Poetic Tradition and Diction Experiment

Poetic Tradition and Diction Experiment: The Lyric Elements of Lyrical Ballads

The real “lyrical ballads,” the direct result of Wordsworth's poetic experiment, are not only fewer in number but also less attractive as a research agenda in Wordsworth scholarship than the “other poems” of Lyrical Ballads. This article is yet another attempt to understand what Wordsworth meant by “lyrical ballad” and to reevaluate the “lyrical ballads” as the centerpiece of his poetic experiment. Wordsworth scholars have understood the idea of “lyrical ballad” in two ways: as a technical improvement of the “literary ballads” then in vogue, and as a new kind of ballad with an in-depth study of human subjectivity. The “lyrical ballads” as are materialized in the collection, however, seem rather unique in having “lyrical moments” where the readers are made to share the poet’s (or the narrator’s) insight into something permanent and infinite, something beyond human imperfection. Such moments of lyrical recognition are achieved in various ways: sophisticated devices of meter with moral intention, lyric figures with inhuman innocence, and unique narrative frameworks containing lyric epiphany. The lyric nature of “lyrical ballads" seems meaningful because it allows us to establish the integrity of the lyrical ballad project as an experiment of poetic diction. It also allows us to comprehend the unity of Wordsworth's poetic intention regarding various elements of the collection such as the proper lyrical ballads, traditional lyrics, and the new poetic theories presented in the Advertisement and the Preface. It is also helpful in repositioning Lyrical Ballads as the true starting point of the poetic revolution Wordsworth thought himself conducting to the end of his life.

Journal of English Studies in Korea 4(2003): 81-112