William Wordsworth (1770-1850) Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) Lyrical Ballads
Things to Consider:
French Revolution and English counterrevolutionary
Industrial Revolution and its Consequences
Use of Language
Choice of Subject
Describe Wordsworth's view of the French Revolution
during its early stages.
Describe Wordsworth's relationship with Coleridge.
Explain Wordsworth's concept of "spots of time."
Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802):
What is a lyrical ballad ?
What is Wordsworth's purpose in writing this Preface?
What does Wordsworth mean by "the language really used by
Explain: "All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow
of powerful feelings" (139).
What, according to Wordsworth, is a poet? (See also 143)
What exactly is "emotion recollected in tranquility"
"We Are Seven"
In what ways does this poem
exemplify the ideas Wordsworth presents in his Preface?
Why has Wordsworth selected scenes from "low and rustic
life" as his subject?
Explain: "In that condition the passions of men are
incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature"
Explain: "From their rank in society and the
sameness and narrow circle of their intercourse, being less
under the influence of social vanity they convey their
feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions"
How is the language of the lower ranks "more permanent"
and "far more philosophical" than that conventionally used by
What is a man "possessed of more than usual organic
Explain: "Our thoughts . . . are indeed the
representations of our past feelings" (139).
Explain: "The feeling therein developed gives
importance to the action and situation and not the action and
situation to the feeling" (139-40).
Why, according to Wordsworth, has he sought to avoid the
personification of abstract ideas
falsehood of description
What are "prosaisms"?
Explain: "There neither is, nor can be, any
essential difference between the language of prose and
metrical composition" (142).
If the language of real men is the absolute standard, why
would a poet need to modify it, as Wordsworth suggests?
What one restriction, according to Wordsworth, does the poet
Explain: "We have no sympathy but what is propagated
by pleasure" (144).
Explain: "Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of
all knowledge" (145).
Explain: "The poet binds together by passion and
knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread
over the whole earth, and over all time" (145).
Explain: "Poetry is the first and last of all
knowledge--it is as immortal as the heart of man" (145).
Explain what Wordsworth says about differences in "kind"
and in "degree" (146).
Why will "painful feeling . . . always be found
intermingled with powerful descriptions of the deeper
Explain: "We not only wish to be pleased, but to be
pleased in that particular way in which we have been
accustomed to be pleased" (147).
Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" Discussion Questions:
What is the occasion for the composition of this
What is the origin of the "wreaths of smoke" Wordsworth
Explain lines 22-31.
What does it mean to become a "living soul" (46)?
What does it mean to "see into the life of things" (49)?
Explain lines 93-102.
What is "the mighty world / Of eye, and ear,--both what
they half create, / And what perceive" (105-7)?
Explain: "In thy voice I catch / The language of my
former heart" (116-17).
Explain: "Nature never did betray / The heart that
loved her" (122-23).
What future does Wordsworth foresee for his sister and
her appreciation of nature? How does this relate back to him?
Other Discussion Questions:
Explain: "In this moment there is life and food /
For future years" (64-65).
Explain: "More like a man / Flying from something
he dreads, than one / Who sought the thing he loved" (70-72).
Explain: "The sounding cataract / Haunted me like a
Explain lines 78-83.
Why are all the "aching joys" (84) of the past all gone?
Explain lines 88-93.
"Ode: Intimations of Immortality" Discussion Questions:
How does this poem compare
with "Tintern Abbey"?
Explain: "I was often unable to think of external
things as having external existence, and I communed with all
that I saw as something not apart from, but inherent in, my
own immaterial nature" (180).
Describe the rhyme scheme.
What does “trailing clouds of glory” (64) refer to? [cf. Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written
in a Country Churchyard": "The paths of glory lead but to the
What are “Shades of the prison-house” (67)?
What are “obstinate questionings/ Of sense and outward
What are “Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears”
cf. Romans 8.26 (RSV):
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we
do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit
himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”
(KJV): Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our
infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we
ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered.