An emphasis on a literary form and/or literary style has been the feature of controversial writers from different worlds and ages to demonstrate whatever themes and ideologies they intend to deliver to their audiences. To start with, what is a literary form and style? A literary form in literature takes the shape of poetry, drama, novel, etcâ€¦and style is a unique way which differentiates a writer from another as well as a literary form from another-poetry from drama. To best use these terms within literary text, this paper will examine how three writers implement literary form and style to promote their thematic or ideological points in their literary works. I will first examine Alexander Pope, William Wordsworth, and John Hopkins.
Pope's style helps him as in the above quote to summarize the ideology of the concept of Nature in a couplet poetic form. He is bound by following the style of writing in a couplet which limits his paraphrasing to major concepts of criticism. He claims, for instance, that the ancients such as Plato presents examples to best follow nature, "Learn hence for ancient Rules adjust esteem;/ To copy Nature is to copy them" (139-140). However, his style does not elaborate on how copying nature is copying other's ideologies. My assumption here is as I have been exposed to the free verse writing that had he wrote his poem in a free verse, the result will be way different since he would not be bound to the heroic couplet. Nonetheless, Pope finds his style perfect for his age and in many ways a train of his thoughts which he divides in each part.
In the second part and at the beginning of each part, Pope gives his audience a prompt which introduces the section and thematically distinguishes them from each other. His introduction to each section takes the form of prose. His second part of An Essay on Criticism, which begins at line 201, Pope speaks of other themes and ideologies. He talks about the causes that misguide s man's mind such as "pride, imperfect learning, judging by the parts instead of looking at the whole, wrong emphasis of one kind of another, excessive enthusiasm or excessive censoriousness, and different kinds of prejudice" (59). He explains each his key words throughout part II in which he thinks of critics as those who should cultivate good Nature together with good sense. So doing, Pope's style works as a teaching tool for his audience-after defining in part one about the themes of taste and nature, in part two he teaches critics how to implement them.
Following his style in of delivering his message to his audience, in part three Pope begins at line 560 to explain the positive rules for good critical behavior such as truth, difference, good breeding, civility, and sincerity. He defines poets as true, distinguished, civilized, and sincere. He explains this at the beginning of part three:
Learn then what morals critics ought to show,
Â For 'tis but half a judge's task, to know.
Â 'Tis not enough, taste, judgment, learning, join;
In all you speak, let truth and candour shine:
That not alone what to your sense is due,
All may allow; but seek your friendship too. (560-564)
The above quote starts with the word "Learn" which shows that Pope explicitly tries to teach his ideologies to his readers. Amazingly, Pope's An Essay on Criticism has the formula of an essay body-introduction, body and conclusion. However, writing it in the form of poetry, Pope speaks to the most read literary form in the neoclassical period-poetry. This will of course is a main reason behind Poep's writing criticism in the form of poetry-however distinguishes it by making it informative and educational.
Like essay writing, the last part of the poem takes the form of a conclusion and summary for what Pope has been speaking about in the previous sections. The final part sums up the history of criticism from Aristotle to his recently dead friend William Walsh. "Such late was Walsh-The Muse's judge and friend,/ Who just knew to blame or to commend" (729-730). In fact, An Essay on Criticism is not a major contribution to English criticism. Pope generally brings together general ideas adding his own commentary; however the way he neatly organizes that in a heroic couplet is unique. Dr. Johnson comments on the work saying, "If he had written nothing else [it] would have placed him among the first critics and the first poets, as it exhibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactic composition, selection of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendor of illustration, and propriety of digression" (94).
Unlike his style in An Essay on Criticism, Poep's The Rape of the Lock, for example, takes another shape of style. It is a mock-epic written on Lord Peter's cutting off a lock from Miss Arabella Fermor's hair. The poem has been complimented for its nice imagination and obvious ironic wit and for having "the most perfect control over cunningly manipulated verse with tenderly affectionate humour" (Daiches 628). The tone in this poem is original and Pope uniquely blends mockery, wit, humor, irony and morality. Pope's style also implicitly enables him to criticize the arrogance of social life combining irony, sadness, acceptance and affection. In comparison with his writing of An Essay on Criticism with his The Rape of the Lock, a reader can notice how Pope is able to use different style within one literary form-once educational and later satirical.
Unlike Pope, William Wordsworth's unique style of writing in the form of poetry breaks him away from neoclassical poetry. In fact, the main reason of writing Preface to the Lyrical Ballads is Wordsworth's plan to enlighten his readers of his purpose in writing poems such as The Thorn, Lines Written in Early Spring, Mad Mother, Idiot Boy, and We are Seven which distinguish him from his predecessors. In his "Advertisement" to the Lyrical Ballads of 1798, Wordsworth states, "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 purposes of poetic pleasure" (3). Helen Darbishire asserts, "English poetry has known many leaders of revolt. Wordsworth's was a revolt of a nature and importance which perhaps no literary revolt had before. It was a revolt against literature, or the literary element in poetry, an assertion of the supreme value of life at all costs in poetry" (35). It is in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads that we are introduced to Wordsworth's style-in it, he presents his poetic manifesto.
Wordsworth writes Preface to Lyrical Ballads not only to promote a theory but to defend his poetry from the poetry written in the eighteenth century by Pope and his successors. The main topics in the Preface are Wordsworth's views on the nature of poetry, the qualification of a poet, and the nature of poetic truth. One of the main points of this preface is to reflect Wordsworth's style of writing which helps him convey his ideologies about depicting the common man by using the common language. Moreover, the Preface shows how feeling "gives importance to the action and the situation" (9). A third goal of Wordsworth's poetry is to illustrate the way in which poetry becomes "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility" (21). The Preface is important for the reader to appreciate what Wordsworth is attempting in his collection of verse. It is a map to understanding his style as a poet who is different from his forerunners. The Preface helps Wordsworth to introduce his reader to a new form and style of poetry that is new to them-the Romantic poetry.
Wordsworth makes it obvious in his Preface that his style is simple and can be read by the common man in a "selection of language really used by men" (7). Wordsworth chooses incidents and situations from common life as subject matter. His style shows rustic life which reflects simplicity and true human nature. Williams's style of using his talent of imagination can turn incidents or events drawn from ordinary life into gorgeous unusual poetry.
In his poetry, Wordsworth style is constructed upon his use of images of simple people in their rural settings to demonstrate how feeling "gives importance to the action and situation and not the action and situation to the feeling" (9). In Mad Mother, for example, Wordsworth writes "Sweet babe! They say that I am mad, / But nay, my heart is far too glad" (11-12). Wordworth's style enables him to make the above lines full of motherly feelings which give importance to the poem since her feelings mingle both her sadness and shame of how the society looks down upon her madness. On the other side of the coin, her feelings show how she is able to find happiness by holding her baby. Had there been no strong emotions, the situation in the poem would be nothing more than a mother holding her baby. Writing in this rural style with simple language, Wordsworth is able to convey what Pope's cannot-the language of the low and middle class.
Unlike many poets, Wordsworth states his style of writing poetry by defining it in his Preface as a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings [which] takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility" (21). This means that poetry is not a rapid gush of emotion. It also shows that the process of writing poetry starts in a state of claim with the remembering of some past emotional experience. In addition, excitement gradually increases until the poet is almost reliving the experience yet with a difference-this difference is Wordsworth's style of writing poetry.
To further explain the literary form and style that he follows along with his Romantic poets, Wordsworth speaks of the importance of a good poem and that in order to write one, it must have a "worthy purpose" (8). This "worthy purpose" comes from Nature which readers will feel when they read his poetry. In defining the feelings and passions of man to which poetry should be written, Wordsworth states, "The general passions and thoughts and feelings of menâ€¦we not only wish to be pleased, but to be pleased in that particular way in which we have been accustomed to be pleased" (17-24). Man is pleased when he experiences everything derived from Nature such as looking at trees and mountains. Wordsworth's style of writing his poems carries his ideologies of nature and the simple man. His style enables him to translate the passion he encounters with nature to the consciousness of his readers.