The fact that Wordsworth had this vision about he wanted to take his poetry, and had the bravery and ability to initiate a whole new era of Romanticism is incredibly admirable. He led the way into a time in which it was encouraged to freely express pure emotion without the constraints of stiff regulations on what a work must consist of. He helped change so much. Wordsworth forced himself to stand by his opinion by writing a Preface to the Lyrical Ballads in which he stated that that poetry should be “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (293) and it should not be hindered in any way by what someone else expects it to be. His Preface clearly “denies the traditional assumption that the poetic genres constitute a hierarchy” and also rejects the requirement for poets to “arrange matters so that the subject and its level of diction conform to the status of the literary kind on a poetic scale” (292). By declaring this in his Preface, Wordsworth has no choice but to follow through with his claims in his future work, and I believe he succeeded in that endeavor. He felt it was necessary to express raw emotion in the form of poetry, because what could be more humanly natural than that? “For to treat the subject with the clearness and coherence” of which he believed it susceptible, “it would be necessary to give a full account of the present state of the public taste” (294). In fact, he often focused on writing such clear and coherent accounts through his personal memories about the beauty of nature and the emotions that nature evoked from him throughout his lifetime.
Wordsworth does so much of what I can only dream of doing with his poetic writing, especially when he writes about the beauty of nature. He manages to find a way to take the reader right into his world as if they were there seeing and experiencing it for themselves. He writes poetry with simplicity. He doesn’t allow his “overflow of powerful feelings” (295) to get caught up in the format of the poem or the proper meter. One of my favourite parts of his poem Lines was when he wrote “While here I stand, not only with the sense/Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts/That in this moment there is life and food for future years” (62-65, 290). The way he lives is basically a summary of the way he writes. He writes of the present pleasure he is feeling and knows that that moment in his life will one day provide pleasure again, and by choosing to write in the style that he does, he captures this pleasure in his Lyrical Ballads.
I think it’s probably obvious that I think Wordsworth was a wise man. I think he was brilliant because, as I’ve previously mentioned, when I read his poetry he takes me right there with him, wherever the setting may be. He makes me feel what he feels. Specifically in his poem Lines, there is just something about his words that are so honest and simple that makes me feel very comfortable. He’s not trying to use language that is way over the reader’s head, he’s not trying to be poetically extravagant, and he’s not writing to impress anyone. He’s writing emotion from his soul… pure unadulterated emotion. He says in his Preface that he chooses “incidents and situations from common life” and then “relates or describes them, throughout, as far as possible, in a selection of language really used by men” (294). It is through this style of writing that he is able to reach other humans on a personal level who he 1) has never even met and 2) are living hundreds of years after him. You would think that would be hard to do. It’s hard to be honest; it’s almost easier to adhere to a set of guidelines so that you don’t have to put your heart and mind out there in the open for other people to pick apart. I admire his style so much because in the world of literature, let’s be real, there are a lot of snobs. Literature can be full of pretention, full of ‘better than thou’ attitudes; full of anything that will make those who write and read it feel elite and superior to those who do not. But art, in my mind, has always been about expressing yourself. The fact that there are people who believe art or literature specifically needs to be fit into a rigid box of rules seems nonsensical. Art is meant to be from the heart, so how can one put a limit or guidelines on that?
A recent quote that I’ve come across recently perfectly sums up my opinion of Wordsworth’s writing. Tia Azulay said that “poetry is an attempt to capture the essence of the chord struck in the poet by an instant of insight, in such a way that the same music will sound in the soul of the reader.” I feel that Wordsworth succeeded in resonating with the reader on a personal level, and he did it by writing about normal life in a normal way. He sure struck a chord with me.
Wordsworth, William. Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume D The Romantic Period 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.
Wordsworth, William. Lines. Greenblatt, Stephen, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Volume D The Romantic Period 9th ed. 6 vols. New York: NY, 2012. Print.