Please discuss the differences between Wordsworth and Coleridge regarding their perceptions of the Romantic literary movement in general.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are considered by some to be the first-generation Romantic poets, having produced the volume Lyrical Ballads, which is seen as the literary work that heralded this new literary movement, which many cite as lasting a very short time, from 1800-1837.

Lyrical Ballads included...

...[t]he poetic principles...[and] constitute a key primary document of the Romantic era because they announce a revolution in critical notions about poetic language, poetic subject matter, and the role of the poet.

This posting addresses not so much their poetry, but what aspects of their thinking and writing make these writers Romantic poets, which started a new age of poetry.

Wordsworth and Coleridge, at the beginning, were closely aligned in an amazing way in bringing about this new literary movement as a result of their combined genius.

Coleridge came to visit Wordsworth at Racedown in 1797, and the two discovered a powerful mutual admiration and rapport.

The Wordsworths moved to live closer to the Coleridges, and Coleridge became Wordsworth's mentor.

In terms of their writing, the Romantic literary movement embraced the idea that poetry was a realistic and honest reflection of what was taking place in the poet's mind. This kind of writing included a renewed respect for nature, the idealization of women and children, championing personal freedom, an interest in the past (especially medieval), melancholy and the supernatural/occult. Different characteristics emerged in the works of these authors. For instance, Coleridge often included elements of the supernatural (using his stunning imagination), as in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Both authors agreed that writing (especially the "diction") of earlier poets was not an honest likeness of their thoughts, but "was affected and artificial." Wordworth...

...argued that there should be no difference between the language of prose and that of poetry...

Wordworth interpreted the "diction" of earlier authors in terms of "artifice and aristocracy." Coleridge's concentration was focused on something different. Wimsatt and Brooks state that for Coleridge... seemed more like an issue between propriety and impropriety, congruity and incongruity. ...

In other words, he saw poetry in terms of whether the poems were guided by correctness and suitability (or not), and whether there was a harmony "of the parts." Coleridges "critical theories" were also much more deeply faith-based—he had a "heavy grounding" in theology that was more prevalent than even the poetic content; such was not the case with Wordsworth.

Overall, Patrick Parrinder notes that the poets had a:

...self-conscious awareness of the revolution they were creating.


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