Preface to Lyrical Ballads Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

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Define what poetry means to Wordsworth. This poet may have certain assumptions about poetry, especially the role of imagination in creating poetry; but the main aspect is to focus on the meaning of poetry for this writer. The definition should come from Wordsworth’s "Preface to Lyrical Ballads."

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Wordsworth makes many claims about the nature of poetry as an art form in the preface to his book Lyrical Ballads. To Wordsworth, poetry must be reflective of the experience of common people and is often expected to come in forms that are familiar to readers. He also states that poetry, as an art form, is superior to prose, though the differences are often minor.

He gives a long description of what a poet should be. This mostly involves being able to get into the emotions of others and experience their passion and suffering despite being removed from the experience. This is because Wordsworth believes the goal of poetry to be truth. As a result of this, he sees it as “the most philosophic” of all writing. Because the poet’s only restriction is to produce joy in their readers, they ought to, in Wordsworth's view, be able to fully explore and display the beauty of the truths of humanity and nature. To Wordsworth, this beauty comes both from the positive experiences and depictions and from descriptions of pain, which people take pleasure in having sympathy for.

Wordsworth goes on to connect the ideas of pleasurable reading with the goals of giving knowledge by expressing the ways that he believes humans find knowing to be an overall gratifying experience even when the things they come to know are painful. He gives the example of an anatomist who has to know how to dissect human bodies but still finds joy in his work.

Wordsworth considers poetry the prime way to communicate truth because of the ways that it draws on common experience to connect people to these truths. He portrays sciences as more solitary and methodological, whereas poetry seeks to bring the same truths forward for all of humanity to share in. By fusing the knowledge of past and present, of history and science, poetry can access a greater truth and communicate it more broadly.

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