If you are a literature student or an avid reader, you will know about Lyrical Ballads. This groundbreaking work by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a classic of English Romantic poetry.
Published in 1798, the collection of poems changed the course of English literature, eschewing the formal and artificial style of the neo-classical poets and advocating a return to the simple and natural expression of everyday life.
In this article, we will take a journey through Lyrical Ballads, exploring their themes, style, and significance.
Lyrical Ballads Part 1
The first volume of Lyrical Ballads is written by Wordsworth and celebrates nature and the common people. Unlike the traditional poems of the time, these are not about nobility or kings, but about the everyday folk who live their lives connected to the earth.
Wordsworth’s poem “We Are Seven” features a young girl’s conversation with a man that explores the idea of death and love, while “Michael” is a poignant tale about a man who refuses to leave his land.
The second volume, written by Coleridge, is a stark contrast to the first. His poems are mysterious and supernatural, exploring gothic themes, like “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” which deals with the consequences of killing an albatross.
“Kubla Khan” is another famous poem, born out of an opium dream, describing an imagined landscape that is both enchanting and haunting. Coleridge’s themes are often more complex, requiring the reader to think deeper.
One of the standout poems in the collection is “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey,” written by Wordsworth. This poem muses on the beauty of nature and the memories it can stir up, with the speaker reminiscing on a previous visit to the same location five years prior. The poem explores the idea of nature being a source of solace and inspiration.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Coleridge is another poem that has been praised for its intricate and mystical qualities. The poem follows an old sailor who tells his tale to a wedding guest, warning him of the dangers of ignoring the beauty in nature.
It is a story that delves into sin, punishment, and redemption, with the mariner blessed by nature when he realizes his mistake.
Lyrical Ballads Part 2
One of the most significant features of the Lyrical Ballads was their use of everyday language. Instead of high-flown language and elaborate metaphors, the poets chose to use the language of common people, which they believed was more authentic and natural.
This not only made their poetry accessible to a wider audience but also helped break down the barriers that had previously existed between poetry and everyday life.
By using simple language, the poets were able to convey complex emotions and experiences in a way that was both relatable and profound.
Another distinguishing feature of the Lyrical Ballads was their focus on ordinary subjects. Instead of writing about heroic figures and grand themes, the poets chose to write about subjects that were familiar to ordinary people – nature, childhood, rural life, and emotions.
This approach gave their poetry a sense of immediacy and authenticity that had not been seen before. By writing about everyday experiences, the poets were able to connect with their readers on a deeper level and create a sense of shared experience that transcended time and place.
One of the most powerful examples of the Lyrical Ballads’ use of simple language and ordinary subjects is Wordsworth’s famous poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.”
This poem, which describes the beauty of a field of daffodils, uses language that is both simple and evocative. The poem’s theme of the power of nature to uplift the human soul is one that resonates with readers to this day.
Wordsworth and His Poems
William Wordsworth was born in 1770 in the Lake District of England. He was an English poet who, along with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is credited with launching the Romantic era in English literature.
Wordsworth’s poetry focused on nature, emotions, and human experiences, and he believed that poetry should be accessible to everyone, not just the aristocracy. His radical approaches to writing poetry led to the creation of the Lyrical Ballads.
Wordsworth’s poetry stresses the importance of emotions and feelings over reason and intellect. He believed that the beauty of nature could help individuals connect with their inner selves and find a sense of peace and harmony.
His poetry emphasizes the power of imagination and how it can help individuals see beyond the physical world and tap into the spiritual realm. The Lyrical Ballads is full of poems that explore these themes, and readers can experience a deep sense of joy and wonder while reading them.
The simplicity of the Lyrical Ballads renders them timeless, and readers continue to appreciate the poems over two hundred years after their composition.
Wordsworth’s poetry is particularly relevant to women, as it explores the beauty and wonder of nature, and encourages individuals to find solace and comfort in the natural world.
A notable poem by Coleridge is “This lime-tree bower, my prison,” in which the speaker, unable to accompany his friends on a walk, experiences solace, albeit reluctantly.
Despite being trapped in his garden, the speaker discovers that the natural world still holds various wonders, offering him inner peace.
The poem beautifully illustrates the poet’s fascination with human emotions, his appreciation of nature’s marvels, and, most importantly, his ability to weave them together poetically.
Coleridge’s poetry is nothing if not thought-provoking. For example, in the poem, “Frost at Midnight,” Coleridge signifies nostalgia, his maternal love, and the tranquility of family life in the rural environment.
Through imagery, style, and rhythm, the poem insightfully conveys the power of the human spirit to tackle the challenges of old age and disillusionment.
Critical Response to Lyrical Ballads
The Lyrical Ballads was a groundbreaking work of poetry that drew both praise and criticism from contemporaries.
Some embraced Wordsworth’s revolutionary style, where he experimented with diction, grammar, meter, stanza structure, and more to create a more natural language for poetry, while others rejected it.
Critics praised Coleridge’s poems for their delicate lyricism and emotional richness. The Lyrical Ballads are a very important part of English literature today.
Critics have also praised the collection for exploring topics such as nature, personal relationships, and the human spirit using accessible language that connects with readers. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s poetry have timeless themes that continue to speak to readers in the present day.
Influence on Later Writers
The Lyrical Ballads influenced many later writers and poets of the Romantic Era.
Keats, Shelley, Byron, Leigh Hunt, and William Blake all adopted elements from Wordsworth and Coleridge’s works to create their own unique styles.
Furthermore, the collection has continued to shape English literature right up until today; contemporary writers often reference the Lyrical Ballads in their own works.
Wordsworth and Coleridge Today
Wordsworth and Coleridge’s work continues to be celebrated. Their poems are still studied in classrooms all over the world, their themes resonating with readers of different generations.
Readers often view the collection as a cornerstone of English literature that lays the foundation for the Romantic Era and beyond. In its sheer beauty and power, The Lyrical Ballads is an enduring testament to the greatness of these two poets.
With its stunning imagery and thoughtful messages, it is no surprise that The Lyrical Ballads remains a popular collection of poetry today.
Wordsworth and Coleridge’s deep affection for nature, their examination of human emotions and relationships, and their ability to evoke a deep feeling in readers make their work timeless.
The collection is a reminder of the beauty and power of poetry, and its ability to transcend time.
A Legacy for Future Generations
These works have inspired generations of poets, writers, and readers alike and helped shape English literature as we know it.
Through their prolific writings, the two poets have touched countless lives and left a lasting legacy that will continue to influence readers from all walks of life for generations to come.
The Lyrical Ballads is indeed an enduring testament to the greatness of two remarkable poets who changed the face of English literature forever.
The Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge is a timeless collection of poetry.
Their poems brim with beautiful imagery, convey thoughtful messages and evoke deep emotions, continuing to resonate with readers from all walks of life today.
Through their works, the two poets have left behind a legacy that will continue to inspire generations of poets, writers, and readers for centuries to come.
The Lyrical Ballads remains one of the most important collections in English Literature – a testament to the greatness of these remarkable poets who changed the face of English literature.