In Wordsworth and Coleridge’s selection from page 296 of Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, the two men are explaining that one can find beauty, fascination, and excitement in something as natural and simple as nature or a conversation with a person. They are stating that people’s minds have been dulled down and simplified into needing some kind of dramatic interaction or, as they say, “gross and violent stimulant” to catch their attention and appreciate something. Coleridge and Wordsworth say that “he must have a very faint perception of beauty and dignity” if he does not know this, because anyone that can not find beauty in the world around them, and on their own with only the aid of their mind and imagination, does not truly know how to appreciate beauty. These men found wonder and fascination and wrote masterpieces from simply taking a walk through the woods, or watching a flower bloom in the sun. These authors are pointing out the fact that people are so obsessed and brainwashed over “gross and violent” stimulants like gothic novels back then, or social media now, that they do not know how to find excitement and beauty in things themselves. There minds are restrained by a barrier that has been put up by not stepping outside of their norms and appreciating the world around them.
The authors use the phrase “gross and violent stimulants” to describe dramatically effective forms of literature that would catch people’s attention. Back then, it was gothic novels filled with drama, suspense and violence. While this can still be interesting, it is the only kind of literature that people cared for. Coleridge and Wordsworth are simply pointing out that the mind is a fascinating tool, that can perceive beauty in the most simple and ordinary things in nature. As people’s minds were dulled by these violent and dramatic pieces, they lost the ability to find interest in nature, and its naturally occurring beauty. When the authors say, “he must have a very faint perception of its beauty and dignity”, they mean that people can and do not appreciate the beauty of the things they write about like love and nature. They use the word perception, because anyone can look at a flower, and anyone can read a poem. However, to truly grasp its effect on the world around it, and to appreciate the beauty that the authors grasp from it, you must allow your mind to perceive that kind of beauty. Lastly, they write that, “his possesses this capability”, to describe the minds capability to perceive beauty that is not gross, violent and dramatic. The mind can grow and learn to appreciate things it could not before. While many people have a faint perception of beauty, by reading poems such as theirs, it can open their minds to a kind of beauty that they were otherwise blind to. This opens a door to a whole new world and appreciation of the world around you, which is why it is so important to realize the minds capabilities.
This passage is important to the work as a whole because it was relevant in the society at that time, and it is equally, if not more, relevant in our society now. It is important because people’s minds really are dulled by the simple things they are constrained too, like social media and crude television shows. People then and now could not understand certain literature, because they did not challenge their minds enough to try and understand it. They could not perceive the beauty of nature, because they were seldom outside, or were rushing through it to get to their next destination, without stopping to quite literally smell the roses. We learn in this passage that all Coleridge and Wordsworth want is for people to stop and appreciate the God given things around them, and to expand their imagination beyond what is right in front of their faces, and to appreciate it for more than it is.
WRITTEN BY: GRACE RILEY FOR ENGL 288 (BRITISH LITERATURE) SOPHOMORE YEAR, SPRING SEMESTER 2017
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