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Wordsworth's theory of language

Wordsworth's "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" is a milestone of the Romantic Revival in English literature. It is the critical essay which erects a wall between the Neo-classical tradition of poetry and that of the Romantic Age. In this essay, Wordsworth has declared the new theory of poetry. He has also brought the poets in close to the flesh and blood. He has represented himself as a great humanitarian when he advocates that a poet is a man talking to men. A poet does not write only for the poets but for the men.
Wordsworth's theory of language

During the Neo-classical Age, the poets were considered to be extraordinary persons. They always dealt with the aristocrats and the decorated drawing rooms, fashionable courtly ball, masquerades etc. The peots of the Neo-classical Age believed in writing poetry that head had to dominate over heart. They used the language of the aristocrats. As a result, the common people could not approach their poems. The poetic diction and the use of verse or the rhyme scheme were also inscrutable to the average readers.

But Wordsworth has broken the nourished tradition of the Neo-classical poetry. He has changed the theory of poetry. According to Wordsworth, "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility." Though this definition gives rise to hornet's nest and condemned by many critics, we must remember that this definition then in the nineteenth century created a new school of poets and poetry. T. S. Eliot has also condemned it. He says that not emotion but concentration, meditation and labour are essential for poetry.

Wordsworth's idea of poet and Wordsworth's theory of language  is also new in "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads". Before Wordsworth, the people looked upon the poets as " Bates" or creator or something extraordinary. But Wordsworth declares that a poet is a man who talks with men. He speaks in the language used by the rustic people. He thinks as the ordinary people think. But there is a subtle difference between a poet and an ordinary man. A poet must have a comprehensive soul. A poet is very much sensitive. He always soars in his own sensitive world but his feet are always firmly rooted into the earth where the men live.

In the aspect of Poetic Diction, Wordsworth is very much liberal. He says that the language of poetry must be that of prose. According to him, metre is superadded. He also advocates in favour of using simple words, phrases and vocabulary. He opposes to use figurative language. Before Wordsworth the poets of the Neo-classical Age were always devoted to bombasting words, phrases and figurative language. Thus in this respect, Wordsworth's theory of Poetic Diction is new. But we cannot but mention that this theory of Poetic Diction was severely attacked even by Coleridge. Coleridge says that the arrangement of words in poetry and in prose is not the same. Even Wordsworth fails to maintain it in many of his poems.

Wordsworth thinks that poetry is the first and last of all knowledge. It is the finer spirit of knowledge. It is to produce excitement with over-balance of pleasure. Wordsworth does not like to instruct through poetry. He aims at giving delight not to didact the readers. He further says that poetry does not need much labour. It will come out of lips without much labour.

However, we can here add that "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" is a manifesto of the Romantic Movement. It is a landmark in the history of English criticism. In this critical piece, theory of poetry, poet, poetic diction etc. by Wordsworth are new and innovative. Many of his theories are condemned. But this is an epoch-making critical essay in English literature.


Anonymous said...

Outstanding notes

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