I love Poetic Diction


Years ago, I would teach small tutorial groups (around five or six students).  A time-honoured exercise involved giving them Thomas Gray’s famous Richard West sonnet and asking them whether Wordsworth was fair to it or not when he critiqued in the context of his preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800).


Here’s the sonnet with Wordsworth’s italics:



In vain to me the smiling mornings shine,

And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire:

The birds in vain their amorous descant join,

These ears alas! for other notes repine;

A different object do these eyes require; 

My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine;

And in my breast the imperfect joys expire;

Yet Morning smiles the busy race to cheer,

And new-born pleasure brings to happier men;

The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;

To warm their little loves the birds complain.

I fruitless mourn to…

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