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How does Wordsworth portray real people in The Lyrical Ballads?

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Introduction

How does Wordsworth portray real people in The Lyrical Ballads? Lyrical Ballads, and in particular the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, is considered a central work of Romantic literary theory. In it, Wordsworth discusses what he sees as the elements of a new type of poetry, one based on the "real language of men" and the work itself avoids the poetic diction of much eighteenth-century poetry, whose most famous exponent was John Milton in Paradise Lost, which benefitted from drastic overuse of verbose Latinate vocabulary. He felt this wasn't an accurate reflection of real people, and sought to portray them through using language which they used. In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth famously described poetry as the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected in tranquility", and wrote to justify - in theoretical terms - his practice of writing a new and "experimental" poetry, one whose language is "fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation." ...read more.

Middle

On two occasions, Michael's affection is emphasised by using particularly matriarchal language: "[Michael] had done him [Luke] female service" and "... female hand" . Wordsworth tries to convey the strength of the bond between the two in an ordinary working family; a clear diversion from the traditional poetry of the time. Michael is evidently a plain, hard-working, content and fulfilled man, but the land he has worked and lived on has to be sold on when his brother defaults on a loan that Michael had guaranteed. From line 236 (" "Isabel," said he, ..."), Wordsworth uses dialogue for the first time to instill the sense of a soliloquy in the poem. Michael speaks with a Shakespearean dignity; he is more upset that he is soon to lose his land, and his family will be affected, than that his brother has betrayed him. The nature of the poem itself is something which concentrates itself around the ostensibly ordinary; it is, by definition, a pastoral poem. ...read more.

Conclusion

The sheepfold itself is never finished, as Michael learns that Luke has become a criminal and must flee "beyond the seas" - every day for the rest of his life, Michael goes to mourn the 'death' of his son at the pile of stones, and, seven years later, he dies. The poem's obvious purpose is to support his notion that a pastoral life is pure, moral, and happy. Wordsworth believed that living close to nature, living an uncomplicated, spiritual life devoted to honest labor was the ideal. His narrative suggests that if Luke had remained in the natural valley with his parents and continued to live the pastoral life, he would have retained his moral character and would have later saved his parents from years of grief. Although Michael is the prime example of Wordsworth's portrayal of real people in The Lyrical Ballads, several other poems display his wish to convey the lives of real people through techniques such as language and routine situations. ...read more.

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