Preface to Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth

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Wordsworth Preface To Lyrical Ballads Main Points

What does William Wordsworth argue in his preface to Lyrical Ballads

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Wordsworth argues many things, one of which is that he cannot argue a proper defense of his poetry, "Poems so materially different from those [of] general approbation," in a space proportionate to a volume of poems the size of Lyrical Ballads. In this Preface, he does argue two central points about his theory, his aesthetic, of poetry. One argument is the purpose of his poetry; the other is the style of his poetry.

Wordsworth asserts every poem in the Ballads has a "worthy purpose" and that purpose is that through his poetry we might "discover what is really important to men." Thus he echoes the ancient idea of an inspired poet who brings enlightenment to humans. Wordsworth expects to accomplish this by poems that are inspired by nature and that have language "associated with the great and beautiful objects of nature." His motive is to "counteract" the influence of poems that are "deluges of idle and extravagant stories in verse."

His other argument is to defend the style of his poetry. While Aristotle's poetics, held to by every generation up to Wordsworth, advice characters who are noble, though not unflawed, and subjects that are great and important and of weighty substance, Wordsworth's new poetics advances the value of common, everyday characters from pastoral, "rural life" and natural lifestyles. "Low" language describes low subjects of those who face elemental survival with "passions of the heart [that] find a better soil." Wordsworth concedes that the language of rural living must be purified and made aesthetic before it can be used, yet claims if has intercourse with nature:   

["Low" language must be] (purified indeed from what appear to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) [though it is] incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.

In summary, Wordsworth asserts that he writes with the dual intention of...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 617 words.)

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