Why was Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads so revolutionary?
William Wordsworth’s ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’ captures the integral meaning of the body of work constructed with Samuel Coleridge, whilst also simultaneously contributing to the commencement of the romantic era. This preface is regarded revolutionary as it shone a light upon unlocking a multitude of avenues for common society to access meaningful poetry. Wordsworth believed previous poets including those of the ‘The Age of Enlightenment’ incorporated diction and other devices ungraspable for some in order for them to be “carefully excluded”. This exclusion was however, further stressed as a “separation between themselves and the sympathies of men”. This preface envisioned art that encompassed “incidents and situations from common life” expressed through a language “really used by men” (men relating to mankind). This vision was a cog that turned in unison with concepts that formed around the primary laws of nature and elementary principle of pleasure. It is here that the focus on the “low and rustic life” of people broke down the barriers towards speaking a “more empathetic language” stemming from the ‘repeated experience and regular feelings’ of these said individuals.
Although Wordsworth created opportunities for the public, he also further challenged the meaning of what it meant to be a poet. Disregarding the previously held belief among many that a poet was only somebody who understood the intricacies of techniques and structure, Wordsworth simply described a poet as “a man speaking to men”. Delving into this idea, Wordsworth’s description of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of feelings” must be retained, as we grow to understand that Wordsworth believed a poet’s role is the role of a communicator who translates ‘their feelings to those of the persons whose feelings he describes’ rather than only that of themselves.