Explain and elaborate the debate between wordsworth and Coleridge on poetry and poetic language.

Expert Answers
kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Preface to ‘Lyrical Ballads’, Wordsworth sets out to clarify his and Coleridge’s aims in their new approach to poetry. There were similarities in their objectives, but a differing of opinion on language.

Both men wanted poetry to be accessible to all, and be more widely read. They did not want their audience to be limited to those with a classical education. They wanted poetry to have more basis in imagination, and to encompass –

The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.

Coleridge in particular experimented heavily with writing poems under the influence of drugs to hone his imagination further. Both men were also united in wanting to make their writing thought-provoking, and to make the reader consider their own opinions-

We shall describe objects and utter sentiments, of such a nature, and in such connection with each other, that the understanding of the Reader must necessarily in some degree be enlightened,

 Where the two writers did differ was in their interpretation of language. Wordsworth felt that they should be using

 The language really used by men

 In their work, avoiding classical reference and elevated phraseology. Coleridge, however, found that defining the real language used by people was impossible. Wordsworth’s clear purpose was at odds with Coleridge’s passionate excess, and their relationship cooled towards the end of Coleridge’s life. Wordsworth utlized natural imagery, characterisation and description in his writing exploring the environment and people around him, whereas Coleridge expressed the imaginative and artistic qualities of personal experience.