William Wordsworth (1770-1850)


William Wordsworth, who belonged to the first generation of romantic poets, was the first poet of the real Romantic Age and the longest living: he composed a lot. He was born in the Lake District and went to study away, but then he went back, in fact he’s called the Lake Poet.
He composed poems such as the collections Wordsworth's Poetical Works – volume three, in 1804, and Poems, in Two Volumes in 1807.
Even if he started in the appreciation and support of ideal of the French Revolution, little by little he became disillusioned, as well as Coleridge did: his rebellious attitude of early years changed, in fact by the end of his life he became more conservative and less rebel.

He and Coleridge started one of the most famous literary friendship: they developed the first and second edition of the Lyrical Ballads. Their friendship was crucial to the development of romantic ideas – principles of romantic age –: when, in the Preface, they dealt with their own ideas, it means that they dealt with the specific ingredient of imagination, considered a divine faculty that allows the poet to move from the experience of everyday reality into the marvellous.

Nevertheless he always kept his imagination ground in reality: he employed imagination in reality and never departed from reality; Coleridge instead started from the real experience – to make people believe in what he was saying – to reach the fantastic, very far from the real.  Two-sided task: a double oriented task.


The main points of Wordsworth’s philosophy

Philosophical attitude from the Preface to the second edition of the Lyrical Ballads

The main points Wordsworth deals with are the subject and the language.
It is in the Preface that he and Coleridge want to express to critics the real nature of their poetry: they have chosen a new simple ordinary language because the new subject is different.
1.The medium of (Romantic) poetry: a renewed language.
This new language starts by the element that it have to be simple, but not vulgar. It’s ordinary because it describes ordinary people and incidents.  This poetry is to be expressed in a very simple and ordinary language because it deals with ordinary incidents and people – the HUMBLE (ITA: umile) –.
a.Therefore the second element he deals with is the rustic life. In this idea of representing rustic life, it was not represented as such: it was chosen because rustic people, living in the country side, are much more in contact with real passions, nearer to the purest passions – a passion is pure because it is near to nature and can develop in the nature –.

Poetry declares itself as being expression of human passions

The development of these passions brings the individual near to divinity: nature lets the individual be more spontaneous. It is in nature that passions can be observed and told about!
b.They reject artificial expressions (belonging to the poetic diction of the 18th century) and the so-called elevated language because they feel nearer to those people because they are poets: a poet is a simple man who expresses his emotions freely and spontaneous, a prophet with a mission and a man among men.
This new trend in literature of being man among men declares an interest for the humble: it sends to a democratization of poetry, according to which everybody must be able to understand their poetry.  It’s a political, social, ideological concept/ attitude translated in literary terms: they make people see the beauty of nature, which means that they make them able to see what they see.
2.The object of poetry changes: it becomes the relationship between human consciousness and the natural world.  We can feel real emotions only in a natural environment.
Poetry is born of a complex interaction between man and nature: it is nature that opens man’s soul to higher perceptions, it is only through this contact with nature that higher perceptions are possible because nature is the medium between man and God.
a.Therefore, whenever a poet is in nature, he creates a dimension of intense pleasure – intellectual attitude –, where emotions start developing: in this dimension he sees the link between himself and God and develops an incredible link between human consciousness and himself.
b.Deep contact man – nature  development of emotions;
c.Nature is a companion to intense emotional experiences;
d.Nature is a living force penetrated by divine elements;
e.The focus of the poet is a natural object, objective, but poetry expresses the poet’s response to the object itself;
f.Therefore poetry is subjective and personal, free and spontaneous.
Wordsworth’s view is a pantheistic view of nature: that nature is a living force means that God’s force lives in nature.
3.Senses and memory: without senses no poetry of this new kind would be possible because nature hits our senses first. Any form of poetry in Wordsworth starts in the fundamental act of sense perception because nature is a world of sense perception.
But it’s not enough: senses allow then the birth and the development of a perceive sensation.
A sensation develops in emotion – simple thoughts –, but later on these simple thoughts are elaborated into complex ideas: through the channel of memory, in a second moment, these complex ideas are purified into kindred emotions.
He has to put a distance between himself and the initial emotion to contemplate the emotion until a new, kindred emotion is born: this new kindred emotion enables the poet to compose poetry because it detaches him from the scene to let him understand it and the near him to let him write about it.
Everybody must be able to understand the message: this process of revision of emotion through the channel of memory lets the poet express poetically his emotions in order to make the public establish a link between readers, poet and nature.
These complex ideas need a detachment from the scene, that is represented by memory, therefore, through the channel of memory, the poet makes his complex ideas expressible through poetry by using this new kindred emotions.  Through the kindred emotion poetry is made possible.
This idea of memory is called recollection in tranquillity (tranquillity after some time, after emotions): it is through memory that any poetry is possible.
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