chapter  3
44 Pages

Romanticism and the Language of Nature: The Project of Wordsworth's Preface

The old Adamic dream of words that perfectly name the essences of objects has been displaced by a Romantic dream of words that perfectly speak of the inner human world. A corrective to any homogenizing account of Romanticism-including the privileging of a concept of "simple Nature-is given by A. O. Lovejoy in his famous essay "On the Disrrimination of Romanticisms," reprinted in Essays in the history of Ideas. "A multitude of causes, unknown to former times," writes William Wordsworth, "are acting with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of the mind, and, unfitting it for all voluntary exertion, to reduce it to a state of almost savage torpor". Wordsworth has two options: either true poetry dispenses altogether with figures on the grounds that they are products of poetic artifice, or figures are an aspect of the real language of men.