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Wordsworth’s Theory of Poetic Diction


How does Wordsmith describe the language as he claims to have selected for his poems? How does he describe the language used by many modern writers? Answer: The problem of poetic diction has been one of the most controversial Issues In literary criticism. The most Important part In the history of poetic diction Is constituted by Wordsmith’s views on the language of poetry. These are two traditions in the history of poetic diction. One is that which pleads for a special language for poetry and the other is that which pleads for the spoken language.

Wordsmith obviously belongs to latter tradition. Wordsmith opposed the “gaudiness and inane phraseology” of eighteen century poets. Wordsmith believed that most of those who enjoyed or sought consideration in society were incapable of love to man or reverence for God. Wordsmith would not write to please a corrupt society, nor would he employ its language. He would sing in simple language that cottages and children could understand. Wordsmith’s theory of poetic diction Is not merely a revolt against existing practice.

It does not merely abolish false practice, but It also Implies a desire to find a suitable engage for the new territory of human life, which he was bringing In for the poetic treatment, as Oliver Elton points out. The mall points of the theory are: l. The language of poetry should be the real language of men. It should not have any artificiality about it. By men, Wordsmith meant the rustic folk and humble people. A selection of such language should used; the language should be purified of coarseness or oddities. Ill.

It should be the language of men in a state of vivid sensation. Iv. The language of poetry is not essentially different from that of prose. It should be noted that by ;language”, Wordsmith probably means vocabulary, not syntax and grammar. The Preface to Lyrical Ballads tells us that the poems were in the nature of an experiment. He had brought them out with the purpose of ascertaining how far the language of conversation In the humble classes of society, would be suitable for poetry. His purpose was to deal with Incidents and situations from common and rustic life.

As such, It was but natural that he would seek to express himself in a suitably simple language. Thus he says that the language of poetry is a “selection of language really used by men”. The language was to be selected I-e purified of its possible coarseness, any painfulness, or any disgusting aspect. The selection has to be made because the aim of a poet is to give pleasure, and such language without selection would distract from the pleasure. The emphasis is on the language which is really spoken by men. Poetry doesn’t need any special language, or special devices.

The personages of Wordsmith’s poetry are drawn from the humble classes and the rustic life. The same humble and rustic life is the source of his language. His reasons for the choice of rustic life are: l. The cutis language Is spoken by men in whose hearts the essential passions find a better soil to attain maturity In. II. The passions of these men are Incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature and the best part of their language Is derived from such communication with nature. It is bound to be noble and simply impassioned.

They speak in an unrestrained manners, as they are uninhibited by social vanity. Their language is impassioned, and expresses emotional excitement in a better manner. Their language comes from the depth of their hearts; if it is the natural language of the passions. ‘v. Through such a language the basic truths about human nature can be more easily reached, understood and communicated. In the rustic life “the essential passions, the elementary feelings” resulting from a communion with Nature are simple, unsophisticated and easy to understand.

The language of poetry should not be separated from the language of men in real life. Wordsmith reacted strongly against the use of elaborate figures of speech, metaphors, artificial devices such as personifications and circumlocution, which were not necessary to poetry. It is not as if Wordsmith spoke against metaphors and figures of speech altogether. He merely said that they should arise naturally from powerful emotions. He was against the use of elaborate and figurative language without the basic emotion to inspire that kind of language.

For him all these things are “ordinary device”. The language should fit the situation or feeling to be expressed. Artificiality in diction should be avoided both when the poet is speaking in his own voice and when he is speaking through his characters. Meter, according to Wordsmith, should not be confused with poetic diction. He says that meter obeys certain rules, whereas poetic diction is arbitrary and capricious. He fends the use of meter for a number of reasons. Firstly, it adds to the pleasure of poetry.

Secondly, it serves to control and check the emotions, and keep them within limits. Thirdly, it subscribes to a sense of illusion, and hence mitigates the effect of too painful subjects and descriptions. The limitations of Wordsmith’s theory of poetic diction have been discussed by several critics, the chief of them being Coleridge. Wordsmith claims the credit of having taken stock of language of poetry, cleared out the irrelevant factors, and made available for poetic use many words that had long been falsely rejected as “unpatriotic”.

He succeeded in his proclaimed aim of dealing a blow to the artificial diction of the eighteenth century poets. Coleridge has objection on that “why Wordsmith insist on the language of rustics”? The selection would see to it that there was no difference between the language of rustics and that of men in other spheres of life. He also objected on the meter that is allowed by Wordsmith and Coleridge says that the use of meter is as artificial as the use of certain other devices common in neo-classical poetry.

Coleridge also says that it is not correct to stipulate the best parts of our language re derived from Nature. Language is “matter molded”. There are abstract nouns and concepts which are as good as any other part of language. And these come from the reflective acts of mind. It is only as man advances in thought that he acquires new concepts and ideas. These cannot be expressed through the language of rustics, which is undeveloped. “The language of rustics is curiously inexpressive. It would be putting the clock back. Instead of progression it would be retrogression”.

On the whole, Wordsmith theory of language is not without faults. At the same time, its rewrite cannot be ignored. It has afar reaching importance. It changed the tendency of having a very high-flown diction for poetry. Wordsmith does vindicate his theory in some of his poems at least, where he employs a stratum of words which would not between prose and poetry is getting less and less. Q: 2 What are some of the characteristics of the poet? What is his relationship to his own passions and violations, what is relationship between his feelings and the goings on the universe?

What is Poet? Answer: He is a man speaking to men, a man it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, ore enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature and more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind, a man pleased with his own passions and violations and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him, delighting to contemplate similar passions as manifested in the goings of on of the universe and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.

Poet is who describes and imitate passions; his employment is in some degree mechanical compared with the freedom and power of real and substantial action and sufferings. It’s a wish of the poet to bring his feelings near to those of persons whose feelings he describes, even confound an identity his own feelings with theirs, and language which is suggested to him by a consideration that “he describes for a particular purpose that of giving pleasure”. He will depend this for removing that wood otherwise be painful and disgusting in the passion.

He will feel there is no necessity to trick out or to elevate mature like other poet who elevate so much unnecessarily. Poet applies this Principle the deeper will be his faith that no words, which his fancy or imagination an suggest, will be fit to be compared with those which are the emanations of reality and truth. Poet is different from other man by a greater promptness to think and feel without immediate external excitement and greater power in expressing such thoughts and feelings as are produces in him in that manner.

He is the rock defense for human nature, and upholder and preserver, carrying every where with him relationship and love. The poet singing a song in which all humane beings Join with him. But those passions and feelings are the general passions and thoughts and feelings of man. Purity of human passions” “The poet thinks and feels in the To sum up, Poet built together by passions and knowledge the vast empire of humane society. He will follow where so ever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge, it’s an immortal as the heart of man. ” Q 4 what is poetry? The image under what restrictions a poet writs and what sort of information he expects his readers to posses? Answer: Wordsmith theory of poetry and his conception of the function of the poet id contains in the Preface to Lyrical Ballad of 1802. In his theory of poetry, he has set down the origin, nature and purpose of poetry. Following is the famous theory of poetry propounded by Wordsmith. L have said that poetry is the spontaneous over flow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility; the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility disappears and emotion , kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation is gradually produced and does it self actually exist in the mind. ” He goes on to say that “The clear springs of the poetry must flow freely and Ron, not in the mind but in the heart over flowing with feeling. The sequence of events describe in the preface for the production of poetry seems to go some thing like this; (I) A notable experience; (it) Deep and long contemplation; (iii) A period of tranquility; (v) Sudden over flow of powerful feelings as the notable experience is recollected; (v) Pleasure in the poet; (vi) Pleasurable emotion as the experience is recaptured and recreated; (vii) Shaping of the poem hardly touched on in the preface, except as a transition in the pleasure of the poet; (viii) Pleasure for the deader, who enjoys the original experience in his experience of the created poem.

The poet does not react to an impression immediately. He allows his sense impression of object perceived by him to sink into his mind along with the feelings which it has excited. Poetry is the matter of feeling and mood. It flows from the internal feelings of the poet. When the poetic mood is on the poet, he sings out rapture or sorrow spontaneously from the core of his heart. In such moments, his language of discourse becomes the language of poetical inspiration.

Wordsmith talks of “Expressing powerful feelings” felt in the heart and not narrated in the mind all of us feel, so does the poet, but he feels intensely and deeply the heightened emotional stage of the poet find expression through his verses. Thus according to him deep emotion is the fundamental condition of the poetry. Wordsmith explains the role of calm thinking and deliberate contemplation in the composition of poetry.

In this mood successful composition generally begins and in a mood similar to this it is carried on. The process of poetic composition is not an easy one. Wordsmith has mentioned six causes that led to poetic composition: (I) observation and description, (it) Sensibility, iii) reflection, (v) Imagination and fancy, (v) Invention, (v’) Judgment. Wordsmith felt strongly that there was no worthy pursued but the idea of doing some go or the world.

He hoped that his pomes would operate in their degree to extent the domain of sensibility for the delight, the owner, and the benefit of human nature. Poetry in not a mere entertainment, a diversion for a patron’s idle hour. Poetry impart moral lesson for the betterment of human life. Wordsmith precise and emphatic in stating that pleasure is the end of poetry. To conclude, Wordsmith follows his theory of poetry in practice. He hardly made present Joy attar of a song.

He would not give poetic expression to an experience immediately but would carry the impression in his heart. After a long interval that experience will have poetic expression. He had a very sharp memory, and sometimes he would recall an impression and revive it. His poems like The Prelude, The Solitary Reaper, The Daffodils etc are based on theory of emotions recollected in tranquility. These poems are generally into past tense which signifies that the poet is recollecting impressions received in the past.