Lyrical Ballads

Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, generally considered to have marked the beginning of the English Romantic movement in literature. The immediate effect on critics was modest, but it became and remains a landmark, changing the course of English literature and poetry.

History and compositionEdit

A first edition was published anonymously in 1798, with no information as to authors or printer. Most of the 23 poems were written by Wordsworth. Coleridge contributed only four – "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "The Foster-Mother's Tale" (a 'dramatic fragment from Osirio), "The Nightingale, a conversational Poem," and "The Dungeon" – though the first three of those were among the first four poems in the volume.[1]

A second edition was published in 1800, in two volumes, in which Wordsworth included additional poems and a preface detailing the pair's avowed poetical principles.

Volume I contained most of the 1798 edition. Wordsworth dropped one poem of his own, "The Convict," and substituted a fifth poem by Coleridge, "Love,"[1] and split another ("Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening") into two poems ("Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening") and "Written near Richmond, upon the Thames"). He also varied the order, most dramatically by moving Coleridge's "Foster-Mother's Tale," "Nightingale," and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" to the 7th, 17th, and 23rd positions.[1] Volume II contained 38 new poems, all by Wordsworth.

Another edition was published in 1802; Wordsworth added an appendix titled Poetic Diction in which he expanded the ideas set forth in the preface.


Wordsworth and Coleridge set out to overturn what they considered the priggish, learned and highly sculpted forms of 18th century English poetry and bring poetry within the reach of the average person by writing the verses using normal, everyday language. They place an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice that the poor use to express their reality. Using this language also helps assert the universality of human emotions. Even the title of the collection recalls rustic forms of art - the word "lyrical" links the poems with the ancient rustic bards and lends an air of spontaneity, while "ballads" are an oral mode of storytelling used by the common people.

In the 'Advertisement' included in the 1798 edition, Wordsworth explained his poetical concept:

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purpose of poetic pleasure.[2]
If the experiment with vernacular language was not enough of a departure from the norm, the focus on simple, uneducated country people as the subject of poetry was a signal shift to modern literature. One of the main themes of "Lyrical Ballads" is the return to the original state of nature, in which people led a purer and more innocent existence. Wordsworth subscribed to Rousseau's belief that humanity was essentially good but was corrupted by the influence of society. This may be linked with the sentiments spreading through Europe just prior to the French Revolution.

Publication historyEdit

  • Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems (anonymous). Bristol, UK: Briggs & Cottle, for T.N. Longman, London, 1798; London: J. & A. Arch, 1798
    • Lyrical Ballads: Reprinted from the first edition of 1798] (edited by Edward Dowden). London: David Nutt, 1890
    • Lyrical Ballads, 1798 (edited by Thomas Hutchinson). London: Duckworth, 1898
    • Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems. New York: Payson & Clarke, 1927
    • facsimile edition. New York: Columbia University Press, for the Facsimile Text Society, 1927
    • Lyrical Ballads, 1798 (edited by Harold Littledale). London: Henry Frowde, 1911; Humphrey Milford, for Oxford University Press, 1927
    • The Lyrical Ballads. London: Methuen, 1961
    • Lyrical Ballads, with a few other poems. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961
    • (edited by W.J.B. Owen). London: Oxford University Press, 1967
    • facsimile edition. Menston, UK: Scolar Press, 1971
    • facsimile edition (with introduction by Jonathan Wordsworth). Oxford, UK, & New York: Woodstock Books, 1990.
  • Lyrical Ballads, with other poems (by W. Wordsworth). (2 volumes), Bristol, UK: Biggs & Cottle, for T.N. Longman & O. Rees, London, 1800. Volume I, Volume II
  • Lyrical Ballads, with pastoral and other poems. (2 volumes), London: Biggs & Cottle, for T.N. Longman & O. Rees, 1802. Volume I, Volume II
  • Lyrical Ballads, with pastoral and other poems. (2 volumes), London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, 1805. Volume I, Volume II
  • The Lyrical Ballads, 1798-1805 (edited by George Sampson). London: Methuen, 1903.
  • Lyrical Ballads: The text of the 1798 edition with the additional 1800 poems and the prefaces (edited by Alun R. Jones & R.L. Brett). London: Methuen, 1963
  • Lyrical Ballads, with other writings: Complete text, context, reactions (edited by William Richey & Daniel Robinson). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.
  • Lyrical Ballads, 1798 and 1800 (edited by Michael Gamer & Dahlia Porter). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2008.
  • Lyrical Ballads, 1798 and 1802 (edited by Fiona J. Stafford). London & New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[3]

Poems in the 1798 editionEdit

  1. The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere / Coleridge
  2. The Foster-Mother's Tale / Coleridge
  3. Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite
  4. The Nightingale, a Conversational Poem / Coleridge
  5. The Female Vagrant
  6. Goody Blake and Harry Gill
  7. Lines written at a small distance from my House, and sent by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed
  8. Simon Lee, the old Huntsman
  9. Anecdote for Fathers
  10. We are seven
  11. Lines written in early spring
  12. The Thorn
  13. The last of the Flock
  14. The Dungeon / Coleridge
  15. The Mad Mother
  16. The Idiot Boy
  17. Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening
  18. Expostulation and Reply
  19. The Tables turned; an Evening Scene, on the same subject
  20. Old Man travelling
  21. The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman
  22. The Convict
  23. Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey

Poems in the 1800 editionEdit

Volume IEdit

  1. Expostulation and Reply (1798)
  2. The Tables Turned; an Evening Scene, on the Same Subject (1798)
  3. Old Man Travelling; Animal Tranquillity and Decay, a Sketch (1798)
  4. The Complaint of a forsaken Indian Woman (1798)
  5. The Last of the Flock (1798)
  6. Lines left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree which stands near the Lake of Esthwaite (1798)
  7. The Foster-Mother's Tale / Coleridge (1798)
  8. Goody Blake and Harry Gill (1798)
  9. The Thorn (1798)
  10. We are Seven (1798)
  11. Anecdote for Fathers (1798)
  12. Lines written at a small distance from my House and sent me by my little Boy to the Person to whom they are addressed (1798)
  13. The Female Vagrant (1798)
  14. The Dungeon / Coleridge (1798)
  15. Simon Lee, the old Huntsman (1798)
  16. Lines written in early Spring (1798)
  17. The Nightingale, written in April, 1798 / Coleridge (1798)
  18. Lines written when sailing in a Boat at Evening (1798)
  19. Written near Richmond, upon the Thames (1798)
  20. The Idiot Boy (1798)
  21. Love / Coleridge
  22. The Mad Mother (1798)
  23. The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere / Coleridge (1798)
  24. Lines written above Tintern Abbey (1798)

Volume IIEdit

  1. Hart-leap Well
  2. There was a Boy, &c
  3. The Brothers, a Pastoral Poem
  4. Ellen Irwin, or the Braes of Kirtle
  5. Strange fits of passion have I known, &c.
  6. Song
  7. She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways
  8. A slumber did my spirit seal, &c
  9. The Waterfall and the Eglantine
  10. The Oak and the Broom, a Pastoral
  11. Lucy Gray
  12. The Idle Shepherd-Boys or Dungeon-Gill Force, a Pastoral
  13. 'Tis said that some have died for love, &c.
  14. Poor Susan
  15. Inscription for the Spot where the Hermitage stood on St. Herbert's Island, Derwent-Water
  16. Inscription for the House (an Out-house) on the Island at Grasmere
  17. To a Sexton
  18. Andrew Jones
  19. The two Thieves, or the last stage of Avarice
  20. A whirl-blast from behind the Hill, &c.
  21. Song for the wandering Jew
  22. Ruth
  23. Lines written with a Slate-Pencil upon a Stone, &c.
  24. Lines written on a Tablet in a School
  25. The two April Mornings
  26. The Fountain, a conversation
  27. Nutting
  28. Three years she grew in sun and shower, &c.
  29. The Pet-Lamb, a Pastoral
  30. Written in Germany on one of the coldest days of the century
  31. The Childless Father
  32. The Old Cumberland Beggar, a Description
  33. Rural Architecture
  34. A Poet's Epitaph
  35. A Character
  36. A Fragment
  37. Poems on the Naming of Places,
  38. Michael, a Pastoral

The poem The Convict (Wordsworth) was in the 1798 edition but Wordsworth omitted it from the 1800 edition. Lewti or the Circassian Love-chaunt (Coleridge) exists in some 1798 editions in place of The Convict. The poems "Lines written when sailing in a Boat at evening" and "Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames" are one poem in the 1798 edition entitled "Lines written near Richmond, upon the Thames, at Evening."


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Elissa Hansen, "What Poems did Coleridge Contribute to the Lyrical Ballads?, Web, May 19, 2016.
  2. "Lyrical Ballads". The Wordsworth Trust. 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-18. 
  3. Search results = ti:Lyrical Ballads au:Wordsworth Coleridge, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 19, 2016.

External linksEdit


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