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Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, a manifesto of the Romantic literary movement

Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, a manifesto of the Romantic literary movement

Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, a manifesto of the Romantic literary movement

Q. Why is Wordsworth's “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads” considered a manifesto of the Romantic literary movement?

Answer: William Wordsworth's "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" is a significant and influential document that provides insights into the principles and intentions behind the poems included in the collection. Published in 1800 (with an expanded edition in 1802), this preface is often considered a manifesto of the Romantic literary movement. In this critical document, Wordsworth articulates several key principles that define the essence of Romanticism:

Nature as a Source of Inspiration: Wordsworth expresses a profound belief in the power of nature to inspire and elevate the human mind. He argues that poetry should derive its themes and sentiments from the sights and sounds of the natural world, emphasizing a deep connection between the poet and nature.

Ordinary Language and Subjects: Wordsworth advocates for the use of simple and everyday language in poetry. He argues against the overly ornate and artificial diction that was prevalent in the poetry of his time. Furthermore, he suggests that the subjects of poetry should be drawn from ordinary life, focusing on the experiences of common people.

Poetry as a Spontaneous Overflow of Emotion: Wordsworth famously states that poetry is the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." He values emotion over reason and encourages poets to tap into their own genuine emotions when writing. This emphasis on emotional sincerity is a hallmark of Romanticism.

Imagination and the Poet's Mind: Wordsworth highlights the role of the poet's imagination in creating poetry. He suggests that the poet's mind should actively engage with the world, transforming ordinary experiences into extraordinary poetic expressions. The poet becomes a kind of "re-creator" who imparts a new and imaginative perspective to reality.

The Poet's Relationship with the Reader: Wordsworth envisions a more intimate and direct relationship between the poet and the reader. He sees poetry as a form of communication where the poet speaks to the reader with the goal of eliciting a shared emotional response. This vision contrasts with the more formal and distant relationships depicted in neoclassical poetry.

Ballads and Folk Poetry: The inclusion of ballads in "Lyrical Ballads" reflects Wordsworth's interest in folk traditions and simple, narrative forms of poetry. This interest aligns with the Romantic fascination with the authenticity and spontaneity found in folk culture.

Rejecting Classical Poetic Conventions: Wordsworth challenges the rigid rules and conventions of classical poetry, advocating for greater freedom and flexibility in poetic expression. This rejection of formal constraints is characteristic of the Romantic rebellion against the established norms of the 18th century.

In essence, Wordsworth's "Preface" serves as a manifesto by articulating a vision of poetry that is deeply connected to nature, rooted in the experiences of common people, and driven by the authentic expression of emotion and imagination. These principles laid out by Wordsworth became foundational to the Romantic literary movement, influencing poets and writers throughout the 19th century and beyond.


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👉 Politics and the English Language by George Orwell | 'political writing is bad writing'  

👉 On Gusto | William Hazlitt’s view on Michael Angelo’s forms and Titian’s landscapes  

👉 T. S. Eliot’s concept of the Impersonal theory of poetry 

👉 Aristotle's Poetics | views on the plot of tragedy and its relative importance  

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