Summer 1950 • Vol. XII No. 3 Nonfiction |

William Wordsworth: Notes toward an Understanding of Poetry

[The 100th anniversary of Wordsworth's death was observed by Princeton and Cornell Universities during the days of April 21-23. Mr. Trilling's paper was delivered at Princeton, and Mr. Ransom's at Cornell. Both papers will shortly be published, with others delivered on the two occasions, in a memorial volume by Princeton University Press. —The Editor]   Our poet was one of the giants. We cannot say less, for he did what Burns and Blake could not do, he reversed the direction of English poetry in a bad time, and revitalized it. But in order to do this he had to speculate upon what was possible, and what was advantageous, by virtue of the very constitution of a poetic action; he had to study poetry as well as write it. He was driven to a conception of poetry which was more radical, or thoroughgoing, than that of any of his predecessors, but it justified itself in his own poetic production. It is Wordsworth's innovations in the theory upon which I should like to offer some n

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