Wordsworth

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Wordsworth’s 'Preface to Lyrical Ballads'

1. What according to Wordsworth should be the theme of Poetry? Or Write note on Wordsworth’s view on the subject matter of poetry.

Wordsworth's enormous poetic legacy rests on a large number of poems written by him. But the themes that run through Wordsworth's poetry remained consistent throughout. Even the language and imagery he used to embody those themes, remained remarkably consistent. They remained consistent to the canons Wordsworth had set out the Preface to Lyrical Ballads. In the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1802), he wrote Preface to defend himself form 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 and so the chief duty of poetry is to provide 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.

In the “Advertisement” to the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth 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. Wordsworth 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." If the experiment with vernacular language was not enough of a departure from the norm, the focus on simple, uneducated country people as the subject of poetry was a signal of shift to modern literature. One of the main themes of "Lyrical Ballads" 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 influence of society. This may be 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—the lives of ordinary men and women, farmers, paupers, and the rural poor. In the “Preface” Wordsworth also emphasizes his commitment to writing in the ordinary language of people, not a highly crafted poetical one. True to traditional ballad form, the poems depict realistic characters in realistic situations, and so contain a strong narrative element.

Let us briefly review Wordsworth views on the theme and subject matter of poetry:

	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 , at the same time, to throw over them 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 though 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, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of 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, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.

	Language (style of poetry)

The language, too, of these men has been adopted -purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike and disgust- because such men communicate with the best objects 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. Accordingly, 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 and capricious habits of expression, in order to furnish food for fickle appetites, of their own creation. Thus, Wordsworth’s views on poetical style are the most revolutionary of all the idea in his Preface. He discarded the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers. He insists that his poems are written in ‘selection of language of men in a state of vivid sensation’. His views of poetic diction can be summed up as: ‘there neither is nor can be any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition’.

	Definition of poetry

For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.

Our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representative of all our past feelings. By contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other, we discover what is really important to men, so by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects. If we be originally possessed of such sensibility, such habits of mind 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.

What is a Poet? • He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness. • He 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 own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the Universe, and habitually compelled to create them where he does not find them. • To these qualities he has added a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present. He has an ability of conjuring up in himself passions, which are indeed far from being those produced by real events (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 structure of his own mind, arise in him without immediate external excitement.

The function of poetry:

o ‘Poetry’, according to Wordsworth, ‘is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge, the impassioned expression 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. The poet is a teacher ad through the medium of poetry he imparts moral lessons for the betterment of human 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 bring home to us deep philosophical truths about life and religion. Wordsworth believes that ‘a poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference towards moral ideas is a poetry g indifference towards life.

2. Write note on Wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction. Introduction: Wordsworth reaction against the 18th cen poetic diction:

Highly influenced by Rousseau and French revolution, Wordsworth came forward in 1798, with a new theory of man, a new theory of nature and a new theory of poetry. In the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1802), he elaborately explained his theory of poetic diction. As against highly sophisticated language of 18th century, he gave rustic colours to the poetic diction. Wordsworth rightly felt that for the new poetry of the new age, a language was needed, and what he earnestly felt, he expressed in the ‘Preface’ to the Lyrical Ballads. His entire effort in renovating the language of poetry was guided by the feeling that ‘all conventions of pedantry must be discarded in order t evolve the true poetic style, which should not only be simple and unaffected but should possess the power and truth of feeling. Wordsworth’s Theory of Poetic Diction:

In the “Advertisement” to the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth 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. Wordsworth 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." 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—the lives of ordinary men and women, farmers, paupers, and the rural poor. In the “Preface” Wordsworth also emphasizes his commitment to writing in the ordinary language of people, not a highly crafted poetical one. True to traditional ballad form, the poems depict realistic characters in realistic situations, and so contain a strong narrative element. He 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 throw over them a certain colouring of the imagination”, whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspects. The language of these men has been adopted because such men communicate with the best objects from which the best part of language is originally derived.

Three main principles of Wordsworth’s poetic diction:

As we examine Wordsworth’s statement regarding poetic diction, the following three points come to our attention: (i) the language of poetry should be the language ‘really used by men’, but it should be a ‘selection’ of such language. All the words used by the people cannot be employed in poetry. It should be filtered and refined. The refined vernacular words should be the diction of poetry. (ii) It should be the language of men in a state of vivid sensation. It should have a certain colouring of imagination. The poet should give the colour of his imagination to the language employed by him in poetic composition. (iii) There is no ‘essential’ difference between the words used in prose and in metrical composition. 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. What Wordsworth means is that the words in conversation, if they are properly selected, would provide the rough framework of the language of poetry. The language of poetry is heightened by feeling and emotion. 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.

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