The Thorn

Content

Wordsworth and Coleridge set out to overturn what they considered the priggish, learned and highly sculpted forms of 18th century English poetry and bring poetry within the reach of the average person 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 assert the universality of human 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 the 'Advertisement' included in the 1798 edition, 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.[4]

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 people led a purer and more innocent existence. Wordsworth subscribed to Rousseau's belief that humanity was essentially good but was corrupted by the influence of society. This may be linked with the sentiments spreading through Europe just prior to the French Revolution.


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