Lyrical Ballads, although far more conservative in form and scope than the (then almost unknown) work of Blake, nevertheless was in its own way a revolutionary book. These self-declared "experiments" borrowed from vernacular traditions such as the ballad, gaining a new kind of authenticity while rejecting the "gaudiness and inane phraseology" of other poets of the day. It is hard for us to feel this same quality today, as so much of what the Romantics accomplished and made new has since become a cliché; for me, this is embodied by Bullwinkle J. Moose's cartoon rendition of "I wandered lonely as a cloud" -- here the sublime meets the ridiculous, and the ridiculous wins.
Nevertheless, there remain shards of untapped sublimity here and there in the poetic ruins of this endeavor -- the "Lucy" poems, "We are Seven," and "The Mad Mother" retain a sort of odd, folksy, haunting quality, and "Tintern Abbey" still summons forth the beauty and strangeness of its scene. And, above all, Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancyent Marinere" still stands aloof, untouched for the most part by the ravages of time, unless to seem and feel more authentically "ancient" than it was originally framed as being. "We were the first to ever burst / into that silent sea" -- rarely has the essence of the Romantic version of the natural sublime been more magnificiently cast.
The future of the two poets also revealed telling differences. Wordsworth, though his best years were behind him, whittled away at his lengthy and laborious Prelude, unpublished in his lifetime, while basking in the light of his role as an aging literary lion. As described by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840's, he sat aside, hidden behind the green glass filter he brought with him to the table, absently nibbling on raisins as the conversation raged on. Coleridge, alas, burned brighter and burned out sooner; after the last flickering flame of Kubla Khan, he retired to the home of his friend James Gilman and his wife, who took care to moderate his opiate addiction as best they could. They were remarkable hosts, even building an extension on the house to accommodate their poetical guest. No more brilliant poetry spilled from his pen, but a substantial and influential body of semi-autobiogaphical criticism, published as Biographia Literaria, was completed there before his death in 1834. Carlyle visited there as well, and his description is worth quoting:
Coleridge sat on the brow of Highgate Hill, in those years, looking down on London and its smoke-tumult, like a sage escaped from the inanity of life's battle ... The practical intellects of the world did not much heed him, or carelessly reckoned him a metaphysical dreamer: but to the rising spirits of the young generation he had this dusky sublime character; and sat there as a kind of Magus, girt in mystery and enigma; his Dodona oak-grove (Mr. Gilman's house at Highgate) whispering strange things, uncertain whether oracles or jargon ...