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less with these four ballads, and such other pieces as Fidelity and (at least in parts) Resolution and Independence, in his mind that Coleridge confided to his notebook (October, 1803 ?) the following criticism of his brother-poet: “I am sincerely glad that he has bidden farewell to all small poems, and is devoting himself to his great work. ... In those little poems, his own corrections coming of necessity so often—at the end of every fourteen or twenty lines or whatever the poem might chance to be—wore him out; difference of opinion with his best friends irritated him, and he wrote, at times, too much with a sectarian spirit, in a sort of bravado."
antiquated Earth, as one might say, Beat like the heart of Man" (i., p. 129). Jeffrey upbraids Wordsworth for his “affectation of babyish interjections, and all the puling. expletives of an old nursery-maid's vocabulary:-Good lack!— Dear heart!--As a body may say.” (Reliques of Robert Burns : Edin. Rev., January, 1809.)
* In July, 1802, Coleridge had already informed Southey that “although the Preface is half a child of my own brain ... yet I am far from going all lengths with Wordsworth. He has
In the textual emendations traceable throughout the numerous collective editions of the poems published in his lifetime, we possess an accurate register of the gradual change which came about in Wordsworth's
written lately a number of Poems (thirty-two in all)—the longest [Resolution and Independence] one hundred and sixty lines—the greater number of these, to my feelings, very excellent compositions, but here and there a daring homeliness of language and versification, and a strict adherence to matter of fact, even to prolixity, that startled me. . .. I have thought and thought, and have not had my doubts solved by Wordsworth. On the contrary, I rather suspect that somewhere or other there is a radical difference in our theoretical opinions respecting poetry.” And in a letter to W. Sotheby, written about the same time, he indicates where the difference lies : “In my opinion, poetry justifies as poetry, independent of any other passion, some new combinations of language, and commands the omission of many others allowable in other compositions. Now Wordsworth, me saltem judice, has in his system not sufficiently admitted the former, and in his practice has too frequently sinned against the latter. Indeed, we have had lately some little controversy on the subject. . . . Dulce est inter amicos rarissimâ dissensione condere plurimas consentiones, saith S. Augustine.” This, it will be observed, is neither more nor less than a roughcast of the theory afterwards elaborated and applied in detail to several of temper and frame of mind under this adverse criticism. In the earliest of these editions, which appeared in 1815, his attitude is that of resolate fidelity to the principles of the Preface, though in a the poems in Biographia Literaria, vol. ii., chaps. i.-is. In 1810 Coleridge wrote that “the sole difference in style [i.e., between prose and verse] is that poetry demands a severer keeping—it admits nothing that prose may not often admit, but it oftener rejects. In other words, it presupposes a more continuous state of passion.” (Letters of S. T. Coleridge, pp. 374, 386 ; Anima Poete, pp. 30, 229; both edited with admirable tact and judgment by Mr. Ernest Hartley Coleridge, and invaluable aids to the student of Wordsworth and S. T. C.)
Wordsworth's indictment in the Simpliciad includes four counts : he is charged with (1) a preference for subjects “unhackneyed and original, indeed, but paltry and trivial,” (2) the indiscriminate employment of“ an antic crew of random thoughts and fantastic and incongruous images,” (3) an itch for affectedly and laboriously simple, not to say childish, language, and, lastly (4) the use of a number of irregular measures. Wordsworth and his colleagues, says the author,
“for metre rummage Percy's Reliques ;
few isolated points involving no principle he yields readily enough—even against his own better judg
Southey, who wrote the harshest critique that ever appeared of the Lyrical Ballads (Critical Review, October, 1798), concurred in the first of these charges. “ It is the vice of Wordsworth's intellect,” he wrote to Anna Seward in December, 1807, “ to be always upon the stretch and strain-to look at pileworts and daffydowndillies through the same telescope which he applies to the moon and stars, and to find subject for philosophising and fine feeling in every peasant and vagabond he meets. Had I been bis adviser, great part of his last volumes should have been suppressed.” Southey, however, was at one with Wordsworth in maintaining the suitability, for poetic purposes, of a colloquial style. “The Lyrical Ballads have failed,” he writes (loc. cit.), “not because the language of conversation is little adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure, but because it has been tried upon uninteresting subjects." In June, 1796, Southey himself had been warned by the Critical Reviewer of his Joan of Arc against the danger of indulging in prosaisms. “Poetic style should rise above the mere narrative of prose. If these kind of [colloquial] verses be introduced merely through haste and impatience of labour, Mr. Southey will probably mend in future; but if he act on principle and introduce faulty versification to avoid monotony, he will lead himself and others into serious mistakes."
ment to the appeals and expostulations of the friend in whose earnestness and honesty he confides. Thus, in conformity with his express views on the subject of poetic diction, he retains in this edition, virtually analtered, the fourfold group of ballads to which reference has been already made; while, on the other hand, he sacrifices at Coleridge's instance the “harmless, necessary” household tub of the Blind Highland Boy—a change reprobated by Charles Lamb and deplored even by its author's daughter Sara, to whom Wordsworth gave a promise, anhappily unfulfilled, that the original tub should be restored. The omission, in 1815, of the stanzas on the finding of the Glow-worm and the Impromptu beginning “The sun has long been set,” probably originated in Wordsworth's self-criticism, rather than in any suggestion or animadversion from withont. In the edition of 1820, however, an important change reveals itself in the poet's way of thinking.