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Wordsworth's "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" is a milestone of the Romantic Revival in English literature. It is a 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 a new theory of poetry. He has also brought the poets 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.

During the Neo-classical Age, poets were considered to be extraordinary persons. They always dealt with the aristocrats and the decorated drawing rooms, fashionable courtly balls, masquerades etc. The people of the Neo-classical Age believed in writing poetry that the head had to dominate over the 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 reader.

But Wordsworth has broken the nourished tradition of 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 tranquillity." Though this definition gives rise to a hornet's nest and is condemned by many critics, we must remember that this definition 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 poetry and Wordsworth's theory of language are also new in "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads". Before Wordsworth, people looked upon the poets as " Bates" or creators 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 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 in 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, the metre is superadded. He also advocates in favour of using simple words, phrases and vocabulary. He opposes using of 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 an 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, the theory of poetry, poet, poetic diction etc. by Wordsworth is 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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