on abstract ideas and conventional personifications that had characterized the poetry of the eighteenth century.
- an emphasis on looking directly and steadily at whatever the poet tries to describe and thus a rejection of “falsehood of description.”
- an emphasis on a kind of poetic language that resembles the language of common prose.
- an emphasis on the poet as “a man speaking to men” – that is, as a person who can effectively articulate the kinds of thoughts and feelings experienced by most human beings.
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