Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge: A Resource & Guide


Below are links to every one of the episodes I have done on the 1798 Lyrical ballads. They include a video (except for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which is audio only). They all also include an audio podcast available wherever you listen to podcasts (links are provided in each episode). And they include the poem itself.

 

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


I released this episode on Halloween, because it is indeed a horror story. In fact, it was so terrifying that when the young Mary Shelley first heard a reading of it, she hid behind a chair. Today, this poem may not terrify us in the way that it did people at the time, but I will be making two big arguments as to why you should challenge yourself to read poems like this even if you at first do not like them.


Coleridge's Mariner may be one of the most influential poems of the British romantics. Not only is there a popular Iron Maiden song but much gothic literature of the 19th century, from Frankenstein and Dracula to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The House of the Seven Gables and the Fall of Usher was inspired by this poem. In fact,


Coleridge's Mariner brings a major new strain of literary experience onto the scene. 


In this episode I will give you the arguments to read poems you don't like, provide a summary of the poem, read a special version of the poem, give you the origin story of the poem, some ways to understand the poem as well as a breakdown of its ideology and the influence it held.

So yes, this is a big episode, prepare yourselves!


"Listen, Stranger! Storm and Wind,

A Wind and Tempest strong!

For days and weeks it play'd us freaks--

Like Chaff we drove along."


Do not be chaff driven along by a tempest. Understand this poem by listening to this episode.


 

The Foster-Mother's Tale by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


In this episode I will give you two extreme models of education. One is best represented in the tale of Petronilla and the other is best represented in that of Greta Thunberg.


A theme that runs throughout the 1798 Lyrical Ballads by Coleridge and Wordsworth is that of nature as educator for a child. In this poem—a fragment from a theatrical play by Coleridge—we see multiple viewpoints on education. One critical question we must answer is how much, if any, of the outside world and its social ills should a child know about?


Education, knowledge and moral upbringing were of paramount importance to many of the romantics. This is a key theme not only in Lyrical Ballads but in much of the philosophers of this time as well as literary writers such as Mary Shelley. This poem is a first in exploring important ideas in action of sibling affection, taboo and the morality imposed upon young children.


 

Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite by William Wordsworth


Great men can battle many things, jealousy, hate, scorn, dissolute tongues, but what about neglect? Can a great man or woman persevere in the face of utter lifelong neglect?

What would Einstein be like in old age, had no one taken his theory of relativity seriously? What about Dostoevsky's novels? Galileo famously was locked in a tower. At least he was not neglected!


Neglect it not scorn or hatred. It is to be ignored, unacknowledged, ghosted. This is something profoundly worse than fear or fury.


In this haunting poem, Wordsworth writes about a man he knew at Hawkshead school. The man was educated, a genius even. But something made him abscond from humanity. The only monument were some lines left upon a seat in a yew-tree which stands near the lake of Esthwaite on a desolate prt of the shore, yet commanding a beautiful prospect.


 

The Nightingale, a Conversation Poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


It is said that Coleridge's greatest achievement was William Wordsworth. There is some truth to this. But he was also a great poet in his own right. In Lyrical Ballads he and Wordsworth changed English sensibilities (and American) completely. While Wordsworth was the greater poet, Coleridge was the greater philosopher. It is Coleridge's insights as a critic which encapsulates English Romanticism.


In this poem published in 1798, he not only conveys a new style of sensualness but also critiques the literarati before him. It is a truly Literary poem in that it is very aware of the literature that came prior. 


The Nightingale opens with Colerdge painting a picture of a nighttime scene with friends. They sit on a "mossy bridge," where they will think on nature. Then, almost on cue, "the Nightingale begins its song." This bird causes him to reflect on the writers of yore. Men who wrote that the nightingale's song was a melancholy one. To which Coleridge replies "A melancholy bird? Oh idle thought!"


He goes on to convey a completely different way to approach our experience of knowledge, learning, nature and literature. 


If you have ever wanted to truly experience the grandeur of nature and man in nature, this is a good poem to get you started.

 

The Female Vagrant by William Wordsworth


The Female Vagrant is one of Wordsworth's most political poems. It tells the story two wanderers seeking shelter during a stormy night on Salisbury Plain in England. The woman tells how she came to be destitute and alone: her father had been evicted from his cottage in