Poetic Language and its Energies
PART II POETIC ENERGIES IN PRACTICE
Chapter Five Plerosis Ascending: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by Reason. Novalis, Detached Thoughts S the conclusion to Part I suggests, I believe that what has been called Romantic poetry qualifies as radically plerotic poetry, and that the ple- rotic drive is a more consistent and a more interesting characteristic of these poems than any supposed adherence to a revolutionary politics, metaphysics, or theology. If this is true, the first place to look in English literature for evi- dence that plerosis is truly the defining energy of Romantic poetry is Word- sworth’s famous 1800 Preface to Lyrical Ballads. WORDSWORTH: VIVID EXCITEMENT AND PASSIONATE TRUTH (AT A RATIONAL DISTANCE) Despite the many dissatisfactions that Coleridge and later critics eventu- ally expressed towards its theories, the Preface’s influence on English poetry remained unsurpassed by any contemporary document. Should the Preface not demonstrate some connection to the principles we have associated with plerosis, we will have reached an impasse before attempting a reading of a single poem. Fortunately, we need only read as far as the second sentence to find what we seek: Lyrical Ballads “was published as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid ex- citement, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a Poet may rationally endeavor to impart” (v). Critics since Coleridge,...
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