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Home » , » Whom do you consider a better critic ------ Wordsworth or Coleridge?
William Wordsworth and S. T. Coleridge are two giants of the Romantic Period. They are the leaders of the Revival of Romanticism. They contribute a great lot in this respect. But they do not hold the same views on the nature, function and creation of poetry. Their attitude to them often differs from each other. Their ideas show their different dispositions. It is also true that their ideas are innovative. None of them is totally accepted by the critics of the different ages. Coleridge is an apt critic of different literary works. He is also a harsh critic of Wordsworth. He criticises Wordsworth's poetic theory and language of poetry in his world famous critical book, "Biographia Literaria".

Coleridge does not accept the poetic theory of Wordsworth. He expresses some objections to Wordsworth's theory and language of poetry. He does not accept as Wordsworth defines poetry. Wordsworth declares that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. Coleridge opposes and objects it. He says that Wordsworth is in this respect on the wrong track. He believes that poetry is the product of powerful emotions and imagination. The guiding force of poetry is deliberate thinking. Wordsworth's recollected emotions actually mean fancy. They are not imagination. The simple emotions of Wordsworth's theory cannot be the raw materials of poetry. Deep contemplation or imagination is the motivating force of poetic creation. So Coleridge is for imagination but Wordsworth is for spontaneous emotion or fancy.

Wordsworth believes that nature plays a vital role in the creative mind of a poet. He analyses this in his famous poem, "I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud". But Coleridge does not believe it. He thinks that nature does not have any influence in the creative mind of a poet. Nature is totally objective to human passions. He asserts this in his " Biographia Literaria ". We find his same view in his famous poem, " Dejection: an Ode". So Coleridge criticises Wordsworth for his sentimental explanation about poetic creation. 

Coleridge also criticises Wordsworth for his theory of poetic diction. According to Wordsworth, the language of poetry should be the language of the general people. Poetic language must be the spoken language of the rustic people. Coleridge does not support this conception. He believes that poetic language should be suitable to the manner and matter of poetry. He is for simple poetic language if the subject matter and the style of a poem are simple. He is for dignified language when the subject matter is serious and the style is lofty. He also thinks that the language of poetry should be purified. Poetic language should be free from the grossness, vulgarity and defects of rustic language.

Coleridge never supports the artificial language of the Neo-classical poets. He is for simple language but he does not show any partial inclination towards the language of the general people. Coleridge uses many figures of speech and ornamental language in his poetry and he supports it in his "Biographia Literaria". He supports figurative language when ornamental language is necessary to convey the message of the poet. He criticises Wordsworth because Wordsworth has totally rejected the importance of figurative expression in the case of poetry. Even he says that Wordsworth has failed to maintain his simple language in most of his poems. According to Coleridge, Wordsworth does not practise what he says.

Coleridge also shows his distinct qualities in the field of Romanticism. He does not impart his romantic messages in the manner of Wordsworth. His romantic message is given in different way. He mainly selects supernatural incidents. He always tries to create " willing suspension of disbelief" in the mind of his readers. He supports "willing suspension of disbelief" in his "Biographia Literaria" too. According to him, Wordsworth has failed to create this sensation in the mind of his readers. Therefore, most of the poems of Wordsworth are not constructed on logical appeal. Coleridge can make an unreal situation realistic but Wordsworth can not do it. He severely criticises Wordsworth for this lacking.

Coleridge also criticises Wordsworth for his idealisation of nature. He never supports mysticism or pantheism of Wordsworth. He believes that nature is cold and lifeless. Nature cannot influence the mind of a man. Coleridge never glorifies her as a living entity. He thinks that the source of all inspiration is human soul. When human beings are in a happy mood, they observe happiness in nature. Human beings observe a gloomy mood in nature when they are in a sad mood. Thus a cold and lifeless nature cannot heal the sorrow stricken soul of a man. Coleridge strongly objects Wordsworth's tendency to personify nature. Thus Coleridge has tried to affirm that Wordsworth is on the wrong track. Wordsworth misinterprets nature and misguides his readers. Coleridge believes that human beings can see the images of their own mind in the lifeless objects of nature. They paint or decorate the natural objects with the colour of their mind. But it is very difficult to select the better critic between Coleridge and Wordsworth. Wordsworth is unique in his theory of innovative poetic creation. His poetic theory may be criticised and challenged. It may have some limitations. Wordsworth might be emotional in his definition of poetry. But we must not throw his views on poetry and poetic diction. On the contrary, Coleridge is a genuine critic in his theory. He finds faults in the theory of Wordsworth for the first time. So we are to understand the right and wrong in Wordsworth. But we cannot forget that Coleridge is not always correct in his own views.


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