The Simplicity in the Lyrical Ballads

After attending the lecture on Wordsworth and Coleridge, I’m fascinated by a number of things:

1. How exactly do the words and rhythms of poetry work together so cleverly to produce a) raw emotion b) a sense of calmness and c) simplicity + beauty ? –>It must require certain skills, such as a vocabulary, good grasp of language, understanding the meter–how it works and how to use it in the most effective way which sounds challenging– and “organic sensibility” –ability to be sensitive towards nature and emotions.

2. Reading for therapeutic purposes: I never thought that reading could be like therapy, but now that I think of it, it makes sense to me. Sometimes when people get bored with life I guess they pour over novels so they can immerse in the world of fiction. (One bad thing with that, is what Wordsworth warns us, which is the “frantic novels” that make us “gross and violent”). To mediate the violent emotions prose generates, Wordsworth proposes that poetry, with its metrical system, gives a pattern to the ideas expressed, and this pattern has a continuity which calms the reader. I find this meter analogous to a person’s heart beat. I once heard from somewhere that hearing the clock tick before you sleep is calming because the clock’s tick is supposed to resemble the beating of your mother’s heart which you listened to when you were still in the womb. So I guess this is why a beat / meter has a calming effect.

3. I wonder if Wordsworth thought his poetry as the start of a movement, because in the preface he calls his poems “an experiment”, something like the impressionist or avant-garde movement. With Wordsworth and Coleridge, I really like the simplicity of language in their poetry. I don’t find anything really flowery that can sound pretentious in their poems, which is what’s appealing about them. This is the point that Wordsworth tries to get across. Because it’s simple, it says a lot more.

My favourite poem has to be “We Are Seven”. It’s just so sweet and sad at the same time. It seems so real too, like a daily feature of 1700 rural life–a girl playing in the fields counts her dead siblings as if they were still alive. Overall, I’m fascinated by how emotions are immediately produced in poetry, because the lines, the words are right there, and they do generate fluxes of sensations. I don’t think I’ve read poetry that hasn’t made me feel anything, unless it’s just too abstract and hard to grasp.

1 Thought.

  1. I really like your reflections here, because I share many of your thoughts. I, too, much appreciate that these poems are not written in an over-elaborate style, with numerous abstractions and personifications, and high-sounding words. I feel like I can really connect with these poems because I don’t have to struggle through the language. I am not familiar enough with the history of poetry in Europe to know much about what the style was before, but Wordsworth certain decries the style used by many of his contemporaries as being too overdone; and from what he quotes of others, I agree! With most of these poems I get a vivid image and clear emotions pretty quickly, without having to puzzle over the meanings of words or metaphors. One exception, though, is “Tinturn Abbey.” That one is very difficult for me to get a good grasp on, to connect with, and I’m not sure why. I do feel like I have to puzzle out what he’s saying there in a way that I don’t have to with many of the others.

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