This context is helpful to keep in mind when reading Lyrical Ballads, for many of its poems portray the return to a more natural lifestyle as a remedy to the problems created by the Industrial Revolution. In fact it alienates human sympathy. The Poet writes under one restriction only, namely, the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human Being possessed of that information which may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer, or a natural philosopher, but as a Man. From this principle the direction of the sexual appetite, and all the passions connected with it, take their origin: it is the life of our ordinary conversation; and upon the accuracy with which similitude in dissimilitude, and dissimilitude in similitude are perceived, depend our taste and our moral feelings. In this mood successful composition generally begins, and in a mood similar to this it is carried on; but the emotion, of whatever kind, and in whatever degree, from various causes, is qualified by various pleasures, so that in describing any passions whatsoever, which are voluntarily described, the mind will, upon the whole, be in a state of enjoyment.
In direct contrast to the writers of the previous century and a half, Lyrical Ballads explicitly uses the simpler and more common language spoken by children and adults who lived and worked in agrarian, or rural, communities. We have no knowledge, that is, no general principles drawn from the contemplation of particular facts, but what has been built up by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure alone. Simple rural people are less restrained and artificial in their feelings and their utterance, and those feelings are at one with their environment. Now these men would establish a canon of criticism which the Reader will conclude he must utterly reject, if he wishes to be pleased with these volumes. Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by and , first published in 1798 and generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English in literature.
Raised amid the mountains of Cumberland alongside the River Derwent, Wordsworth grew up in a rustic society, and spent a great deal of his time playing outdoors, in what he would later remember as a pure communion with nature. It is desirable that such readers, for their own sakes, should not suffer the solitary word Poetry, a word of very disputed meaning, to stand in the way of their gratification; but that, while they are perusing this book, they should ask themselves if it contains a natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents; and if the answer be favoorable to the author's wishes, that they should consent to be pleased in spite of that most dreadful enemy to our pleasures, our own pre-established codes of decision. Now, if nakedness and simplicity be a defect, the fact here mentioned affords a strong presumption that poems somewhat less naked and simple are capable of affording pleasure at the present day; and, what I wish chiefly to attempt, at present, was to justify myself for having written under the impression of this belief. For Johnson, reason and common sense still prevailed over imagination and sentiment. Wordsworth became the dominant force in English poetry while still quite a young man, and he lived to be quite old; his later years were marked by an increasing aristocratic temperament and a general alienation from the younger Romantics whose work he had inspired. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness: they will look round for poetry, and will be induced to enquire by what species of courtesy these attempts can be permitted to assume that title. But the rules and fetters of neoclassicism still bound literature.
He will depend upon this for removing what would otherwise be painful or disgusting in the passion; he will feel that there is no necessity to trick out or to elevate nature: and, the more industriously he applies this principle, the deeper will be his faith that no words, which his fancy or imagination can suggest, will be to be compared with those which are the emanations of reality and truth. I forbear to speak of an incongruity which would shock the intelligent Reader, should the Poet interweave any foreign splendour of his own with that which the passion naturally suggests: it is sufficient to say that such addition is unnecessary. It is about what you feel inside. He must communicate his ideas and emotions through a powerful re-creation of the original experience. 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 coexist 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 those 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. He tells how he weeded out the dead expressions from the older poetic vocabulary and substituted the flesh-and-blood language of the common person. This language also helps assert the universality of human emotions.
They are, indeed, a figure of speech occasionally prompted by passion, and I have made use of them as such; but have endeavoured utterly to reject them as a mechanical device of style, or as a family language which Writers in metre seem to lay claim to by prescription. Still, the memory of childhood can offer an important solace, which brings with it almost a kind of re-access to the lost purities of the past. This is the only sensible manner of dealing with such verses. Poetry is not dependent upon rhetorical and literary devices, but is the free expression of the poet's thought and feeling. All in all, I think Wordsworth makes two valuable points that poetry should be simple and direct, as well as that it should be linked to aspects of nature and beauty. Therefore am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods, And mountains; and of all that we behold From this green earth; of all the mighty world Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create, And what perceive; well pleased to recognise In nature and the language of the sense, The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul Of all my moral being.
In 1760, the production of increasingly advanced technology resulted in the Industrial Revolution, a period of fast economic growth that was defined by large factories in big cities. Humble and rustic life 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. Taking up the subject, then, upon general grounds, let me ask, what is meant by the word Poet? They did not hold with simple tutelage at the hands of nature; reason and good sense had to intervene. Freed from financial worries by a legacy left to him in 1795, Wordsworth moved with his sister Dorothy to Racedown, and then to Alfoxden in Grasmere, where Wordsworth could be closer to his friend and fellow poet. Unlike his predecessors, he rebels against their form of poetry by presenting a different format. For this reason, Lyrical Ballads is used to mark the end of the Neoclassical period and the beginning of the Romantic period of literature, the period of literature that lasts from about 1798 to 1850 and emphasizes nature, the imagination, and the importance of personal experience rather than scientific logic.
A sense of false modesty shall not prevent me from asserting, that the Readers attention is pointed to this mark of distinction, far less for the sake of these particular Poems than from the general importance of the subject. This turned out to be a somewhat long explanation of the poet's attempt to write in a manner hitherto unknown. William Godwin, the political philosopher and novelist, deplored the role of emotion in human affairs and claimed salvation lay only in reason perfected by education. The topics covered include the following: 1. He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; 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 impelled to create them where he does not find them. The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments.
However, Wordsworth refined this common language to a purer form without losing the essence of its simplicity. It chanced that David Hartley, founder of the associationist school in psychology — his views were adapted afterward in the social philosophy of the Utilitarians — who at the moment absorbed Coleridge's attention, had expounded views which Wordsworth fancied matched his very own. To this knowledge which all men carry about with them, and to these sympathies in which, without any other discipline than that of our daily life, we are fitted to take delight, the Poet principally directs his attention. But my limits will not permit me to enter upon this subject, and I must content myself with a general summary. For Wordsworth, the important thing was the emotion aroused by the poem, not the poem itself hence his lukewarm regard for form. This statement marks a major turn-- from which there is no turning back-- to an expressive poetics, which we still essentially believe in today. An accurate taste in poetry, and in all the other arts, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed, is an acquired talent, which can only be produced by severe thought, and a long continued intercourse with the best models of composition.