Could you explain the significance of William Wordsworth's "Preface to Lyrical Ballads?"

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Four of the significant issues dealt with in Wordsworth's  "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" (1800), the manifesto of the Romantic Revolution in  English Literature are:

1. "For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings":  The Neo-Classical poets and critics of the previous age always emphasized that poetry should be an expression of the poet's 'reason' and his 'intellect,' but Wordsworth felt that the opposite was true and emphasised that  'emotion' and 'feeling'  were the hallmarks of good poetry.

2. "To choose incidents and situations from common life": The Neo-Classical critics restricted the choice of the subject matter of the poets mainly to the lives of kings and queens and life in the city.  Wordsworth disagreed and his poems dealt with the lives of ordinary people in rustic settings.

3. "A selection of language really used by men": The Neo-Classical poets and critics were of the opinion that good poetry must be written only in a highly artificial and stylised language called 'poetic diction.' Wordsworth felt that, the language exactly as it was used by the "humble and rustic" people was "a far more philosophical language," and hence more suitable to express sincerely the poet's feelings.

4. "The feeling gives importance to the action": Neo-Classical poets felt that the 'action' gave importance to the 'feeling,' but Wordsworth felt that it was the other way round.


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