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The Manifesto of English Romanticism

Wordsworth belonged to the first generation of Romantic poets who were characterised by the attempt to theorise about poetry. While planning the Lyrical Ballads with Coleridge, they agreed that he would write on the beauty of nature and ordinary things with the aim of making them interesting for the reader; Coleridge, instead, should deal with visionary topics the supernatural, and mystery. Wordsworth did not want write following the standards of 18th-century poetry. His strongest objection to it was its artificial, elevated language, which he called ‘poetic diction’.

In his Preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, he stated what the subject matter and the language of poetry should be. Poetry should deal with everyday situations or incidents and with ordinary people, especially humble, rural people. Even the language should be simple, the objects mentioned homely and called by their ordinary names. The reason for Wordsworth’s choice lies in the fact that in low and rustic life man more direct, nearer to his own purer passions. Therefore the poet is a man among men, writing about what interests mankind.

Man and the natural world

Wordsworth is interested in the relationship between the natural world and the human consciousness. His poetry therefore offers a detailed account of the complex interaction between man and nature, of the influences, insights, emotions and sensations which arise from this contact, rather than precise and objective observation of natural phenomena.

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