William Wordsworth was at once the oldest, the greatest, and the most long-lived among the romantic poets. He made himself the leader of the Romantic movement, first, because he issued in his Pre-face to the Lyrical Ballads what may be called the manifesto of the movement, in which he demanded a change both in the subject and the form of poetry that was truly revolutionary ; and secondly because the theme of his great poem The Prelude is the apotheosis of the Self which lies at the root of Romanticism. The basic traits of romanticism such as the love of nature, the belief in humanity, mysticism, revolutionary spirit etc were early developed in his poetry. As a young man he had high hopes for humanity and he had been nurtured in the Lake District which helped him to think well on man. He also read Rousseau’s view on the innocence of man. Thus, the teaching of Rousseau and his own experience convinced him that man was naturally good. He greatly supported the dawn of a new era for the humanity. But later he changed his mind when the French Revolutionists started to commit all kinds of atrocities.
The whole of his early life had been a dedication to poetry, and from his childhood he had stored his mind with the experience in nature which later he was recall in is verse. His best-known works are The Prelude, The Lyrical Ballads, Tintern Abbey and a number of sonnets.
The work which made him popular was the Lyrical Ballads. He wrote it in collaboration with his intimate friend S.T. Coleridge. In Lyrical Ballads he attempted to make verse out of the incidents of simple rustic life. He took incidents and situations from common life and threw over them a coloring of the imagination by which ordinary things would be made to assume an unusual aspect. In it, he used a language that was a selection from the ordinary speech. Thus, the poems of the Lyrical Ballads showed originality both in subject matter and in language and were a departure from all previous practice. S.T. Coleridge contributed in Lyrical Ballads only The Ancient Mariner and four other poems in blank verse.In his poems, Coleridge endeavoured to employ to give credibility to the miraculous
The Prelude, an autobiographical poem is the spiritual record of his mind, honestly recording its own intimate experiences, and endowed with a rare capacity for making the record intelligible. It is an idealized version of his spiritual growth in which he escapes into the higher reality of his imagination. It emphasized particularly his surrender of the charm of logic to the claims of the emotion which became a cardinal principle of all the later Romantic poets. No poems in English offers a parallel. It was composed in bland verse and had an epical scale.
Wordsworth also wrote some of the finest sonnets in which he wanted to awaken England from lathargy, to condemn Napoleon and to record many of his own moods Wordsworth also wrote some famous sonnets. He wrote the sonnets to arouse England to a sense of her responsibility in international affairs, and to express memorable moment in his own experience. His other works included Immortality ode, Ode to Duty and ‘Laodamia’. In the Immortality Ode, he recorded a mystical intuition of a life before birth which can be recovered in a few fortunate moments in the presence of nature.
Thus, Wordsworth stands apart as the the pioneer of Romantic movement by his great contribution in English literature.