The youthful Wordsworth and Coleridge were alike in being radical critics of the social order. Both wanted to write a new form of poetry which was not based on classical literature, rationality, and rhyming couplets. They wanted to compose poems that reflected, in direct, passionate language, feelings and situations not...
The youthful Wordsworth and Coleridge were alike in being radical critics of the social order. Both wanted to write a new form of poetry which was not based on classical literature, rationality, and rhyming couplets. They wanted to compose poems that reflected, in direct, passionate language, feelings and situations not normally depicted in eighteenth century verse. For these reasons, they collaborated on the ground-breaking Lyrical Ballads. All three of the poems discussed below are alike in their direct in depiction of the poet's emotions. Each also represents a shift in language from the even, measured prose of neoclassical poems.
The differences between Wordsworth and Coleridge are summed up by Coleridge in chapter 14 of his Biographia Literaria:
My endeavors would be directed to persons and characters supernatural—Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was . . . to give charm of novelty to things of everyday.
This can be seen in the three poems mentioned. First, in "Dejection an Ode," Coleridge contrasts Wordsworth's ability to find solace in nature with his own inability to do so, writing, "It were a vain endeavour."
He continues, writing:
Though I should gaze for ever / On that green light that lingers in the west: /I may not hope from outward forms to win / The passion and the life, whose fountains are within.
In other words, nature—"outward forms"—can't solace his inward spirit, as they can Wordsworth. Coleridge is more inward directed, more imaginative, and more fanciful.
"Kubla Khan" and The Prelude illustrate well the two men's differences as poets. "Kubla Khan" is Coleridge's exotic dream of a mythic Orient, far removed from what might be experienced in ordinary English life. If it is not about the supernatural, per se, it depicts a fantastic dream world:
A savage place ! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover !
In contrast, The Prelude, Wordsworth's book-length masterpiece, is autobiographical and prosaic, set in the real world of England, the Alps, and France. In it, Wordsworth describes his development of a poetic vision based on his desire to elevate the ordinary, lower-class person in the eyes of middle-class reader, as well as to show everyday nature as sublime and healing. An example of Wordsworth's more reality-based vision can be seen in the following verse from The Prelude:
The earth was all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way.