Preface to Lyrical Ballads Questions and Answers
by William Wordsworth

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What are the main features of Wordsworth's "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads?

The main features of Wordsworth's "Preface" to Lyrical Ballads include an emphasis on exalting the common person, the use of simple language, a focus on nature as an expression of the divine, and a conviction that poetry should be lyrical or emotional, expressing "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings ...recollected in tranquillity."

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Wordsworth's "Preface" represents a radical break with eighteenth century neoclassical poetry. Such poetry emphasized the deeds of great men and allusions to works of classical antiquity. Instead of that, Wordsworth proposed that poetry focus on depicting the ordinary person—poor, obscure, and laboring—in the most positive light possible (in other words, it should "romanticize" such individuals). While commonplace today, the idea of exalting the everyday person, usually either ignored or represented as a "clown" in literature, was then an unusual concept.

Wordsworth, in his "Preface," also argued in favor of using simple language that would be easily accessible to all people. He conceived of the poet in Miltonic terms, as a person conveying the ways of God to men. Wordsworth envisioned the poet as a type of priest, an intermediary with a special gift of translating or interpreting the divine. This led him to an emphasis on nature, which Wordsworth felt was an expression of the...

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