William Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads (Literature Insights)
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His widow, Mary, published his lengthy autobiographical "poem to Coleridge" as The Prelude several months after his death. Though this failed to arouse great interest in , it has since come to be recognized as his masterpiece. Wordsworth's poetry is characterized by two cardinal features that he explicitly outlines in his preface to the Lyrical Ballads.
There is, first and foremost, the use of what Wordsworth calls "the language really used by men. To properly understand what Wordsworth means—and the revolutionary nature of his work in comparison to the poetry of his time—one must consider the poetic conventions immediately prior to Romanticism; specifically, the classical and highly ornate poetry of eighteenth century poets such as Alexander Pope. Viewed in this light, Wordsworth's verse uses relatively direct phrasings, uncomplicated syntax, and few allusions.
From this perspective his work can be seen for what it was in its time: a refreshingly straight-forward style of poetry that harks back to much earlier English poetic style, but unlike, for instance, the poetry of Milton , still manages to remain musically pleasant and prosaically clear.
The second prominent feature of Wordsworth's poetry is its preoccupation with emotion, and in particular what Wordsworth called "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility. For him the job of the poet was, in some way, to delve into the self in order to recall the powerful emotions of one's life, and then to recast those emotions including the events that inspired them, or the thoughts they engendered into the language of poetry.
This is the most noticeable aspect of Wordsworth's poetry, resulting in both trite and sentimental verse and stunningly moving poetic meditations. A fine example of the latter is Wordsworth's early sonnet, Composed Upon Westminster Bridge in which the narrator of the poem, a sentimental enthusiast of nature like Wordsworth, gazes out over the massive, industrial city of London and sees, of all things, arresting beauty there:. Wordsworth's two most important works are his early volume written with Coleridge, the Lyrical Ballads, and his posthumous long poem, The Prelude.
They are indicative of the two very distinct styles that characterize the young Wordsworth and the old Wordsworth. In the Lyrical Ballads , Wordsworth writes verses flush with emotional vibrancy and natural scenes; in The Prelude, a much older and disillusioned poet writes exhaustive and ponderous meditations on the nature of life and the poet's connection to it, characterized by the late Wordsworth's didactic, almost instructional style of writing.
Though frequently difficult, this later verse became some of the most influential writings in the English-speaking world in the immediate aftermath of Wordsworth's death. Tennyson , among other major Victorian poets, would cite Wordsworth and The Prelude in particular as a singular influence. The epic poem's famous opening lines exemplify the late, stern style of Wordsworth:. The Romantics, and preeminently William Wordsworth, expressed a devout love of nature and reverence for the human imagination, which could discern beauty and truth in nature.
This Romantic sensibility coincided with the Industrial Revolution in England, which effectively diminished nature and often crushed human creativity in the machinery of progress. A profoundly introspective thinker, Wordsworth expressed an enduring regard for the natural environment and influenced later Victorian poets and novelists with his deep sympathy for common people and identification with universal human experiences and emotions.
Wordsworth's love and respect for nature would awaken more forcefully and programatically among later generations of environmentalists, who enacted laws protecting the environment and began a worldwide movement to establish national parks. The Romantic affirmation of subjective feeling and experience would also be renewed in modernist literature, which would advance a more radical skepticism of established religious and social institutions and explore experience through subjective, often existential perception. Although Wordsworth was revered in the nineteenth century, his reputation had declined in the twentieth century.
His poetry was criticized as sentimental and self-indulgent. In recent years, however, Wordsworth's reputation has again risen and he is widely recognized as a great English poet and original thinker whose stylistic and thematic innovations have had lasting influence on later literature. New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards.
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Previous William Wilberforce. Lyrical Ballads. Bibliographic record. Irish Literature, An Anthology. Hardcover: ISBN: Paperback: ISBN: ISBN: As poetry readers and as scholars, our first instinct might be to start with the single volume of , where we will get the creative enterprise in its simplest and most direct form and if possible read it in one of the available facsimile publications ; then read the second volume of the edition; and finally re-read the poems in the final two volume edition of — making notes as we go along on the changes spotted in the poems, and the way they are presented to the reader.
They had three other siblings: Richard, the eldest, who became a lawyer; John, born after Dorothy, who went to sea and died in when the ship of which he was captain, the Earl of Abergavenny , was wrecked off the south coast of England; and Christopher , the youngest, who entered the Church and rose to be Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
Wordsworth's father was a legal representative of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and, through his connections, lived in a large mansion in the small town. He was frequently away from home on business, so the young William and his siblings had little involvement with him and remained distant from him until his death in William was also allowed to use his father's library. William also spent time at his mother's parents' house in Penrith , Cumberland, where he was exposed to the moors, but did not get along with his grandparents or his uncle, who also lived there.
His hostile interactions with them distressed him to the point of contemplating suicide. Wordsworth was taught to read by his mother and attended, first, a tiny school of low quality in Cockermouth, then a school in Penrith for the children of upper-class families, where he was taught by Ann Birkett, who insisted on instilling in her students traditions that included pursuing both scholarly and local activities, especially the festivals around Easter, May Day and Shrove Tuesday.
William Wordsworth: Dawn of a Romantic Mediator Personality
Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the Spectator , but little else. It was at the school in Penrith that he met the Hutchinsons, including Mary, who later became his wife. After the death of Wordsworth's mother, in , his father sent him to Hawkshead Grammar School in Lancashire now in Cumbria and sent Dorothy to live with relatives in Yorkshire. She and William did not meet again for another nine years. Wordsworth made his debut as a writer in when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine.
That same year he began attending St John's College, Cambridge. He received his BA degree in In he went on a walking tour of Europe, during which he toured the Alps extensively, and visited nearby areas of France, Switzerland, and Italy. In November , Wordsworth visited Revolutionary France and became enchanted with the Republican movement. He fell in love with a French woman, Annette Vallon, who in gave birth to their daughter Caroline.
Financial problems and Britain 's tense relations with France forced him to return to England alone the following year.
The Reign of Terror left Wordsworth thoroughly disillusioned with the French Revolution and the outbreak of armed hostilities between Britain and France prevented him from seeing Annette and his daughter for some years. The purpose of the visit was to prepare Annette for the fact of his forthcoming marriage to Mary Hutchinson. Mary was anxious that Wordsworth should do more for Caroline. The year saw the first publication of poems by Wordsworth, in the collections An Evening Walk and Descriptive Sketches. In he received a legacy of pounds from Raisley Calvert and became able to pursue a career as a poet.
It was also in that he met Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Somerset. The two poets quickly developed a close friendship. In , Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved from Racedown in Dorset, where they had lived for two years, to Alfoxton House , Somerset, just a few miles away from Coleridge's home in Nether Stowey.
Together Wordsworth and Coleridge with insights from Dorothy produced Lyrical Ballads , an important work in the English Romantic movement. One of Wordsworth's most famous poems, " Tintern Abbey ", was published in this collection, along with Coleridge's " The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ". The second edition, published in , had only Wordsworth listed as the author, and included a preface to the poems. Wordsworth also gives his famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility", and calls his own poems in the book "experimental".
A fourth and final edition of Lyrical Ballads was published in He attempted to get the play staged in November , but it was rejected by Thomas Harris , the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre , who proclaimed it "impossible that the play should succeed in the representation". The rebuff was not received lightly by Wordsworth and the play was not published until , after substantial revision.
Wordsworth, Dorothy and Coleridge travelled to Germany in the autumn of While Coleridge was intellectually stimulated by the journey, its main effect on Wordsworth was to produce homesickness. He wrote a number of other famous poems in Goslar, including " The Lucy poems ". In the Autumn of , Wordsworth and his sister returned to England and visited the Hutchinson family at Sockburn. When Coleridge arrived back in England he travelled to the North with their publisher Joseph Cottle to meet Wordsworth and undertake a proposed tour of the Lake District. This was the immediate cause of the siblings settling at Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, this time with another poet, Robert Southey , nearby.
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey came to be known as the " Lake Poets ". In , Lowther's heir, William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale , paid the 4, pounds owed to Wordsworth's father through Lowther's failure to pay his aide.
Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth
On 4 October, following his visit with Dorothy to France to arrange matters with Annette, Wordsworth married his childhood friend Mary Hutchinson. The following year Mary gave birth to the first of five children, three of whom predeceased her and William:. Wordsworth had for years been making plans to write a long philosophical poem in three parts, which he intended to call The Recluse.