« PředchozíPokračovat »
Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads, and the objects
originally proposed - Preface to the second edition — The ensuing controversy, its causes and acrimony-Philosophic definitions of a Poem and Poetry with scholia.
JURING the first year that Mr. Words
worth and I were neighbours, our conversations turned frequently on the two cardinal points of poetry, the power of
exciting the sympathy of the reader by a faithful adherence to the truth of nature, and the power of giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colours of imagination. The sudden charm, which accidents of light and shade, which moon-light or sunset diffused over a known and familiar landscape, appeared to represent the practicability of combining both. These are the poetry of nature. The thought suggested itself-(to which of us I do not recollect)-
' In 1797-8, whilst Mr. Coleridge resided at Nether Stowey, and Mr. Wordsworth at Alfoxton. Ed.]
that a series of poems might be composed of two sor In the one, the incidents and agents were to be, part at least, supernatural; and the excellence aim at was to consist in the interesting of the affections 1 the dramatic truth of such emotions, as would nat rally accompany such situations, supposing them rea And real in this sense they have been to every huma being who, from whatever source of delusion, has any time believed himself under supernatural
agenc For the second class, subjects were to be chosen fro ordinary life; the characters and incidents were to 1 such as will be found in every village and its vicinity where there is a meditative and feeling mind to see after them, or to notice them, when they presei themselves.
In this idea originated the plan of the LYRICAL BAI LADS; in which it was agreed, that
endeavou should be directed to persons and characters super natural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer froi our inward nature a human interest and a semblanc of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for th moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Words worth, on the other hand, was to propose to himse. as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things q every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the su pernatural, by awakening the mind's attention to th lethargy of custom, and directing it to the lovelines and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaust ible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the filn of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, ye see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither fee nor understand.
With this view I wrote THE ANCIENT MARINER and was preparing among other poems, The DARI Ladie, and the CHRISTABEL, in which I should have more nearly realized my ideal, than I had done in my first attempt. But Mr. Wordsworth's industry had proved so much more successful, and the number of his poems so much greater, that my compositions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather an interpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth added two or three poems written in his own character, in the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is characteristic of his genius. In this form the LYRICAL BALLADS were published ;3 and were presented by him, as an experiment, whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed in the language
of ordinary life as to produce the pleasurable interest, = which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart. - To the second edition he added a preface of considerLiable length ;4 in which, notwithstanding some passages
of apparently a contrary import, he was understood to i contend for the extension of this style to poetry of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all
phrases and forms of speech that were not included in i what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal
expression) called the language of real life. From
2 The Ancient Mariner, Poet. W. II. p.1.-Christabel, ibid. p. 28.— The Dark Ladie, P. W. I. p. 150. Ed.]
[The first volume of the Lyrical Ballads was published in 1798. Ed.]
* [The second edition, with an additional volume and the preface, was published in 1800. Ed.]
• [" The first volume of these Poems bas already been submitted to general perusal. It was published as an experiment, which I hoped might be of some use to ascertain how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and
this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was imp sible to deny the presence of original genius, howev mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose whole long-continued controversy. For from the co junction of perceived power with supposed heresy explain the inveteracy and in some instances, I grie to say, the acrimonious passions, with which the co troversy has been conducted by the assailants.
that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet m rationally endeavour to impart.” Preface P. W. II. p. 30 Ed.]
[In illustration of these remarks or the allusions that follo the Editor gave rather copious extracts from the E. Revie of Oct. 1807, Nov. 1814, and Oct. 1815, which I helieve tha after all, he would have felt it not worth while to reprint; ai I therefore refer the curious reader to those specimens of ti criticism of thirty years since in their own place. I think right however to preserve the Editor's comment upon ther which is as follows:
It is of great importance to the history of literature in th country that the critiques contained in the Edinboro' Revie on Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge, should be known an reperused in the present day ;-not as reflecting any special di grace on the writers,-(for as to them, the matter and tone of thes essays only showed that the critics had not risen above the lev of the mass of their age)-but for the purpose of demonstratin that immediate popularity, though it may attend, can never b a test of, excellence in works of the imagination ; and of teac! ing, if possible, the duty and the advantages of respect for a mitted genius, even when it pursues a path of its own making Just consider what was the effect of all the scorn and ridicul of Wordsworth by which the Edinboro' Review, the leadin critical Journal of the nation for a long time, distinguished itse for twenty years together. A great laugh was created in th fashionable world of letters, and the poet's expectation of pe cuniary profit was destroyed. Public opinion was, for about quarter of a century, set against the reception of works, which were always allowed to be innocent, and are now everywher