1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Wordsworth

Visconti, in "Present State of Engish Poetry" Literary Miscellany [Cambridge MA] 1 (October 1805) 370-71.



Wordsworth too has written ballads; some are good; but most are bad. They are distinguished by an affectation of simplicity, and a reality of silliness. He had seen the mighty effects, produced by the natural description of Cowper and Burns, and endeavored to transfuse into sentiment, what they had discovered in real existence, or had easily drawn by natural consequence from the objects, which they had surveyed. It is well known, that he did not succeed. Readers were at first astonished by such gossiping and children's prattle; they could not believe, that the writer wished to carry them back to the simpering nursery, or introduce them to the soft easy chair of a sentimental foolish girl. But they soon discovered, that the tendency of the ballads was to corrupt the heart by unnatural simplicity, and weaken the head by false representations of poetical beauty. These poems are now thrown by; they are sometimes talked of, and seldom read. The meteorous exhalation, which originated in a pestilential atmosphere, passed rapidly over the disk of the moon, and left the bright queen of the sky to pursue the quiet career of her splendor.