"Low and rustic life was generally chosen...because in that situation the
passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent
forms of nature." (Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads 1800).
What meaning does the word 'nature' have in Lyrical Ballads?
In the Lyrical Ballads both Wordsworth and Coleridge explore the effects of nature on man. It was therefore appropriate to choose mainly low and rustic life as the setting for the poems, as in this environment man is closest to the natural world. This allows comparison between man in this natural state, and man exposed to 'civilisation'. The Lyrical Ballads show how man can become corrupted by social convention. Through contact with nature, the rural poor are shown to be more spiritually free; "in that situation the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint." Wordsworth believed that new social forces, at play in the Industrial Revolution, were to blame for blunting these passions:
...a multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting
with a combined force...unfitting [the mind] for all voluntary exertion,
to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor.
Nature is therefore shown to possess the power to greatly affect the human mind and spirit. The poems of the Lyrical Ballads explore what exactly this force is, and how it is manifested.
In the Lyrical Ballads, nature is shown to offer an education, more valuable than that which can be gained through books and schooling in the traditional sense. In his poems 'Expostulation and Reply' and 'The Tables Turned', Wordsworth expounds the educational value of mere contact with the natural world. In 'Expostulation and Reply' Wordsworth is challenged as to why he wastes his time observing the natural world rather...