Friday, 30 October 2015

Poetry and Poetic Diction - William Wordsworth (Prefaace to Lyrical Ballads 1800

  1. Why did Wordsworth choose humble and rustic life as theme of poems
Answer is already given to the students
  1. Defects of contemporary poetry, according to Wordsworth
In his Preface to the second Edition of Lyrical Ballads in the year 1800, Wordsworth accuses many contemporary poets of writing triviality and meanness, both of thought and language in their poetry. They followed the worn out Neoclassical style of poetry using a lot of artificial, bombastic phrases and dead personifications. In their poetry, actions and situations are more important than spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and passions.
  1. Why several of Wordsworth’s friends were anxious about the success of the Lyrical Ballads?
Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge together published their poems in a book called “Lyrical Ballads” in the year 1798. It was the revival of Romantic era in England. During that period, people of England were disgusted with the worn out style of the Neoclassical poetry which common people could not enjoy because of the polished and artificial language and situations. The poems of Lyrical Ballads were taken from the low, rustic situations of the common man and the language is the day to day speech of the rustics. At first Wordsworth did not publish the Preface for fear that people had been familiar with the Neoclassical style of poetry and he had no idea about the taste of the people. But people of England welcomed the Lyrical Ballads and the Second Edition was printed in 1800. Thus Lyrical Ballads became a great success.  The friends of Wordsworth were anxious about the success of the Lyrical Ballads, for, a new class of poetry namely Romantic poetry would be produced which will reflect the humble, rustic day to day speech and life of common man and all English people can enjoy reading poetry.
  1. Two distinguishing quality of the poems included in Lyrical Ballads
William Wordsworth in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads speaks about two distinguishing quality of the poems in the Lyrical Ballads. The first quality is that the poems are drawn from the humble, rustic life. The subject matter of the poem is taken from the day to day situations of the common man and the language is the day to day speech of the rustics because they are more poetical and philosophical than the polished urban language used by the Neoclassical poets. The second quality is that the feelings developed in these poems gives to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling.  The truth is that human mind is capable of being excited without much stimulants of action.
  1. Why did Wordsworth avoid personifications in his poetry?
In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth speaks about the purpose of Romantic poetry which is very different from that of the Neoclassical style. The purpose of Lyrical Ballads was to come closer to the day to day speech of the rustics and the common man whose language of more permanent, more poetical and philosophical than the polished bombastic phraseology of the Neoclassical poetry. In simple, natural language of the  rustics, they don’t use personifications of abstract nouns. Personifications are the artificial poetic diction of the Neoclassical poetry.
  1. What is prosaism in poetry, according to Wordsworth? OR “Poetry sheds no tears such as Angels weep but natural and human tears” – Explain
In the Preface the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth explains the language of the metrical composition and the prose writing.  According to Wordsworth, there is no difference between good prose and verse. When the line in a poem is naturally arranged and according to the strict laws of metre, it does not differ from that of a good prose.  There are innumerable passages from great poets like John Milton, Thomas Gray and others to show that the language of their poem does in no respect differ from that of good prose. But many contemporary critics, when they stumble upon these prosaisms, imagine that the poet does not know his profession and these men would establish a new canon of criticism which the reader must utterly reject. Quoting a line from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” Wordsworth says that poetry sheds no tears such as angels weep, but natural and human tears. She can boast of no celestial ichor that distinguishes her vital juices from those of prose. It means that both prose writing and metrical composition are made by human poets and his poetry is made for the pleasure of his fellow beings- the men and women on the earth. Poetry is not written by Angels in heaven, but composed by man for the pleasure of man on the earth.

  1. The function of poetry or the function of a poet according to Wordsworth
In his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth explains in detail the importance of the poet and the function of poetry. He defines good poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected at tranquility. He says that a poet is a man speaking to men. But the poet is endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm, and tenderness and who has greater knowledge of human nature and a more comprehensive soul.  He is a man pleased with his own passions and he rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him. A poet is a teacher who teaches his fellow beings about the beauty of life and Nature. So every poem is the image of man and Nature. The poet writes under one restriction, namely the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to men. This pleasure is the acknowledgement of the beauty of Nature.  The poet, singing a song which all human beings join with him, rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge. It is the impassioned expression which is far greater than all science. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge. Therefore Poetry is the purest of all science.


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