Preface to Lyrical Ballads Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

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Examine Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction.

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Wordsworth took a unique approach to poetic diction. Essentially, he argued in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads that poetic diction should be no different than that used in prose, or even in everyday speech. He thought that overly florid poetic diction had caused readers to lose sight of the emotional impact of poetry, which he held to be its central purpose. He proposed, then, a return to simple diction, which he thought would enhance the reader's appreciation of the simple, profound feelings that could be conveyed through good poetry:

There will also be found in these volumes little of what is usually called poetic diction; as much pains has been taken to avoid it as is ordinarily taken to produce it; this has been done for the reason already alleged, to bring my language near to the language of men...

This commitment to simple, clear language was of a piece with his belief that the most powerful poetry was that which engaged with simple themes and subject matter. Wordsworth argued that profound insights and feelings could be found in everyday life, and in nature, and were best expressed not by classical allusions and clever puns but through simple diction.

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