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What Is Typical Of Lyrical Ballads

2120 words - 8 pages

What is Typical of Lyrical Ballads

The group title of the set of poems written by Wordsworth and
Coleridge presents an interesting starting point of analysis. The
phrase ‘Lyrical Ballads’ is a paradox as the genres of ‘lyrics’ and
‘ballads’ can be defined as in opposition to each other. A ‘lyric’ is
‘a poem about feeling… addressed to the reader in a manner of private
and intimate conversation’. A ‘ballad’ is ‘a narrative poem from an
anonymous point of view, often relating to characters from public or
historical events, such as war.’ Therefore the two genres are combined
under the title ‘Lyrical Ballads’, signifying an unexpected and
unusual style from Wordsworth and Coleridge. This is further evidenced
by Wordsworth, who said the ‘Lyrical Ballads’ should be seen as ‘an
experiment’, consisting of ‘poems… materially different from those
under the general approbation… present bestowed’ and that they may be
read by some with a ‘common dislike’.

One aspect of the style of ‘Lyrical Ballads’ that caused much contempt
at the time of publication is the simple language, an important
characteristic of the poems. Wordsworth tries to avoid the ‘falsehood
of description’, instead preferring to record reality in ordinary
language rather than attempting a poetic diction. Unlike many of his
contemporary poets, Wordsworth did not attempt an ornate and elevated
poetic style adorned with extravagant metaphors. However, this does
not mean the language is colloquial, but that Wordsworth takes his
language and subjects from ‘ordinary life’ hoping to show ‘the
language really spoken by men’. This is true for poems such as ‘We are
Seven’ in which the narrator meets a ‘little cottage girl’ and
questions her about her siblings.

She had a rustic, woodland air,

And she was wildly clad;

Her eyes were fair, and very fair,

- Her beauty made me glad.

This verse is typical of the style of Wordsworth’s poetry and
demonstrates the ‘ordinary language’. The verse is not at all
difficult to understand as the language is simple and drawn from a
common rhetoric. The stress of the word ‘fair’ in the third line
emphasises the qualities of the little girl, whilst the words ‘rustic’
and ‘wildly clad’ place her social position of a common child. The
structure of the stanza is also straightforward with an ordinary
poetic meter and rhyming pattern, typical of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’. In
‘We are Seven’ this is only diverted from in the final verse

But they are dead; those two are dead!

Their spirits are in heaven!

‘Twas throwing words away; for still

The little Maid would have her will,

And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’

The final line in the poem ‘And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’’ underlines
the conflicting opinions of the narrator and the girl. This is
actually typical of the poem throughout as ‘Then ye are only five’ and
‘What should it know of death?’ are examples of the opposing views
which are highlighted by their...

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