Wordsworth's Preface To The Lyrical Ballads

An essay explaining Wordsworth's intentions in writing the Lyrical Ballads, and an analysis of whether or not Wordsworth achieves the intentions stated in the Preface.

After the Lyrical Ballads were published, Wordsworth later wrote a "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads," in order to inform readers of his purpose in writing poems such as "Lines Written in Early Spring," "Mad Mother," and "We are Seven." One main point of this preface is to relate Wordsworth's intention to depict the common man, using the common language of man in his poetry. Another goal outlined in the preface is to show how feeling "gives importance to the action and the situation." A third goal of Wordsworth's poetry is to illustrate the way in which poetry is a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Wordsworth clearly achieves these goals for the most part, however seems to not fully display the way in which poetry is this "overflow of feelings."

Wordsworth makes it very clear in his preface that he wants to depict the common man in a "selection of language really used by men." He achieves his goal of using common language with lines such as "And I must think, do all I can / That there was pleasure there" from "Lines Written in Early Spring," that use very simple language. His goals are also achieved as Wordsworth often chooses poor rustic settings to write his poetry about, rather than writing about the fancy courts in which Kings and Queens dwelt. For example, the main character in "Mad Mother" dwells "underneath the hay-stack warm." Also, the characters of Wordsworth's poetry, such as the "little cottage girl" in "We are Seven," are very simple people

Wordsworth uses these simple people in their simple settings to illustrate how feeling "gives importance to the action and situation and not the action and situation to the feeling." In "Mad Mother" Wordsworth writes "Sweet babe! They say that I am mad, / But nay, my heart is far too glad." These lines convey the feeling and emotion that the mother feels. Her feelings give importance to the poem, because they illustrate the sadness she feels from having society looking down on her as mad. They also show how happy she is for finding one person, her baby, to love her. Without these strong emotions, the situation in the poem is nothing more than a mother holding her baby. But with the feelings expressed, the "Mad Mother" is able to give the situation feeling and meaning.

While through his poetry, Wordsworth achieves most of the goals outlined in the preface, he does not seem to be completely able to show how poetry is a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." It is difficult for him to prove this, because the reader cannot see the state that Wordsworth was in when writing the poetry. Although a characters emotions might grow intense, such as when the man in "We are Seven" yells, " But they are dead; those two are dead!" This does not indicate how intense the poets' emotions are. Nothing from the poetry itself can clearly indicate the emotions felt by the poet. One can merely guess from their own experiences, that Wordsworth was driven by strong emotions, which helped to guide his poetry.

For the most part, Wordsworth's collection of poems is a manifestation, illustration, and example of his ideas about poetry. He outlines the goals of his poetry in his preface, and these goals can be easily seen in his poetry. His poetry shows how important the use of common language and common situations are to him. His poetry also illustrates the way that importance comes from the feeling itself, and not the situation. While Wordsworth is unable to prove to his reader that his poetry is derived from his overflowing feelings, his poetry still serves as an excellent example about his beliefs of poetry.

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