How does Wordsworth describe or define the ideal poet in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads?
First, it should be observed that Wordsworth is basically justifying the contents of Lyrical Ballads in the Preface. He assumes that many readers will find the poems either excessively informal or even vulgar. Yet there is also a strong prescriptive element to his apologia, especially in his condemnation of poets who attempt to hide meanings rather than bringing them to the forefront. Wordsworth is suggesting that poets ought to turn to nature to find the sublime and universal truths about human existence. Poets ought to turn their attention to everyday life, and to the world around them, to create truly meaningful and important work, as he and Coleridge have done in Lyrical Ballads:
Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language;and...because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.
Because "plainer language" conveyed human experience with more simplicity and clarity, Wordsworth also suggested that poetry should be stripped of excess ornamentation. Flowery language, strained allegories, and other devices, or, as Wordsworth put it, the "gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers" were to be studiously avoided by poets for whom authenticity ought to be the main goal.