Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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William Wordsworth (1770-1850)



English poet, born at Cockermouth, Cumbria. In 1798 Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) published a collection of poems, Lyrical Ballads with a Few Other Poems, which has been called "a landmark of English Romanticism". The second edition with new poems and a preface (known as the 1800 edition) appeared in January 1801, and the third in 1802. Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria (1817), describes their collaboration:

[I]t was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to himself as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and hearts that neither feel nor understand. [S. T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. J. Shawcross (1907; Oxford, 1958) 2: 6]

Wordsworth, in his "Essay, Supplementary to the Preface" (1815), acknowledges contemporary poets' indebtedness to Thomas Percy's Reliques:

Contrast, in this respect, the effect of Macpherson's publication with the Reliques of Percy, so unassuming, so modest in their pretensions!—I have already stated how much Germany is indebted to this latter work; and for our own country, its poetry has been absolutely redeemed by it. I do not think that there is an able writer in verse of the present day who would not be proud to acknowledge his obligations to the Reliques; I know that it is so with my friends; and, for myself, I am happy in this occasion to make a public avowal of my own. [W. J. B. Owen, and Jane Worthington Smyser, eds., The Prose Works of William Wordsworth, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1974) 3: 78]

In 1843 Wordsworth succeeded Robert Southey (1774-1843) as poet laureate, and The Prelude, or, Growth of a Poet's Mind, an autobiographical poem begun in 1798, was published posthumously in its final version in 1850. (M. Y.)

Critical Essays 1      

W. Wordsworth’s Ballad Poems - Lyrical Ballads, the First and Revised Editions (in Japanese). 
Studies in the Humanities (40) 65-81.   1976.              

 

1. Alice Fell
2. Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle
3. The Female Vagrant
4. The Force of Prayer
5. George and Sarah Green
6. Goody Blake and Harry Gill
7. The Horn of Egremont Castle
8. The Idiot Boy
9. The Last of the Flock
10. Lucy Gray
11. The Seven Sisters; or, the Solitude of Binnorie
12. Simon Lee
13. The Thorn
14. The Two April Mornings
15. We are seven