The presentation of Childhood in lyrical ballads

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Harriet Gardner                Childhood

How does Lyrical Ballads show us Wordsworth and Coleridge’s views on childhood?

During the romantic period views on childhood dramatically changed from the previous.  The enlightenment involved people having the belief that children should have no respects and as a result were ‘seen and no heard’.  This dramatically changed to children being a source of learning, so children could teach adults ways of life.  This essay will discuss the different aspects of childhood and look at Wordsworth and Coleridge’s views.

        From a romantics point of view children were seen as pure, simple and innocent human beings, which had great importance to the world’s teachings.  Wordsworth gives the idea that a child is simple in the poem ‘We are seven’ (pg 59) when the opening line says “a simple child, drear brother Jim”.  The poem idealises childhood, describing a little girl to be a “sweet maid”.  The young girl lives out in the countryside, which at that time would be seen as a good thing, people who were raised in the countryside would be seen to have more moral than those brought up in towns.  Rousseau believed that humans were born into the world innocent, with great potential for goodness, and that it was the adult world of organised religion, which corrupted them.  He believed the idea of the “noble savage”, something/one that is compatible with nature.  The idea of this ‘noble savage’ is presented in this poem, where Wordsworth introduces this young “sweet maid”.  

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In this poem you can also clearly see how innocent and simplistic a child really is compared to an adult, who is full of life’s experiences.  This is displayed evidently in the poem when Wordsworth asks, “What should it know of death” in the first stanza, making reference to the young girl he meets in the next line.  Children, even now are obviously extremely naive and simple about death because of their lack of experience and knowledge.  In stanza six the “sweet maid” explains where her brothers and sisters are; “two of us in the church yard lie”.  She does ...

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