poetic theory of Wordsworth in preface to lyrical ballads

william wordsworth


William Wordsworth was an English poet, the dominant figure of Romanticism. Wordsworth was born in 1770, Wordsworth and his friend S.T Coleridge invented a new style of poetry in which nature and the diction of the common man trumped formal, stylized language.

Their seminal 1798 poetry collection, Lyrical Balled, helped to launch the romantic era of English literature, in which writers sought to unite the tranquility of nature and the inner emotional world of men. William Wordsworth is also known as the poet of nature. He called himself “A worshiper of nature”.

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He had faith that nature could enlighten the kindheartedness of human beings. Now, this term paper is all about the confirmation of the poetic theory of Wordsworth that whether his works or works of another poet follow his poetic theory or not. He presents his poetic theory in the preface of Lyrical Balled. In the preface, Wordsworth discusses the definition, qualities, and functions of a poet.

He defines poet as ‘He is a man speaking to men: it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul than are supposed to common among mankind’. He also explained certain qualities of a poet; a poet possessing a higher sensibility than others. Having active senses through which he can feel, touch, smell things and would be attracted by everything.

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It helps him to observe and feel things more deeply than others. That’s why he reacts peacefully towards external impressions. The next quality he explains is enthusiasm it means that the poet should be intense and keen to observe each and everything and take deep pleasure in the knowledge of the oneness of nature and man. Poet should know the nature of man (good and bad nature) and he should explain both the good and bad nature of man that’s why poets are mature. The poet has a comprehensive soul, he can share feel the emotions of others.

His soul has sense things deeply. Poets’ imaginative power is greater than average human beings. By this, he can be affected by absent things as if they were present. Poet must have the power of expression which differentiates the poet from the common man. Poet must have the quality of sympathy, he must feel the pain of others and enjoy pleasure as well.

Research Questions:

  • Is the poetic theory of Wordsworth true?
  • Is theory of Poetry Universally accepted?
  • Do all the writers after knowing the theory of Poetry start writing according to it?
  • Does Robert Frost has followed Theory of Poetry in his Poem?
  • Every poet has their taste of writing.

Data Analysis:

Here we are going to analyze a poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. Here we will see that whether the theory of poetry given balsam Wordsworth was correct and is followed by Robert Frost or not.

This is a very short poem the lines of which are:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.

Now we are going to apply one of the main points of the Theory of Poetry by Wordsworth to this poem to see whether Frost has followed that or not.

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The first point of the Theory of Poetry was “ A man speaking to men”. The explanation is a poet was separated and differentiated from normal human beings during the 18th century. It was a revolt against that they are normal human beings. They see the things just like others but the difference is in degree. Poets can see along with that they can feel and express which is not the quality of ordinary humans.

Just as we are seeing in that poetry of Frost that in that very lines he has explained the process of leaves growing and then he focuses on each and detail of the leaves from start till end. Frost is showing and is explaining that to the people around him. It is the general quality of approximately every poet.

2nd point discussed in the theory of poetry is “lively sensibility “. The explanation to which is the poet’s senses must be alert and must be more responsive than the rest of humans. As discussed previously the difference is in degree. Poets use their senses at the extreme level. Now as we can see from the poem how in just 8 lines, Frost has defined the process of leaves formation and her death also, along with that giving rhyme and making his readers fully understand.

He has used all his senses, he observed keenly the process and has expressed that beautifully using his senses properly. A normal human being would have not been able to do so.

3rd point of the Theory of Poetry is “Knowledge about human nature”. According to this point, a poet must be aware of human nature, their reaction, their goodness, and their badness. He must accept things the way they are though a poet has the powers to mold the words it must be accepted as reality and must be shown as reality.

Though in this poem there is no such thing related to that point of the theory of poetry one explanation can be on that side is possible that the poet must know how to gain the attention of humans. Like here in this poem he is comparing that leaf (bud) is for a very short period and its beauty dulls by time. So it can be a kind of moral lesson towards humans that nothing is permanent here, each and everything has to be dull rather dead.

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4th point of the Theory of Poetry is “the poet has a comprehensive soul”. They have an understanding of each and everything. They know how to deal with things. When poets see the things that inspire them for writing, it touches their soul and they went too deep into that. An example can be seen from thee achieve poem by Robert Frost, that how he has linked the dropping of leaf from a tree to the event of an incident when humankind fell from Paradise.

Similarly, another example from the same poem can be seen that how he co conclude the poem with the universal truth that nothing lasts forever, nor freshness, nor beauty nothing.

The 5th point of the Theory of Poetry is the “ Contemplation of poet and Imagination “. This refers to the power of thinking and how poets imagine different aspects of the same object or same process. We can see from the above poem how Robert Frost has keenly observed the process of leave formation and then flowers and then, at last, he compare the falling of leaves to the ground compared to the falling of humankind. This shows his power of imagination and power of thinking having a greater degree than the normal human being.

Similarly, that’s his power of thinking and imagination that he compares the dulling and falling of leaves to the theme of the temporariness of each thing and that nothing is permanent. Each and everything has to become to an end one day or the other.

The 6th point of the Theory of Poetry is the most important (according to me). This very quality differs the point from ordinary humans which is the “expression “. The poet must know to express his feelings, thoughts, and emotions. As we can see from the above example or we can pick any poem, every writer shows their way of expressing their thoughts and feelings.

In this poem, we can see how the poet has expressed their views about bud and then falling of bud and then relating of falling of bud to that incident when humankind was fell from the ground and then gave humans a kind of moral lesson within just 8 lines. Furthermore, the choice of words can be seen.

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1st line rhyme with 2nd. 3rd line rhyme with 4th and so on. The same process of bud and falling of leaves can be written and can be shown as ordinary lines like prose but the poet expresses it in a way that it becomes joyous for the readers and make it interesting.

The last point in the Theory of poetry is “ sympathy and empathy”. Poet at the end is a little bit disappointed in the people and is showing sympathy to them that their life span is going on and they are not enjoying their life. From the above poem as a poet is giving a lesson to humankind to enjoy its precious time and enjoy every moment by giving an example of a poem that its youth is for a very short period and as we can see deaths awaits always. So try to enjoy every moment and life is short and will be over.


From the above example and the analysis of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing gold can stay, we can see that all the qualities which Wordsworth has defined in his poetic theory back in the 1790s were somehow true. Now at least Robert Frost has shown approximately all the qualities of a poet defined by the poetic theory of Wordsworth. It can be of different reasons. Maybe the poetic theory of Wordsworth was true because Frost has followed the Theory in his very poem.

The theory is very common in his description of a poet like each Poet has to show such qualities to be called a Poet. Because these are the qualities that make differentiate poets from ordinary humankind. So the Theory of Poetry must be Universally accepted in my opinion because it is very simple in the description of the poet and the poet must have these qualities. Moreover, everyone is free in their writing. He can write anything about anything. There is no restriction to that.

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