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Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads, and the objects originally proposed-Preface to the second edition -The ensuing controversy, its causes and acrimony-Philosophic definitions of a Poem and Poetry with scholia.
JURING the first year that Mr. Wordsworth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of
exciting the sympathy of the reader by
a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself-(to which of us I do not recollect)-
In 1797-8, whilst Mr. Coleridge resided at Nether Stowey, and Mr. Wordsworth at Alfoxton. Ed.]
that a series of poems might be composed of two so In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, part at least, supernatural; and the excellence ain at was to consist in the interesting of the affections the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would na rally accompany such situations, supposing them re And real in this sense they have been to every hum being who, from whatever source of delusion, has any time believed himself under supernatural agen For the second class, subjects were to be chosen fro ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to such as will be found in every village and its vicini where there is a meditative and feeling mind to se after them, or to notice them, when they prese themselves.
In this idea originated the plan of the LYRICAL BA LADS; in which it was agreed, that endeavou should be directed to persons and characters supe natural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer fro our inward nature a human interest and a semblan of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for t moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Word worth, on the other hand, was to propose to himse as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the s pernatural, by awakening the mind's attention to th lethargy of custom, and directing it to the lovelines and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaus ible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the fil of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, y see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither fe nor understand.
With this view I wrote THE ANCIENT MARINE and was preparing among other poems, THE DAR
S. LADIE, and the CHRISTABEL, in which I should have in more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my ed first attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had by proved so much more successful, and the number of u his poems so much greater, that my compositions, al. instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an inan terpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsat worth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained om diction, which is characteristic of his genius. be this form the LYRICAL BALLADS were published;" ty, and were presented by him, as an experiment, whether ek subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ent ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in
general, might not be so managed in the language Lof ordinary life as to produce the pleasurable interest, rs which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart. er To the second edition he added a preface of considernable length; in which, notwithstanding some passages nce of apparently a contrary import, he was understood to of contend for the extension of this style to poetry of all he kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all
phrases and forms of speech that were not included in elf what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal of expression) called the language of real life. From
2 The Ancient Mariner, Poet. W. II. p. 1.-Christabel, ibid. p. 28.-The Dark Ladie, P. W. I. p. 150. Ed.]
[The first volume of the Lyrical Ballads was published in 1798. Ed.]
[The second edition, with an additional volume and the yet preface, was published in 1800. Ed.]
"["The first volume of these Poems has already been submitted to general perusal. It was published as an experiment, which I hoped might be of some use to ascertain how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language Eof men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and
this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was imp sible to deny the presence of original genius, howe mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose whole long-continued controversy. For from the c junction of perceived power with supposed heres explain the inveteracy and in some instances, I gri to say, the acrimonious passions, with which the c troversy has been conducted by the assailants.
that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poetr rationally endeavour to impart." Preface P. W. II. p. 3 Ed.]
6 [In illustration of these remarks or the allusions that foll the Editor gave rather copious extracts from the E. Rev of Oct. 1807, Nov. 1814, and Oct. 1815, which I believe t after all, he would have felt it not worth while to reprint; a I therefore refer the curious reader to those specimens of criticism of thirty years since in their own place. I thin right however to preserve the Editor's comment upon the which is as follows:
It is of great importance to the history of literature in t country that the critiques contained in the Edinboro' Revi on Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge, should be known a reperused in the present day;-not as reflecting any special d grace on the writers,-(for as to them, the matter and tone of the essays only showed that the critics had not risen above the le of the mass of their age)—but for the purpose of demonstrati that immediate popularity, though it may attend, can never a test of, excellence in works of the imagination; and of teac ing, if possible, the duty and the advantages of respect for a mitted genius, even when it pursues a path of its own makin Just consider what was the effect of all the scorn and ridicu of Wordsworth by which the Edinboro' Review, the leadi critical Journal of the nation for a long time, distinguished its for twenty years together. A great laugh was created in t fashionable world of letters, and the poet's expectation of P cuniary profit was destroyed. Public opinion was, for about quarter of a century, set against the reception of works, whic were always allowed to be innocent, and are now everywhe