Simplicity and Imagination Reflected

I do find that the principles stated in William Wordsworth’s Preface are reflected in his poems. I was particularly interested in the idea of simplicity brought forth in the beginning of his preface. Wordsworth made it clear that he was against the fancy decorum of his time’s poetry and believed in using the language of everyday men in order to entice them. In order to appeal to the common man, he stated that he must affirm that he was “flesh and blood” by becoming familiar with his readership. This was carried out by his poetry’s overall simplicity (297).

William Wordsworth looked to the rural life to make his poem’s familiar. He did so by writing about nature in Tintern Abbey, such in lines 68-69: “I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides/Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams”. Wordsworth mentioned in his preface that the “passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent of forms of nature” (295). So by writing about nature, he formed a connection between his desired readership and himself, as it was a familiar subject to the both of them.

Although Wordsworth aimed to use simple language, he did not mean his work to be dull in the least. As stated on page 295, he meant to add a “colouring of imagination” to his work to balance out the simplicity of the diction. This imagination came in the form of turning ordinary things, such as sleep, into extraordinary concepts. In Wordsworth’s poem A slumber did my spirit seal on page 307, he managed to turn the simple act of sleeping into a metaphysical state in which the soul seems untouchable by things like “earthly years” (307).

Wordsworth argued that using simple language rather than the fluffy diction used by his contemporaries was a superior way to writing poetry. He was successful in blending his preface’s theories into his work. He accommodated both imagination and comprehensible language, as were his intentions in the Preface to his poems.

Wordsworth, William. Preface to Lyrical Ballads. p.293-298. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume A The Middle Ages 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

Wordsworth, William. Lines. p.290. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume A The Middle Ages 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

Wordsworth, William. A slumber did my spirit seal. p.307. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume A The Middle Ages 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.

This entry was posted in 1: DQ Response, {G2}. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Simplicity and Imagination Reflected

  1. hayleydunmire says:

    Hi Stephanie I really liked your post! I was particularly impressed in your thoughts that simple language that can be understood by anyone, that it does not need to be boring.
    I think the power that Wordsworth has is his ability to show individuals that they can create wonderful, delightfully entertaining poetry without having to have a high education or a noble title. In doing so I think he gave individuals the power to let them create and decide what they wanted to hear instead of looking at what is being offered to them from higher status. In a way he was a person looking for a ground up movement of the people to let them create and decide what they want. Perhaps this is why his poems are so concentrated in the idea of nature in that it is something that anyone can experience and relate to.

  2. mattgigg says:

    While it seems like an obvious connection now, I never considered reading Wordsworth with political analysis before reading your post. Mentioning the turning to rural life and nature to make his poems seem familiar had me thinking it was an interesting time for Wordsworth to decide to write like this as the English industrial revolution was slowly building steam. A quick google search and a re-reading of “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” reveals Wordsworth to be very against the industrial revolution. Considering the overlap in time, I wonder how much ‘Romantic Literature’ owes its existence and themes to the socio-political environment at the time.

  3. thetheresak says:


    I think you wrote a solid piece. I, too, found the idea of simplicity interesting.

    I liked your thoughts about Wordsworth being “against the fancy decorum of his time’s poetry” and I think that is what made him such a profound poet. Wordsworth’s use of simplicity is striking as it gives a voice to the thoughts never are fully expressed. Not only does he “appeal to the common man”, but he expresses the feelings everyone has with nature’s beauty in the simplest of words.

    I agree that he did form “a connection between his desired readership and himself” because he related and evoked something ordinary and within each man. I think the idea of ‘ordinary’ is extremely wonderful. Mostly because I see that ordinary ideas – filled with coincidently simplicity and commonalty – can provoke others to become extraordinary and can inspire every person to use their ability to be fantastic. I believe Wordsworth’s use of common and simple language was the way to inspire others to use their ability to connect with nature, even to write poetry, or to think and go beyond themselves. I think that ultimately, the connection between reader and nature also connects to Wordsworth, which I believe is exactly what his theories are supporting.

    Now, in a somewhat related side note I must add a link to a song by Sufjan Stevens called Wordsworth’s Ridge which is inspired by lines 372 to 426 in The Prelude. I wanted to share it because it is a good parallel with the exact same topic of yours, simplistic language. Stevens uses simple diction, but also keeps the lyrics short. It’s somewhat interesting how much Wordsworth can connect to the present-day world.

    Your post lead to some thinking. Once again, great post.

  4. npelletier says:

    Hi Stephanie,
    I think this was an absolutely wonderful post. You used so many good examples of how the ideas and theories Wordsworth stated in his preface to the Lyrical Ballads were put into practical use in the way he wrote his poetry. So many of his early works like Tintern Abbey and The Prelude 1805 version had language that was simple enough to reach a large audience of readers, but he also chose his words very carefully so that they were powerful and when combined could create beautiful images of the pastoral scenes he was discussing. However, I did want to mention that he did not always use word choice that was as simple as shown in his early works. In his 1850 revisions of The Prelude, he seems to switch into a style more similar to those that his contemporaries at the time. Just some food for thought, because I myself am not quite sure why he moved into a more formal style of writing. Again, great job with the post. It was very enjoyable to read.

Leave a Reply