William Wordsworth and Rustic Life


William Wordsworth and Rustic Life

William Wordsworth is a famous writer in the romantic period. He has written so many poems. William Wordsworth had the deepest admiration for nature and his whole work was an attempt to establish a relation between man and nature. He entered The world of English poetry when the literary test of the people was already debased by the barren and artificial poetic diction of the neoclassic poets.

William Wordsworth spent much of his boyhood among the rural people and in the midst of the beauty of nature. Living away from the corruption of civilized life and under the influence of the picturesque countryside, William Wordsworth learned faith in humanity and developed a love for the elemental things of life.

In 1795 William Wordsworth met Coleridge. His friendship with Coleridge which developed during this period did a lot to stimulate his genius.

In1798 the two poets, William Wordsworth and Coleridge published “The Lyrical Ballads” a small volume of poems jointly and this year they visited Germany. In this little volume of poems, Wordsworth broke with the tradition in respect of style and subject matter of poetry. He sought his subjects in the humble and rustic life of the countryside in the doings and feelings of the children and in the emotions aroused in his own heart by the rural sights and sounds. He employed a new language of his poetry, taking for his model the speech of the humble people of the rural areas, freed of its dialects and its grammatical lapses.

William Wordsworth’s “Preface To The Lyrical Ballads” is known as an unofficial manifesto to the English romantic movement. It brought about an important change in the literary arena with its emphasis on imagination, spontaneity, feeling, and simplicity.

In his “Preface to the Lyrical Ballad”, Wordsworth tells that he had chosen low and rustic life for treatment in his poems. He chose this life because, according to him, in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity. In humble and rustic life the essential passions of the persons are less under restraint and therefore express themselves in a plainer and more emphatic language.

Elementary Feeling:
                                Wordsworth also says that the humble and rustic life and the elementary feelings of human beings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity and can, therefore, be more accurately contemplated and more forcibly communicated. The manners of rural life germinate from those elementary feelings, and because of the necessary character of rural occupations, those manners are more easily comprehended. Finally, in humble and rustic life, the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent form of nature. 

Living in the Countryside:
                                Thus in Wordsworth’s opinion, a person living in the countryside and pursuing rural occupations are the best fitted for portrayal in poetry because these people live in an environment which is more favorable to the growth and development of the essential passions of the human heart and because in this environment people do not suffer from any inhabitations and therefore speak a plainer and more forceful language. These people lead simple lives and their feelings are of an elementary kind. They do not have the vanity which people in the cities possess. These people live in contract with the beautiful and permanent objects of nature (mountains, streams, trees, flowers, etc.) This contract favors the natural maturing of the feelings and passions in the hearts of these people.

                Wordsworth collects all the traces of vivid excitement which are to be found in the pastoral world. Simplicity is to be the keynote of his theme as also of his style. He is to treat the things of everyday life, to open out “the soul of little and familiar things.” In We are Seven, the poet talks with a little girl who tells him of her brothers and sisters. In another poem, a female vagrant tells the artless tale of her life. Another poem concerns a shepherd, “A Cruel by name,” and another pertains to a leech-gatherer. Thus Wordsworth shows that even in the poorest lives there is a matter for poetry, schemes that can stir the imagination and move the emotions. Thus Wordsworth democratizes poetry. This democratic outlook is something new in poetry. He seeks his subject among forsake women, old men in distress, children and crazy persons, in whom the primary instincts are emotions showed themselves in their simplest and most recognizable form.

Corrupted World:
                          It is to a large extent, the corruption of civilized society which makes Wordsworth choose his subject from a humble and rustic life. In choosing them from rustic rather than urban life he is influenced, no doubt, by the fact that he himself is country-bred. He is convinced that among humble and rustic folk, the essential passions of the heart fid a better place to mature in and are more durable. There is the closer intimacy which isolation forces on rural households; there is the sharing of common tasks and even, in the shepherds’ life, of common dangers. There are other virtues also like contentment, neighborliness, ad charity, which can flourish in the kindly society of the country.


Humble and rustic life was generally chosen, because in that condition, the essential passions of the heart find a better soil in which they can attain their maturity, are less under restraint, and speak a plainer and more emphatic language; because in that condition of life, our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of greater simplicity, and consequently, maybe more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated; because the manners of rural life germinate from these elementary feelings, and, from the necessary character of rural occupations, are more easily comprehended, and are more durable; and lastly, because in that condition the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature.


William Wordsworth has chosen incidents and situations from common life in the rural areas and described them, as far as possible, in a selection of language really used me. But this selection of common life does not mean photographic reproduction. He has given to the ordinary incidents a coloring of imagination to present them in an unusual way, to make them interesting by tracing in them the primary laws of human nature. William Wordsworth has put forward certain reasons for choosing his themes from humble and rustic life:

v The essential passions of the heart find an unrestrained, free, and frank expression in humble and rustic life.

v The elementary feelings of the human heart co-exist in a state of greater simplicity in rustic surroundings than in the city life and so they are communicated more accurately and forcefully.

v The manners of rustic life are not sophisticated. They spring directly from their elementary feelings and can be understood easily .social vanity does not prevent them from a frank expression of their feelings. The poet’s aim is to understand human nature, it can best be understood in the simple condition of rural life.

v In the humble and rustic condition, human passions are deeply associated with the beautiful forms of nature and that is why they are more noble and permanent than the emotions of the sophisticated people of cities.

As for the choice of rustic language, Wordsworth says that he has used it after having purified it of its coarseness and other defects. The rustic people can hourly communicate with the best object of nature from which the best part of language is derived.


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