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Sunday, 21 October 2018

Discuss Coleridge's opinions on Rustic life and Human diction?

"Biographia Literaria" is a great literary work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It has occupied a permanent position in the whole range of English criticism. His observation of poetic diction differs from that of Wordsworth. He agrees with Wordsworth on some points. He also disagrees with him on some other points specially on the language of poetry. He does not accept directly Wordsworth's theory of humble and rustic life. He expresses his own opinions on rustic life and human diction in his critical piece, "Biographia Literaria".
Rustic life and Human diction

Coleridge disagrees with the artificial language of the 19th century Neo-classical poetry. He does not accept Wordsworth's view that the conversational language of ordinary men is the best diction of poetry. Besides, he cannot support the following views of Wordsworth ----
       
" There neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition."

Coleridge thinks that this rule in any sense is applicable only to certain classes of poetry. He objects that the language of ordinary men can be applied in poetry in a limited sphere. It seems that "Biographia Literaria" was written to refute Wordsworth's theory of poetry and poetic diction. As regards the use of low and rustic life in poetry, Wordsworth expresses the view in his "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads". He thinks that low and rustic life can sublimate human soul when the same is used as the theme in poetry. Wordsworth opines that the function of elevation can be performed through the happy rendering of pleasure. Coleridge criticises this point too.
 
The persons of mentally elevated and superior taste can derive pleasure from a happy imitation of the unpolished and uncultured manners and conversation of the rustic people. He thinks of three exciting causes that can ensure pleasure. He talks about the naturalness of the things represented. The apparent naturalness of the imitation is superior to a mere copy. The conscious feeling of superiority is awakened by the contrast presented to the reader. But Wordsworth's theory does not show the same thing. He prefers low and rustic life. He thinks that in that condition, the essential passions find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity. Humble and rustic life is less under restrain. It speaks a plainer and more emphatic language.

Then Coleridge looks at the characters in the famous poems of Wordsworth. Brothers, Michael, Ruth and the Mad Mother are some of them characterised in Lyrical Ballads. They are not at all taken from low and rustic life. Their thoughts, feelings, language and manners presented in poetry are as the same as those of the people living in towns. They love liberation. They struggle to retain the simplicity and humanity of their worldly life. They receive religious training in the church. "Brother" and "Michael" are two famous poems of Wordsworth. They reveal the sad conditions of life. Even his poems which are pitched at a lower note like "Harry Gill" and "Idiot Boy" also express the feeling of human nature in general. Thus the poems reveal the thoughts of the largest class. They do not remain any longer individual and particular.

Wordsworth talks in favour of common and rustic language in poetry. Coleridge opposes such comments on language. He proves that the rustic people and their hourly communications can never formulate the best part of language as Wordsworth believes. The vocabulary of an uneducated rustic is very poor and undoubtedly too insufficient for any grand idea. Likewise, the familiar words of the rustic cannot form the best part of a language. The best part of human language in the true sense of the term is derived from reflections on the acts of the mind itself. Wordsworth's poetic diction suffers from other defects too. Actually, the language used by the critics varies from locality to locality. It cannot retain any universally exploited singular form. 

In conclusion, we can say that Wordsworth is the first poet who talks about the poetic language of his own poetry. He has advocated the common language in poetry really spoken by common people. He talks about the spontaneous outpouring of words from the mouths of the rustics in their moments of natural passion. But this view is criticised by Coleridge. Coleridge tries to express his own views on rustic life and human diction. His opinions on rustic life and poetic diction are more logical and realistic than Wordsworth.

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