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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner depicted by Gustave Doré.

Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798 and generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry.

Most of the poems in the 1798 edition were written by Wordsworth, with Coleridge contributing only four poems to the collection, including one of his most famous works, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". (Additionally, although it is only the two writers that are credited for the works, William's sister Dorothy Wordsworth influenced William's poetry immensely because he studied her diary which held powerful descriptions of everyday surroundings).[1]

A second edition was published in 1800, in which Wordsworth included additional poems and a preface detailing the pair's avowed poetical principles. Another edition was published in 1802, Wordsworth added an appendix titled Poetic Diction in which he expanded the ideas set forth in the preface.



Wordsworth and Coleridge set out to overturn what they considered the priggish, learned and highly sculpted forms of eighteenth century English poetry and bring poetry within the reach of the average person by writing the verses using normal, everyday language. They place an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice that the poor use to express their reality. Using this language also helps point out the universality of human emotions. Even the title of the collection recalls rustic forms of art - the word "lyrical" links the poems with the ancient rustic bards and lends an air of spontaneity, while "ballads" are an oral mode of storytelling used by the common people.

In his famous "Preface" (1800, revised 1802) Wordsworth explained his poetical concept:

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purpose of poetic pleasure.[2]

If the experiment with vernacular language was not enough of a departure from the norm, the focus on simple, uneducated country people as the subject of poetry was a signal shift to modern literature. One of the main themes of "Lyrical Ballads" is the return to the original state of nature, in which people led a purer and more innocent existence. Wordsworth subscribed to Rousseau's belief that humanity was essentially good but was corrupted by the influence of society. This may be linked with the sentiments spreading through Europe just prior to the French Revolution.

Although the lyrical ballads is a collaborative work, only four of the poems in it are by Coleridge. Coleridge devoted much of his time to crafting 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' Many of Coleridge's poems were unpopular with the audience and with fellow writer Wordsworth due to their macabre or supernatural nature.

Poems in the 1800 edition

Volume I

  • Expostulation and Reply
  • The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same s
  • Old Man Travelling; Animal Tranquillity and Decay, a Sketch
  • The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman
  • The Last of the Flock
  • Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite
  • The Foster-Mother's Tale
  • Goody Blake and Harry Gill
  • The Thorn
  • We are Seven
  • Anecdote for Fathers
  • Lines written at a small distance from my House and sent me by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed
  • The Female Vagrant
  • The Dungeon
  • Simon Lee, the old Huntsman
  • Lines written in early Spring
  • The Nightingale, written in April, 1798.
  • Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening
  • written near Richmond, upon the Thames
  • The Idiot Boy
  • Love
  • The Mad Mother
  • The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere
  • Lines written above Tintern Abbey

indicates the poem is by Coleridge
indicates the poem was in the 1798 edition.

Volume II

The poems The Convict (Wordsworth) and Love (Coleridge) were in the 1798 edition but Wordsworth omitted them from the 1800 edition. Lewti or the Circassian Love-chaunt (Coleridge) exists in some 1798 editions in place of The Nightingale.


  1. ^ Newlyn, Lucy. Coleridge, Wordsworth, and the Language of Allusion, Oxford University Press, 2001; ISBN 9780199242597
  2. ^ "Lyrical Ballads". The Wordsworth Trust. 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-18.  

External links



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