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The joy of reading Lyrical Ballads is watching two young poets experiment with poetic voice both against a form of poetry that had long become formulaic and predictable and against the social and political institutions that supported such established thoughts. William Wordsworth was only 28 and still unknown, while Samuel Taylor Coleridge, not yet 26, was...
The joy of reading Lyrical Ballads is watching two young poets experiment with poetic voice both against a form of poetry that had long become formulaic and predictable and against the social and political institutions that supported such established thoughts. William Wordsworth was only 28 and still unknown, while Samuel Taylor Coleridge, not yet 26, was more famous for his political speeches in support of the French Revolution than for the few poems he had published in London's literary magazines when the first edition of Lyrical Ballads was published anonymously in 1798. It was later taken over and expanded by Wordsworth in 1800, 1802, and 1805. The new editions republished most of the poems (though some of them were revised and in a different order), and it included several others and a long "Preface," which today stands as one of the foundational explanations of Wordsworth and Coleridge's mission to focus on the voiceless commoners who had been left out of the social and political sphere. Although Lyrical Ballads has mainly been studied for its revolution in poetics, this series will help readers explore how the collection's poetic ideas extend into the sociopolitical world. With the democratization of the poetic voice (the turn to everyday speech as Wordsworth explains in his "Preface"), Wordsworth and Coleridge were giving a poetic voice to England's social and political outcasts. But Lyrical Ballads is not an essay or a treatise. So today's readers should not expect a straight-out complaint of injustices against the established order. Instead, the very act of paying attention and listening to the collection's characters is a politically progressive act. The more progressive act of taking them seriously and making their complaints part of our social and political debate is nothing short of revolutionary.
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