Preface to Lyrical Ballads Themes
by William Wordsworth

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Preface to Lyrical Ballads Themes

The Relationship Between Poetry and Prose

Many poets and critics of Wordsworth’s time believe that poetry and prose should differ not only in structure but also in language. “Prosaisms,” or instances where the language in a poem resembles that of prose, lead some critics to condemn poets as “ignorant of [their] own profession.” However, Wordsworth argues that

the language of Prose may yet be well adapted to Poetry; and . . . a large portion of the language of every good poem can in no respect differ from that of good Prose.

Art enthusiasts are quick to point out the similarities between poetry and painting but hesitate to compare poetry and prose, believing that the two forms of literature should be more distinct. Wordsworth contends that while poetry and painting are described as “sisters,” the relationship between poetry and prose is even closer, as they “both speak by and to the same organs.”

If readers hope to derive any enjoyment from his poems, Wordsworth believes they will need to abandon the idea that poetry and prose must differ significantly in language. In his opinion, poetry ought to be written in conversational diction in order to bring the most pleasure, and it should address commonplace situations. Though simplistic diction and everyday topics are more commonly associated with prose, this is the ideology with which Wordsworth has approached poetry while writing Lyrical Ballads. He hopes that the results of his “experiment” will be a new movement of “genuine” poetry.

The Nature and Role of the Poet

The poet, according to Wordsworth, is someone who has the ability to feel emotions more deeply and express them more accurately than others around him. In addition to this, he can “conjur[e] up in himself passions” in order to reflect upon and write about his own emotions as well as those of others. An essential responsibility of the...

(The entire section is 472 words.)