Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads helped launch the revolution of Romantic poetry, but today it manages to boldly advocate traditional notions of linguistic reference. This it does by supporting the notion that words are properly rooted in real things, and that writers can evoke experience through natural expression.
There is curvy; there is straight; and all in between.
There is base; there is noble; and the even mean.
That itself is stunning, but what is more is that there is language for all of that, indeed, one would suspect, for everything. And why should that be so, in a world merely naturally evolved? The issue of innate power in language, and man’s central place in the world, by eye, by ear, by mind, heart, and mouth, are what Wordsworth helps us tackle through this essay.
Here Carolyn Kizer has appropriated themes from the Midnight Songs, (both a genre and anthology, “Tzu Yeh”) and also the Book of Songs anthology, both from the Classical Chinese tradition. However her work is as fresh as the best direct translations of Classical Chinese poetry I have read. (The Chinese and Japanese translations of Kenneth Rexroth I recommend wholeheartedly.) Best to just read her poem instead of my prattling.
While John Keats is not one of my favorite writers, I agree with many that his ear is matchless, his sound smoother than a herd of velvet deer. While coughing racked his body, the gentleness of his art created an entree sufficient to fascinate us today.
This poem however, I love for its observations. His sonnet, On the Grasshopper and Cricket, was written in a verse duel with Leigh Hunt in 15 minutes. Some people think Hunt’s sonnet is even better, and that slug fest is observed ring-side here.