Coleridge quotes on the “willing suspension of disbelief,” the aesthetic program of Lyrical Ballads, and the ideal form of reading:

From Biographia Literaria, Chapter IV: Mr. Wordsworth’s Earlier Poems:

It was not . . . the freedom from false taste .  . . which made so unusual an impressions on my feelings immediately, and subsequently on my judgment. It was the union of deep feeling with profound thought; the fine balance of truth in observing, with the imaginative faculty in modifying the objects observed; and above all the original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew drops. (BABL B 309; emphasis added)

From Biographia Literaria, Chapter XIV: Occasion of the Lyrical Ballads; on the composition of Lyrical Ballads:

. . . it was agreed, that my endeavors should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. (BABL B 312; emphasis added)

On the complex feelings of “pleasure” that  a “legitimate poem” evokes:

The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity; or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself. Like the motion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the emblem of intellectual power; or like the path of sound through the air; at every step he pauses and half recedes, and from the retrogressive movement collects the force which carries him onward. (BABL B 314; emphasis added).

The structure of Romantic lyric thought process

  • setting of the moment of lyric readiness (i.e. Wordsworth’s “wise passiveness”)
  • search for a “companionable form,” which can be either an object or a person, as well as multiple
  • the unity of moment and form often leads the speaker into the past; where s/he re-enters in via the imagination
  • the movement into the past allows the speaker to come to a new understanding of his/her current self and how that self has evolved
  • a projection outward with a new vision of the self and its powers