Coleridge's Criticsm of Poetic Diction

Topics: Poetry, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth Pages: 5 (1949 words) Published: February 20, 2014

THE ‘PREFACE’ TO LYRICAL BALLADS AADED TO THE SECOND EDITION OF LB IN 1800 IN PUTS FORWARD WORDSWORTH’S THEORY OF POETIC DICTION Wordsworth’s purpose, as he tells in the Preface was, “to choose incidents and situations from common life”, and quite naturally, he also intended to use, “a selection of language, really used by men”. He was to deal with humble and rustic life and so he should also use the language of the rustics, farmers, shepherds who were to be the subjects of his poetry. The language of these men was to be used but it was to be purified of all that is painful or disgusting, vulgar and coarse in that language. He was to use the language of real men because the aim of a poet is to give pleasure and such language without selection will cause disgust. COLERIDGE in chapter XIV of his BioGraphia Literaria (1817) elucidate and evaluate Wordsworth’s poetry and comment upon wordsworth’s theory of poetic diction. 2. Wordsworth and Coleridge came together early in life. It was in 1796, that they were frequently together, and out of their mutual discussion arose the various theories which Wordsworth embodied in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, and which he tried to put into practice in the poems. Coleridge claimed credit for these theories and said they were, “half the child of his brain.” But later on, his views underwent a change, he no longer agreed with Wordsworth’s theories, and so criticised them in Chapter XVII and XVIII of theBiographia Literaria. Coleridge’s criticism is the last word on the subject, it has not been improved upon upto date. Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction is of immense value when considered as a corrective to the artificial, inane, and unnatural phraseology current at the time. But considered in itself it is full of a number of contradictions and suffers from a number of imitations. For one thing, Wordsworth does not state what he means by language. Language is a matter of words, as well as of arrangement of those words. It is the matter of the use of imagery, frequency of its use, and its nature, Wordsworth does not clarify what he exactly means by ‘language’.

Wordsworth’s Views
1. Reasons for His Choice of Rustic Life : In his Preface,Wordsworth made three important statements all of which have been objects of Coleridge’s censure. First of all, Wordsworth writes that he chose low and rustic life, because in that condition the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life our elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity and consequently may be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and from the necessary character of rural occupations are more easily comprehended and are more durable; and lastly, ‘because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.’ 2.   Choice of Rustic Language : Secondly, that, “The language too of these men is adopted (purified indeed from what appears to be its real defects, from all lasting and rational causes of dislike or disgust) because such men hourly communicate with the best objects from which the best of language is originally derived; and because, from their rank in society and the sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse being less under the action of social vanity, they convey their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions.” 3.   Diction of Poetry : Thirdly, he made a number of statements regarding the language and diction of poetry. Of these, Coleridge controverts the following parts : “a selection of the real language of men”; “the language of these men (i. e. men in low and rustic life) I propose to myself to imitate, and as far as possible to adopt the very language of men”; and “between...
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