Lyrical Ballads  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Preface to the Lyrical Ballads

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 detailing the pair's avowed poetical principles. 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) 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 Rousseau's belief 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.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lyrical Ballads" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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