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Extraits - De Wordsworth à Coleridge

En ouverture des Ballades Lyriques (1798), un avertissement met en garde le lecteur, qui risque d'être surpris, voir déstabilisé par le style des poèmes qu'il s'apprête à découvrir :

The majority of the following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with the view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of our society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure. Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers [...] will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and aukwardness [...]

En comparant les deux poèmes proposés ci-dessous, on comprendra mieux ce qui oppose Wordsworth à ses prédécesseurs. Le premier poème, "Ode to Evening" (William Collins, 1746), est un exemple typique de la poésie lyrique que rejettent Wordsworth et Coleridge lorsqu'ils s'embarquent dans leur projet poético-prosaïque. Le style ampoulé est caractéristique de la "poetic diction" de l'époque, multipliant les comparaisons et métaphores en tous genres à grands renforts d'adjectifs composés : "the bright-haired sun", "the weak-eyed bat... flits by on leathern wing", "rose-lipped Health". Rien de tout cela dans "Anecdote for Fathers" (Wordsworth). Ici, le soleil se contente de briller et les moutons de gambader. Le « bright-haired sun » a cédé la place au « morning sun » et le « weak-eyed bat » aux « young lambs ». Rejetant ce qu'il appelle la phraséologie inepte des auteurs de son époque, Wordsworth fait le pari de procurer au lecteur un plaisir esthétique tout aussi fort en s'inspirant du langage clair et direct des humbles gens. Au lecteur d'en juger.


Ode to Evening

If aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song, May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear,    Like thy own solemn springs,    Thy springs, and dying gales, O nymph reserved, while now the bright-haired sun                5 Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,    With brede ethereal wove,    O'erhang his wavy bed: Now air is hushed, save where the weak-eyed bat, With short shrill shriek flits by on leathern wing,                    10    Or where the beetle winds    His small but sullen horn, As oft he rises 'midst the twilight path, Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum:    Now teach me, maid composed,                                        15    To breathe some softened strain, Whose numbers, stealing through thy darkening vale, May not unseemly with its stillness suit,    As, musing slow, I hail    Thy genial loved return!                                                    20 For when thy folding-star arising shows His paly circlet, at his warning lamp    The fragrant Hours, and elves    Who slept in flowers the day, And many a nymph who wreathes her brows with sedge         25 And sheds the freshening dew, and, lovelier still,    The pensive Pleasures sweet,    Prepare thy shadowy car. Then lead, calm votaress, where some sheety lake Cheers the lone heath, or some time-hallowed pile                 30    Or upland fallows grey    Reflect its last cool gleam. But when chill blustering winds, or driving rain Forbid my willing feet, be mine the hut    That from the mountain's side                                            35    Views wilds, and swelling floods And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires, And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all    Thy dewy fingers draw    The gradual dusky veil.                                                      40 While Spring shall pour his showers, as oft he wont, And bathe thy breathing tresses, meekest Eve;    While Summer loves to sport    Beneath thy lingering light; While sallow Autumn fills thy lap with leaves;                          45 Or Winter, yelling through the troublous air,    Affrights thy shrinking train,    And rudely rends thy robes; So long, sure-found beneath the sylvan shed, Shall Fancy, Friendship, Science, rose-lipped Health,                50    Thy gentlest influence own,    And love thy favourite name!

"Ode to Evening" (1746.1748), in The Norton Anthology of Poetry, (ed.) Ferguson, Salter and Stallworthy, 1996 (4th ed.), Norton, pp.615-616

Anecdote for Fathers

Anecdote for Fathers, shewing how the practice of lying may be taught I have a boy of five years old, His face is fair and fresh to see; His limbs are cast in beauty's mould, And dearly he loves me. One morn we stroll'd on our dry walk,                   5 Our quiet house all full in view, And held such intermitted talk As we are wont to do. My thoughts on former pleasures ran; I thought of Kilve's delightful shore,                     10 My pleasant home, when spring began, A long, long year before A day it was when I could bear To think, and think, and think again; With so much happiness to spare,                       15 I could not feel a pain. My boy was by my side, so slim And graceful in his rustic dress! And oftentimes I talked to him, In very idleness.                                                20 The young lambs ran a pretty race; The morning sun shone bright and warm; "Kilve," said I, "was a pleasant place," And so is Liswyn farm. "My little boy, which like you more,"                    25 I said and took him by the arm--" Our home by Kilve's delightful shore, "Or here at Liswyn farm?" "And tell me, had you rather be, "I said and held him by the arm,                         30 "At Kilve's smooth shore by the green sea," Or here at Liswyn farm?" In careless mood he looked at me, While still I held him by the arm, And said, "At Kilve I'd rather be                          35 "Than here at Liswyn farm." "Now, little Edward, say why so; My little Edward, tell me why;" "I cannot tell, I do not know." "Why this is strange," said I.                               40 "For, here are woods and green-hills warm: "There surely must some reason be "Why you would change sweet Liswyn farm "For Kilve by the green sea." At this, my boy, so fair and slim,                         45 Hung down his head, nor made reply; And five times did I say to him, "Why, Edward, tell me, why?" His head he raised--there was in sight, It caught his eye, he saw it plain--                       50 Upon the house-top, glittering bright, A broad and gilded vane. Then did the boy his tongue unlock, And thus to me he made reply; "At Kilve there was no weather-cock,                   55 "And that's the reason why." Oh dearest, dearest boy! my heart For better lore would seldom yearn, Could I but teach the hundredth part Of what from thee I learn.                                  60
from Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth and Coleridge, (ed.) Brett and Jones, 1991 (2nd ed.), Routledge, pp.64-66
Mise à jour le 6 mars 2009
Créé le 28 mai 2008
ISSN 2107-7029
DGESCO Clé des Langues