illustrated portrait of English poet WIlliam Wordsworth

William Wordsworth

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What was William Wordsworth's historical significance?

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William Wordsworth changed the course of English poetry and became one of the poets most closely connected with English Romantic movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Together with Samuel Coleridge, he published a book of poetry called Lyrical Ballads in 1798. In it, he laid out a new theory of poetics that called for poetry to be written in the "real language of men" and to express "the spontaneous overflow of  powerful feelings... recollected in tranquility." His poetry showed a fascination with the common man, primitivism, and nature, as well as placing great value on intuition and the child. Pushing beyond earlier nature poets, he was interested not simply in describing nature externally but in depicting nature (or landscape) as a reflection of the interior state of an individual's psyche or spirit and in its ability to trigger memory.

Wordsworth had a long career, unlike many of the other Romantic poets who died young, and from 1843 until his death in 1850, he was the poet laureate of England. During the course of his life, he moved from a radical embrace of the principles of equality and fraternity expressed by the French Revolution to a much more conservative political stance. 

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