Wordsworth and Coleridge

Topic: ArtPoetry
Sample donated:
Last updated: March 28, 2019

Both Wordsworth and Coleridge have devised new principle of poetry in Preface to Lyrical Ballads and Biographia Literaria respectively. Both questions the traditional form of poetry, its language, form and content and are of the view that poetic diction should be simplified and common theme from common discourse of life of common people must be introduced in the poetry. They have rebelled against the conventional form of poetry and its thematic expressions. In totality they have taken into account ‘what poetry really is?’Wordsworth defines poetry as “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’ (Wordsworth, 243) that ‘takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity’.

(Wordsworth, 243) He considers it a deliberate process that involves too much contemplation but his stress is on the powerful feelings. Unlike conventional poets who used to show their mastery on every topic given to them or chosen by them, Wordsworth only considers a manifestation of powerful internal feeling and meditation. He thus defines a new poetic standard by discarding the neoclassical theory of poetry. He strongly snubs the elevated poetic diction of the neoclassical era and is of the view that thematic expression of poetry must “describe [those incidents] in a selection of language really used by men’. (Wordsworth, 242) He considers the elevated poetic diction as artificial and unnatural and incapable of expression the ‘powerful feeling’.

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He prefers the rustic language because ‘The rural men far from social vanity use their language to express feelings in a simple and unelaborated manner, more in connection with nature.’ (Wordsworth, 242) He also defines anew role for the poet. Wordsworth implies that poet is ‘a man speaking to men’ (Wordsworth, 245) who had extensive knowledge of human nature, so he should throw his knowledge in oblivion but present it in understandable manner.Like Wordsworth, Coleridge also redefines the use of poetic language and says that there is an understood and implicit correlation between truth and the language and it is the duty of a poet to make this truth explicit in simplistic language. He provides the sole purpose of poetry by saying that ‘the immediate purpose may be the communication of truths…’ and ‘ pleasures, and that of the highest and most permanent kind, may result from the attainment of the end;’ (Coleridge, 260) He takes Wordsworth’s point further when says that poetry is a result of ‘DEPTH’ and ENERFGY of THOUGHT’ (267) He criticizes the older generation poets on the grounds that they have forfeited the passion and have entangled themselves in the intricacies of intellect. He considers it harmful for good poetry.

He slightly differs from Wordsworth when says that ‘very act of poetic composition’ is to generate extraordinary state of ecstasy or excitement.Although Wordsworth had taken into account the role of imagination in poetry but he does not provide any comprehensive theory of imagination. Coleridge has divided the imagination into two distinct parts in Biographia Literaria and has labelled it as ‘primary imagination’ and ‘secondary imagination’. He is of the view that primary imagination is universal and it shapes our natural world whereas secondary imagination differs from person to person. Both types of imagination have profound impact of the poetry. He further implies that a person who has extensive and intensive secondary imagination is capable of interpreting poetry.

This idea of imagination and its implication on poetry is juxtaposed with Wordsworth idea of poet. Wordsworth’s only pre-condition for poet is that he must have the ability to convey the simple theme related to the life of simple people in simple language. Imagination whether it is secondary or primary is not a pre-requisite.


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