Today, April 7, 2020, marks the 250th birthday of the English poet William Wordsworth. You might know him as the guy who “wandered lonely as a cloud.” But who was Wordsworth? And what was his influence on poetry?
Who Was William Wordsworth?
William Wordsworth was an English poet born in Cockermouth, Cumberland, England. Growing up in the Lake District gave him a deep love of nature, a major theme in his poetry, along with the power of the human mind.
He was one of the founders of English Romanticism, an artistic and literary movement from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Rather than “romance” in the modern sense of love, Romanticism was about valuing imagination and feelings over reason, as well as connecting with nature and the common man. Part of this involved rejecting the elitism of earlier poets, leading to a new style that is still influential today.
Wordsworth was also England’s poet laureate from 1843 until his death in 1850. He initially refused the title, saying he was too old. But he accepted it after Prime Minister Robert Peel assured him “you shall have nothing required of you.” He is thus the only poet laureate to never write an official verse!
I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
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He is also well known for Lyrical Ballads from 1798, a collection of poems Wordsworth published with his friend and fellow Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This book is now widely considered to have launched the English Romantic movement in literature, making it a landmark work.
His other notable works include The Prelude, a lengthy autobiographical poem, although it was not published until after he died.
Why Was Wordsworth Influential?
Wordsworth had a major impact on poetic language. He was very interested in the way ordinary people spoke. As such, he advocated using the vocabulary and speech patterns of the lower and middle classes in poetry.
By comparison, poetry at the time was usually very formal, with strict rhyme patterns and a focus on subjects like romance and love. And by departing from these conventions and starting a trend for using language that anyone could understand, Wordsworth helped to change poetry.
Poetry Proofreading and Editing
Fancy yourself as the next Wordsworth? If Proofed were around in 1798, we’re sure Wordsworth would have used our poetry proofreading services to help him perfect his work. So if you’ve been writing some poems, why not submit them for proofreading today and see how we can help?