The Thorn


Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798 and generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature.[1] The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry.

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 included additional poems and a preface detailing the pair's avowed poetical principles.[2] For another edition, published in 1802, Wordsworth added an appendix titled Poetic Diction in which he expanded the ideas set forth in the preface.[3]


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.

Poems in the 1800 edition

Poems marked (Coleridge) were written by Coleridge; all other poems were written by Wordsworth. In first edition, 1798 there were 19 poems written by Wordsworth and 4 poems by Coleridge.

Volume I

  • Expostulation and Reply
  • The Tables Turned; an Evening Scene, on the Same Subject
  • Old Man Traveling; Animal Tranquillity and Decay, a Sketch
  • The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman
  • The Last of the Flock
  • Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite
  • The Foster-Mother's Tale (Coleridge)
  • Goody Blake and Harry Gill
  • The Thorn
  • We are Seven
  • Anecdote for Fathers
  • Lines written at a small distance from my House and sent me by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed
  • The Female Vagrant
  • The Dungeon (Coleridge)
  • Simon Lee, the old Huntsman
  • Lines written in early Spring
  • The Nightingale, written in April 1798. (Coleridge)
  • Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening
  • written near Richmond, upon the Thames
  • The Idiot Boy
  • The Mad Mother
  • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Coleridge)
  • Lines written above Tintern Abbey

Volume II

  • Hart-leap Well
  • There was a Boy, &c
  • The Brothers, a Pastoral Poem
  • Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle
  • Strange fits of passion have I known, &c.
  • Song
  • She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
  • A slumber did my spirit seal, &c
  • The Waterfall and the Eglantine
  • The Oak and the Broom, a Pastoral
  • Lucy Gray
  • The Idle Shepherd-Boys or Dungeon-Gill Force, a Pastoral
  • 'Tis said that some have died for love, &c.
  • Poor Susan
  • Inscription for the Spot where the Hermitage stood on St. Herbert's Island, Derwent-Water
  • Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere
  • To a Sexton
  • Andrew Jones
  • The two Thieves, or the last stage of Avarice
  • A whirl-blast from behind the Hill, &c.
  • Song for the wandering Jew
  • Ruth
  • Lines written with a Slate-Pencil upon a Stone, &c.
  • Lines written on a Tablet in a School
  • The two April Mornings
  • The Fountain, a conversation
  • Nutting
  • Three years she grew in sun and shower, &c.
  • The Pet-Lamb, a Pastoral
  • Written in Germany on one of the coldest days of the century
  • The Childless Father
  • The Old Cumberland Beggar, a Description
  • Rural Architecture
  • A Poet's Epitaph
  • A Character
  • A Fragment
  • Poems on the Naming of Places,
  • Michael, a Pastoral

For the 1800 edition, Wordsworth added several poems which make up Volume II. The poem The Convict (Wordsworth) was in the 1798 edition but Wordsworth omitted it from the 1800 edition, replacing it with Coleridge's "Love". Lewti or the Circassian Love-chaunt (Coleridge) exists in some 1798 editions in place of The Convict. The poems "Lines written when sailing in a Boat at evening" and "Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames" are one poem in the 1798 edition entitled "Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening."

  1. ^ See Lyrical Ballads (1 ed.). London: J. & A. Arch. 1798. Retrieved 13 November 2014.  via
  2. ^ Wordsworth, William (1800). Lyrical Ballads with Other Poems. I (2 ed.). London: Printed for T.N. Longman and O. Rees. Retrieved 13 November 2014. ; Wordsworth, William (1800). Lyrical Ballads with Other Poems. II (2 ed.). London: Printed for T.N. Longman and O. Rees. Retrieved 15 November 2014.  via
  3. ^ Wordsworth, William (1802). Lyrical Ballads with Pastoral and other Poems. I (3 ed.). London: Printed for T.N. Longman and O. Rees. Retrieved 15 November 2014.  via
  4. ^ "Lyrical Ballads". The Wordsworth Trust. 2005. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2006. 
External links
  • Lyrical Ballads 1798 at Project Gutenberg
  • Lyrical Ballads 1800 vol. 1 at Project Gutenberg
  • Lyrical Ballads 1800 vol. 2 at Project Gutenberg
  • Lyrical Ballads – curated by Michigan State University professor
  • Lyrical Ballads available at Internet Archive
  • Preface to Lyrical Ballads 1802
  • Lyrical Ballads: A Scholarly Electronic Edition by Bruce Graver and Ron Tetreault

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