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THE AGE OF ROMANTICISM
rank in society and the sameness and WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1770-1860) narrow circle of their intercourse, being
less under the influence of social vanity, From THE PREFACE TO THE they convey their feelings and notions LYRICAL BALLADS
in simple and unelaborated expressions.
Accordingly such a language, arising out The principal object proposed in these of repeated experience and regular (50 poems was to choose incidents and situa- feelings, is a more permanent, and a far tions from common life, and to re- more philosophical language, than that late or describe them, throughout, as far which is frequently substituted for it by as was possible, in a selection of language poets, who think that they are conferring really used by men, and, at the same time, honor upon themselves and their art, in to throw over them a certain coloring proportion as they separate themselves of imagination, whereby ordinary things from the sympathies of men, and indulge should be presented to the mind in an in arbitrary and capricious habits of exunusual aspect; and, further, and (10 pression, in order to furnish food for fickle above all, to make these incidents and tastes, and fickle appetites, of their [60 situations interesting by tracing in them, own creation. truly though not ostentatiously, the I cannot, however, be insensible to the primary laws of our nature: chiefly, as present outcry against the triviality and far as regards the manner in which we meanness, both of thought and language, associate ideas in a state of excitement. which some of my contemporaries have ocHumble and rustic life was generally casionally introduced into their metrical chosen, because, in that condition, the compositions; and I acknowledge that essential passions of the heart find a this defect, where it exists, is more disbetter soil in which they can attain (20 honorable to the writer's own character their maturity, are less under restraint, than false refinement or arbitrary in- 170 and speak a plainer and more emphatic novation, though I should contend at the language; because in that condition of same time, that it is far less pernicious in life our elementary feelings co-exist in a the sum of its consequences. From such state of greater simplicity, and, conse- verses the poems in these volumes will be quently, may be more accurately con- found distinguished at least by one mark templated, and more forcibly communi- of difference, that each of them has a cated; because the manners of rural life worthy purpose. Not that I always begerminate from those elementary feelings; gan to write with a distinct purpose and from the necessary character of 130 formally conceived; but habits of medirural occupations, are more easily com- tation have, I trust, so prompted and [80 prehended, and are more durable; and, regulated my feelings, that my descriplastly, because in that condition the pas- tions of such objects as strongly excite sions of men are incorporated with the those feelings, will be found to carry beautiful and permanent forms of na- along with them a purpose. If this opinion ture. The language, too, of these men is erroneous, I can have little right to the has been adopted (purified indeed from name of a poet. For all good poetry is what appear to be its real defects, from the spontaneous overflow of powerful all lasting and rational causes of dislike feelings: and though this be true, poems or disgust) because such men hourly 140 to which any value can be attached were communicate with the best objects from never produced on any variety of sub- [90 which the best part of language is orig- jects but by a man, who, being possessed inally derived; and because, from their of more than usual organic sensibility,
had also thought long and deeply. For to reduce it to a state of almost savage
continued influxes of feeling are torpor. The most effective of these causes modified and directed by, our thoughts, are the great national events which are which are indeed the representatives of daily taking place, and the increasing (150 all our past feelings; and, as by contem- accumulation of men in cities, where the plating the relation of these general uniformity of their occupations produces representatives to each other, we discover a craving for extraordinary' incident, what is really important to men, so, (100 which the rapid communication of intelby the repetition and continuance of ligence hourly gratifies.
ligence hourly gratifies. To this tenthis act, our feelings will be connected dency of life and manners the literature with important subjects, till at length, and theatrical exhibitions of the country if we be originally possessed of much have conformed themselves. The invalusensibility, such habits of mind will be able works of our elder writers, I had produced, that, by obeying blindly and almost said the works of Shakespeare (160 mechanically the impulses of those habits, and Milton, are driven into neglect by we shall describe objects, and utter senti- frantic novels, sickly and stupid German ments, of such a nature, and in such con- tragedies, and deluges of idle and exnection with each other, that the un- (110 travagant stories in verse.—When I derstanding of the reader must neces- think upon this degrading thirst after sarily be in some degree enlightened, and outrageous stimulation, I am
am almost his affection strengthened and purified. ashamed to have spoken of the feeble
It has been said that each of these endeavor made in these volumes to counpoems has a purpose. Another circum- teract it; and, reflecting upon the magstance must be mentioned which dis
nitude of the general evil, I should be (170 tinguishes these poems from the popular oppressed with no dishonorable melanpoetry of the day; it is this, that the feeling choly, had I not a deep impression of certherein developed gives importance to tain inherent and indestructible qualities the action and situation, and not the (120 of the human mind, and likewise of ceraction and situation to the feeling. tain powers in the great and permanent
A sense of false modesty shall not pre- objects that act upon it, which are equally vent me from asserting, that the reader's inherent and indestructible; and were attention is pointed to this mark of dis- there not added to this impression a tinction, far less for the sake of these par- belief that the time is approaching when ticular poems than from the general im- the evil will be systematically opposed, (180 portance of the subject. The subject is by men of greater powers, and with far indeed important! For the human mind more distinguished success. is capable of being excited without the
Having dwelt thus long on the subjects application of gross and violent stimu- (130 and aim of these poems, I shall request the lants; and he must have a very faint reader's permission to apprise him of a perception of its beauty and dignity who few circumstances relating to their style, does not know this, and who does not in order, among other reasons, that' he further know, that one being is elevated may not censure me for not having perabove another, in proportion as he pos- formed what I never attempted. The sesses this capability. It has therefore reader will find that personifications (190 appeared to me, that to endeavor to pro- of abstract ideas rarely occur in these duce or enlarge this capability is one of volumes; and are utterly rejected as an the best services in which, at any period, ordinary device to elevate the style, and a writer can be engaged; but this (140 raise it above prose. My purpose was to service, excellent at all times, is especially imitate, and, as far as is possible, to adopt so at the present day. For a multitude the very language of men; and assuredly of causes, unknown to former times, are such personifications do not make any now acting with a combined force to blunt natural or regular part of that language. the discriminating powers of the mind, They are, indeed, a figure of speech ocand, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion,casionally prompted by passion, and (200
I have made use of them as such; but I templated, till, by a species of reaction, have endeavored utterly to reject them the tranquillity gradually disappears, and as a mechanical device of style, or as a an emotion, kindred to that which was family language which writers in meter before the subject of contemplation, is seem to lay claim to by prescription. I gradually produced, and does itself achave wished to keep the reader in the tually exist in the mind. In this mood succompany of flesh and blood, persuaded cessful composition generally begins, (260 that by so doing I shall interest him. and in a mood similar to this it is carried Others who pursue a different track will on; but the emotion of whatever kind, interest him likewise; I do not inter- (210 and in whatever degree, from various fere with their claim, but wish to prefer a causes, is qualified by various pleasures, claim of my own. There will also be found so that in describing any passions whatin these pieces little of what is usually soever, which are voluntarily described, called poetic diction; as much pains has the mind will, upon the whole, be in a been taken to avoid it as is ordinarily state of enjoyment. If nature be thus taken to produce it; this has been done cautious to preserve in a state of enjoyment for the reason already alleged, to bring a being so employed, the poet ought (270 my language near to the language of to profit by the lesson held forth to him, men, and further, because the pleasure and ought especially to take care, that, which I have proposed to myself to (220 whatever passions he communicates to impart, is of a kind very different from his reader, those passions, if his reader's that which is supposed by many persons to mind be sound and vigorous, should albe the proper object of poetry. Without ways be accompanied with an overbalbeing culpably particular, I do not know ance of pleasure. Now the music of how to give my reader a more exact no- harmonious metrical language, the sense tion of the style in which it was my wish of difficulty overcome, and the blind assoand intention to write, than by inform- ciation of pleasure which has been (280 ing him that I have at all times endeavored previously received from works of rime or to look steadily at my subject; conse- meter of the same or similar construction, quently there is, I hope, in these (230 an indistinct perception perpetually repoems little falsehood of description, and newed of language closely resembling my ideas are expressed in language fitted that of real life, and yet, in the circumto their respective importance. Some- stance of meter, differing from it so thing must have been gained by this widely-all these imperceptibly make up a practice, as it is friendly to one property complex feeling of delight, which is of the of all good poetry, namely, good sense; most important use in tempering the but it has necessarily cut me off from a painful feeling which is always found (290 large portion of phrases and figures of intermingled with powerful descriptions speech which from father to son have of the deeper passions. This effect is long been regarded as the common (240 always produced in pathetic and impasinheritance of poets. I have also thought sioned poetry; while, in lighter composiit expedient to restrict myself still further, tions, the ease and gracefulness with having abstained from the use of many which the poet manages his numbers are expressions, in themselves proper and themselves confessedly a principal source beautiful, but which have been foolishly of the gratification of the reader. All repeated by bad poets, till such feelings of that it is necessary to say, however, upon disgust are connected with them as it is this subject, may be effected by af- 1300 scarcely possible by any art of association firming, what few persons will deny, that, to overpower.
of two descriptions, either of passions,
manners, or characters, each of them I have said that poetry is the spon- (250 equally well executed, the one in prose taneous overflow of powerful feelings; and the other in verse, the verse will be it takes its origin from emotion recol- read a hundred times where the prose is lected in tranquillity; the emotion is con
LINES WRITTEN IN EARLY SPRING One morning thus, by Esthwaite lake,
When life was sweet, I knew not why, I heard a thousand blended notes, To me my good friend Matthew spake, 15 While in a grove I sat reclined,
And thus I made reply: In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
“The eye--it cannot choose but see; Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
We cannot bid the ear be still;
Our bodies feel, where'er they be, To her fair works did Nature link
5 Against or with our will. The human soul that through me ran; And much it grieved my heart to think “Nor less I deem that there are Powers What man has made of man.
Which of themselves our minds impress;
That we can feed this mind of ours Through primrose tufts, in that green In a wise passiveness.
bower, The periwinkle trailed its wreaths; "Think you, 'mid all this mighty sum 25 And 'tis my faith that every flower Of things forever speaking, Enjoys the air it breathes.
That nothing of itself will come,
But we must still be seeking?
“Then ask not wherefore, here, alone, But the least motion which they made 15 Conversing as I may,
30 It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
I sit upon this old grey stone,
And dream my time away.”
THE TABLES TURNED
An Evening Scene on the same Subject If this belief from heaven be sent, If such be nature's holy plan,
Up! up! my friend, and quit your books; Have I not reason to lament
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks;
One impulse from a vernal wood
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods, May teach you more of man,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his Of moral evil and of good,
fire Than all the sages can.
The hermit sits alone.
These beauteous forms, Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; 25 Through a long absence, have not been Our meddling intellect
to me Misshapes the beauteous forms of things: As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: We murder to dissect.
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din 25
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them Enough of Science and of Art;
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Close up those barren leaves;
Felt in the blood, and felt along the
And passing even into my purer mind,
As have no slight or trivial influence LINES COMPOSED A FEW MILES On that best portion of a good man's life,
ABOVE TINTERN ABBEY, ON RE- | His little, nameless, unremembered acts VISITING THE BANKS OF THE Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust, WYE DURING A TOUR
To them I may have owed another gift, 36
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed JULY 13, 1798
In which the burthen of the mystery, Five years have past; five summers, with In which the heavy and the weary weight the length
Of all this unintelligible world, Of five long winters! and again I hear Is lightened that serene and blessed These waters, rolling from their mountain- mood springs
In which the affections gently lead us on, With a soft inland murmur. Once again Until, the breath of this corporeal frame Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, 5 And even the motion of our human blood That on a wild secluded scene impress Almost suspended, we are laid asleep 45 Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and con- In body, and become a living soul: nect
While with an eye made quiet by the The landscape with the quiet of the power sky.
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, The day is come when I again repose We see into the life of things. Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
If this These plots of cottage-ground, these Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft— 50 orchard-tufts,
In darkness and amid the many shapes Which at this season, with their unripe Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir fruits,
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world, Are clad in one green hue, and lose them- Have hung upon the beatings of my selves
heart'Mid groves and copsės. Once again I see How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee, 55 These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer through the lines
15 woods, Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral How often has my spirit turned to thee! farms,
And now, with gleams of half-extinGreen to the very door; and wreaths of guished thought, smoke
With many recognitions dim and faint, Sent up, in silence, from among the trees! And somewhat of a sad perplexity, 60 With some uncertain notice, as might The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense