William Wordsworth was an English romantic poet, who helped launch the romantic poetry era, along with his counterpart Samuel Coleridge. In his “Preface to Romantic Ballads,” Wordsworth provides his audience of an understanding of his style of poetry. In fact he strays away from the complex, verbose and mind-boggling poetry presented before his time, ascribing to the statement written by David Thoreau in “Walden”, “Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!” Even though Thoreau is speaking in a completely different context, the statement he makes provides to understand what Wordsworth is advocating. Wordsworth claims that there is certain simplicity to poetry, it shouldn’t contain over arching themes and incomprehensible ideas that can be ascertained by a full analysis of the poem itself. He ascribes to a completely different principle, the idea of words holding a direct meaning, linking to the natural elements that support maturity and growth, and maintaining a central and comprehensible thought.
In the beginning of Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads,” he addresses his predecessors and talks about poetry before his time. “They who have been accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will no doubt, frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness (Stanza 4).” Wordsworth thus claims that’s his predecessors will have issues with his poetry based on simplicity and the language that he maintains throughout his poems. Unlike other poets his ideas lead straight to the point, and there are no completely abstract, innate or thought provoking ideas that can surmise from his poetry. In fact, He substantiates his ideas with natural and rustic themes, “humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in the condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language, because in that condition of life our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity (Stanza 5).” In turn, Wordsworth claims that in order to main direct and simplistic in poetry, that one should use nature to reveal his or her thoughts and ideas. Not only is nature relevant in everyone’s life, but it also fosters a sense of maturity when relatable to human emotions and poetry.
All in all, I think Wordsworth makes two valuable points that poetry should be simple and direct, as well as that it should be linked to aspects of nature and beauty. He also refers to the gaudiness of his predecessor’s poetry, in terms of intricate vocabulary and, innate literary themes and techniques. Unlike his predecessors, he rebels against their form of poetry by presenting a different format. However, I believe that Wordsworth and his predecessors can come to terms on one aspect that he maintains in his, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads.” Simply put by Wordsworth, “For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: and though this be true, poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply (Stanza 6).” In turn, Wordsworth claims that poetry is something that comes naturally by feelings that have been deeply fostered and thought out. He also believes that poetry can be on multiple topics and not restricted on one subject, which is wholly true, as poetry has been arranged on multiple topics and not necessarily linked to the natural aspects that Wordsworth highly prescribes.
On the other hand, Wordsworth criticizes some of his contemporizes and his predecessors style and diction claiming that, “ the reader will find that personifications of abstract ideas rarely occur in these volumes; and utterly rejected as an ordinary device to elevate style, and raise it above prose. My purpose was imitate, and, as far as possible to adopt the very language of men; and assuredly such personifications do not make any natural or regular part of that language (Stanza 9)” In turn, Wordsworth claims that intangible ideas and loquacious concepts will not be in his ballads, in fact he claims that his writing will appeal to the common man and be written in a language that can be understood by all man. Wordsworth also echoes the same sentiments about diction, claiming that he will never use any tangible diction because he wants to keep his writing and his poetry as clear and concise as possible in language understood by man, with a common purpose.
“From their rain in society and sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less under the influence of social vanity, they convey their feeling and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions (Stanza 5).” As suggested above, Wordsworth believe that poets are classless beings uninfluenced by society’s qualms, and express their feelings and notions simplistically and unequivocally without regret. Unlike other predecessors and contemporaries who used verbose and complex themes to express their thoughts, Wordsworth is simplistic, maintains a central point, and naturalistic in every aspect.