WORDSWORTH AS A ROMANTIC CRITIC
INTRODUCTION: William Wordsworth was primarily a poet but still he has given us a most comprehensive critical document in the form of the 'Preface to Lyrical Ballads'. It has an epoch-making significance. It strikes a new note in the history of English literary criticism. It is the manifesto of the Romantic Movement. It gave a new direction, consciousness and programme to English Romanticism.
THEMES OF POETRY:' The Preface' marks a revolution in matter of selection of subject for the purpose of poetry. Here Wordsworth has discarded the Neo-classical approach. His approach is romantic. He advocates that the theme of poetry should be drawn from simple and rustic life.
The poet should choose incidents and situations from common life. According to Wordsworth in this rustic and humble life the fundamental passions of the heart develop smoothly and grow harmoniously. They are not controlled by the fastidious rules of the so-called society. Thus the real subject matter of poetry is to be found in the primary affections.
LANGUAGE OF POETRY: Wordsworth's theory of poetic language is protest against the pseudo classical theory of poetic diction. This protest was against pedantry and affectation; and it is based on an appeal to the primitive, the passionate, and the natural spoken word. He stresses the communicative power of poetry. He advocates the use of the language of the rustic and humble people for the purpose of poetry. According to him the language of the rustic is capable of being poetic. It is because the rustic and humble people convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions. Thus such language is more permanent and more philosophical. In short, Wordsworth advocates for the use of the language really spoken by men.
CONCEPT OF POETRY: Wordsworth's Preface explains his concept of poetry. His concept has newness. Wordsworth has rejected the intellectual aspect of the origin of poetry. For the first time, he emphasised the role of emotions. According to him,' Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.' Poetry springs from the soul of man. As has been well said,' the clear spring of poetry must flow freely and spontaneously. It can't be made to flow through artificially laid pipes. Poetry is born not in the mind but in the heart overflowing with feeling'.
Thus poetry is the product of feeling, mood and temperament. According to Wordsworth there are four stages of the process of poetic creation. These stages are observation, recollection, contemplation and imaginative excitement. The poet observes certain objects of nature. It excites in him certain emotions. He carries those emotions in his heart. Later on he recollects those emotions in the moments of tranquility, contemplates upon them and as a result poetic creation takes shape.
USE OF METRE: William Wordsworth advocates the use of metre in poetry. But he condemns poetic diction. Metre brings uniformity whereas poetic diction is capricious. Metre contributes to the pleasure of poetry. It can give pleasure even without the use of poetic diction, even when the language is simple and naked. It has a restraining and tempering effect on the flow of emotion and passion. It tempers and softens the painful. It imparts passion to the words, and so increases emotional intensity.
CONCLUSION: Thus Wordsworth’s “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" is a manifesto of the English Romantic Movement. It has emphasised the value of a simpler and more natural language. By advocating simplicity in the theme, he succeeded in enlarging the range of English poetry. He emphasised the true nature of poetry as an expression of emotion and passion. He brought about a revolution in the theory of poetry. Wordsworth's contribution as a romantic critic is that he emphasises novelty, experiment, liberty, spontaneity, inspiration and imagination.