What new idea about poetry was expressed in Wordsworth's preface to Lyrical Ballads?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Wordsworth's preface to Lyrical Ballads suggested a new approach to poetry, one which sought to expose the reader to authentic human emotion, which Wordsworth thought should be the goal of good poetry. To do this, he chose subject matter that did not interest many of his eighteenth-century predecessors:

The principal object, then, proposed in these Poems was to choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them, throughout, as far as was possible in a selection of language really used by men...

He chose scenes from everyday aspects of country life, and as the last few words in the quote suggest, he sought to illuminate them using language free of abstraction, metrical tricks, and what he called "poetic diction":

...such a language, arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings, is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets...

Wordsworth was articulating a new direction for poetry, one which emphasized authenticity and the power of everyday experiences when subjected to contemplation. This thinking was influential among many Romantic poets and artists, who eschewed the what they saw as the stifling formalism and self-indulgence in eighteenth-century art.


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