[PDF Notes] What is the significance of Wordsworth’s work as a critic?

The historical significance of his criticism is very great. It served as corrective to the artificial and inane phraseology of contemporary Poetry and emphasized the value of a simpler and more natural language. By advocating simplicity in theme, he succeeded in enlarging the range of English Poetry.

He emphasized the true nature of Poetry as an expression of emotion and passion, and so dealt a death blow to the dry intellectuality of contemporary Poetry. In this way, he brought about a revolution in the theory of Poetry, and made popular acceptance of the new Poetry, the romantic Poetry, possible.

Wordsworth is the first English critic to consider at length the nature of poetry, and the creative process. Wordsworth is a romantic in his emphasis on spontaneity, imagination, intuition and inspiration. But unlike the other romantics, he also lays stress on the element of thought in poetry.

He has a high conception of his own calling, and so knows that great poetry cannot be produced by a careless or thoughtless person. “Poems to which any value can be attached”, he says, “Were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.”

Wordsworth goes against the neo-classic view that poetry should both instruct and delight, when he stresses that the function of poetry is to give pleasure-a pleasure of a noble and exalted kind, pleasure which results from increased understanding and sympathy. It at all it teaches, it does so only indirectly, by purifying the emotions, uplifting the soul, and bringing it nearer to nature.

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