What Does Wordsworth Mean by "Spontaneous Overflow of Powerful feelings"

By “Spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”, Wordsworth opines that poetry is a matter of mood and inspiration. Poetry evolves from the feelings of the poet. Poetry’s source is the feeling in the heart, not the ideas of the intellect. A poet cannot write under pressure. In this regard, poetry flows out of his heart in a natural and fluent manner. Deep emotion is the basic condition of poetry; powerful feelings and emotions are fundamental. Without them great poetry can not be written. But T. S. Eliot in his Tradition and the Individual Talent rejects Wordsworth's definition of poetry and holds the idea that a writer should be impersonal and his writings should be devoid of personal emotion and feelings.

Emotion Recollected in Tranquility

To begin with Wordsworth’s words, “I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” At first glance, these two statements seem contradictory but Wordsworth’s theory of poetry involved the fusion of the two statements. In a sense powerful feelings and profound thought make poetry perfect. Wordsworth told that the poet can’t rely on sensibility alone. He has to be a person who has also thought long and deeply. After that, a calm mind is equally necessary to furnish the past/ previous thoughts/ feelings.

At first, the poet observes some object, character or situation. It sets up powerful emotions in his mind. The poet doesn’t react immediately. He allows it to sink into his mind along with the feelings which it has excited. Then comes the recollection of the emotion, at a later moment. The emotion is recollected in tranquility. There might be a time lapse of several years. Thus poetry originates in emotion recollected in tranquility and so ultimately the product of the original free flow of that emotion.