Thursday, 27 September 2007

Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner depicted by Gustave Doré.

Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798; it is typically considered to have marked the beginning of the Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature. Most of the poems in the 1798 edition were written by Wordsworth, with Coleridge contributing only four poems to the collection, including one of his most famous works, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". A second edition was published in 1800, in which Wordsworth added additional poems and a preface on his ideas about poetry. Another edition was published in 1802, Wordsworth added an appendix titled Poetic Diction in which he expanded the ideas set forth in the preface.

Wordsworth and Coleridge set out to overturn what they considered the priggish, learned and highly sculpted forms of eighteenth century English poetry and bring poetry within the reach of the average man by writing the verses using normal, everyday language. They place an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice that the poor use to express their reality. Using this language also helps point out the universality of man's emotions. Even the title of the collection recalls rustic forms of art - the word "lyrical" links the poems with the ancient rustic bards and lends an air of spontaneity, while "ballads" are an oral mode of storytelling used by the common people.

In his famous "Preface" (1800, revised 1802[1]) Wordsworth explained his poetical concept:

"The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purpose of poetic pleasure."

If the experiment with vernacular language was not enough of a departure from the norm, the focus on simple, uneducated country people as the subject of poetry was a signal shift to modern literature. One of the main themes of "Lyrical Ballads" is the return to the original state of nature, in which man led a purer and more innocent existence. Wordsworth subscribed to the belief of Locke and Rousseau that man was essentially good and was corrupted by the influence of society. This may be linked with the sentiments spreading though Europe just prior to the French Revolution.

Poems in the 1800 edition
Volume I

* Expostulation and Reply↨
* The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same subject↨
* Old Man Travelling; Animal Tranquillity and Decay, a Sketch↨
* The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman↨
* The Last of the Flock↨
* Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite↨
* The Foster-Mother's Tale↨
* Goody Blake and Harry Gill↨
* The Thorn↨
* We are Seven↨
* Anecdote for Fathers↨
* Lines written at a small distance from my House and sent me by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed ↨
* The Female Vagrant↨
* The Dungeon↨ ↑
* Simon Lee, the old Huntsman↨
* Lines written in early Spring↨
* The Nightingale, written in April, 1798.↨ ↑
* Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening
* Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames↨
* The Idiot Boy↨
* Love ↑
* The Mad Mother↨
* The Rime of the Ancient Mariner↨ ↑
* Lines written above Tintern Abbey↨

↑ indicates the poem is by Coleridge
↨ indicates the poem was in the 1798 edition.

Volume II

* Hart-leap Well
* There was a Boy, &c
* The Brothers, a Pastoral Poem
* Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle
* Strange fits of passion I have known, &c.
* Song
* A slumber did my spirit seal, &c
* The Waterfall and the Eglantine
* The Oak and the Broom, a Pastoral
* Lucy Gray
* The Idle Shepherd-Boys or Dungeon-Gill Force, a Pastoral
* 'Tis said that some have died for love, &c.
* Poor Susan
* Inscription for the Spot where the Hermitage stood on St. Herbert's Island, Derwent-Water
* Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere
* To a Sexton
* Andrew Jones
* The two Thieves, or the last stage of Avarice
* A whirl-blast from behind the Hill, &c.
* Song for the wandering Jew
* Ruth
* Lines written with a Slate-Pencil upon a Stone, &c.
* Lines written on a Tablet in a School
* The two April Mornings
* The Fountain, a conversation
* Nutting
* Three years she grew in sun and shower, &c.
* The Pet-Lamb, a Pastoral
* Written in Germany on one of the coldest days of the century
* The Childless Father
* The Old Cumberland Beggar, a Description
* Rural Architecture
* A Poet's Epitaph
* A Character
* A Fragment
* Poems on the Naming of Places,
* Michael, a Pastoral

The poems The Convict (Wordsworth) and Love (Coleridge) were in the 1798 edition but Wordsworth omitted them from the 1800 edition. Lewti or the Circassian Love-chaunt (Coleridge) exists in some 1798 editions in place of The Nightingale.

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