William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Before writing the Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth had tried his hand at several other poems, although today we read such early poems as "An Evening Walk" and "Descriptive Sketches" mainly because they are interesting examples of a poet's work in the early stages of his development. These two examples of the early poetry show Wordsworth composing in the established tradition of eighteenth-century poetry. They are not really representative of the Wordsworth we usually read. The plan of the Lyrical Ballads was a shared effort between Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This cooperative enterprise was first conceived when Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were living near Coleridge. The two poets believed that poetry should try to make the supernatural seem natural, and the natural, supernatural.

In the "Preface to the Lyrical Ballads" (1800), Wordsworth tells us that his poems were published as an experiment.

He speaks about his poetic enterprise in this way because he is aware that he is not trying to cater to the public taste or to conform to established, traditional standards of what poetry is or should be. Wordsworth in the "Preface" is in a sense warning the reader that the poems in the Lyrical Ballads might very well frustrate any expectations that the reader has for the customary kind of decorative poetry. (Brett & Jones 241) One may summarize Wordsworth's ideas in "The Preface" in his way: Wordsworth

(1) will write his poems about incidents and situations from common life,

(2) will try to transform these incidents and situations by his imagination and present them in such a way that they will seem novel and "wonderful."

(3) will try to trace through these humble incidents the essence of humanity,

(4) will try to compose the poems in the kind...