“In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind and things violently destroyed, the Poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the Poet’s thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favorite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man.”
—William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads”
Romanticism was arguably the largest artistic movement of the late 1700s. Its influence was felt across continents and through every artistic discipline into the mid-nineteenth century, and many of its values and beliefs can still be seen in contemporary poetry.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact start of the romantic movement, as its beginnings can be traced to many events of the time: a surge of interest in folklore in the early to mid-nineteenth century with the work of the brothers Grimm, reactions against neoclassicism and the Augustan poets in England, and political events and uprisings that fostered nationalistic pride.
Romantic poets cultivated individualism, reverence for the natural world, idealism, physical and emotional passion, and an interest in the mystic and supernatural. Romantics set themselves in opposition to the order and rationality of classical and neoclassical artistic precepts to embrace freedom and revolution in their art and politics. German romantic poets included Fredrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and British poets such as Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon Lord Byron, and John Keats propelled the English romantic movement. Victor Hugo was a noted French romantic poet as well, and romanticism crossed the Atlantic through the work of American poets like Walt Whitmanand Edgar Allan Poe. The romantic era produced many of the stereotypes of poets and poetry that exist to this day (i.e., the poet as a tortured and melancholy visionary). https://www.poets.org
Literary critics consider 1798, the year when Wordsworth and Coleridge published their “Lyrical Ballads,” to mark the beginning of the English Romantic Movement. However, its actual beginnings date back to the poetry of Gray, Collins, Blake and Burns who are regaded as ‘Transition Poets’ who lived and wrote at the end of the Neo-Classical Age. Critical opinion is divided as to when the Romantic Movement actually came to an end; infact, some critics consider the Victorian age to be a continuation of the Romantic Age and that the English Romantic Age extended till the beginning of the Modern Age in the twentieth century. The characteristic features of English Romantic poetry are:
- Love and worship of Nature and dislike for the urban life.
- Love for the Medieval Age.
- Love for the supernatural and the mystical.
- Poetry came to be regarded as the spontaneous expression of the poet’s own subjective feelings and did not conform to the poetic conventions of classical doctrines.
5.Completely abandoned the ‘Heroic Couplet’ and substituted it with simpler verse forms like the ballads which belonged to the English rural Folk. In fact the ‘Ballad Revival’ is said to have sparked off the English Romantic Movememnt.
- The ‘poetic diction’ of the Neo-Classical Age was completely done away with and the language of the ordinary people became the language of Romantic poetry.
- The subjects of Romantic poetry were often ordinary people. http://www.enotes.com/
Romanticism is the name given to a dominant movement in literature and the other arts – particularly music and painting – in the the period from the 1770s to the mid-nineteenth century:
- It is regarded as having transformed artistic styles and practices
- Like many other terms applied to movements in the arts, the word covers a wide and varied range of artists and practices
- It is a retrospective term, applied by later literary, art and musical historians. None of the artists we refer to as Romantics would have so described themselves
- It was a European phenomenon, particularly powerful in Britain, France and Germany, but also affecting countries such as Italy, Spain and Poland. There was also, to some extent, an American version of the movement.
Reaction to earlier age
Like many other literary movements, it developed in reaction to the dominant style of the preceding period:
- The eighteenth century is often described by literary historians as the Augustan Agebecause it sought to emulate the culture of the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus(27 BCE – 14 CE)
- Classical standards of order, harmony, proportion and objectivity were preferred – the period saw a revival of interest in classical architecture, for instance
- In literature, Greek and Roman authors were taken as models and many eighteenth century writers either translated or produced imitations of poetry in classical forms
- In its early years, Romanticism was associated with radical and revolutionary political ideologies, again in reaction against the generally conservative mood of European society.
Central features of Romanticism include:
- An emphasis on emotional and imaginative spontaneity
- The importance of self-expression and individual feeling. Romantic poetry is one of the heart and the emotions, exploring the ‘truth of the imagination’ rather than scientific truth. The ‘I’ voice is central; it is the poet’s perceptions and feelings that matter.
- An almost religious response to nature. They were concerned that Nature should not just be seen scientifically but as a living force, either made by a Creator, or as in some way divine, to be neglected at humankind’s peril. Some of them were no longer Christianin their beliefs. Shelley was an atheist, and for a while Wordsworth was apantheist (the belief that god is in everything). Much of their poetry celebrated the beauty of nature, or protested the ugliness of the growing industrialization of the century: the machines, factories, slum conditions, pollution and so on.
- A capacity for wonder and consequently a reverence for the freshness and innocence of the vision of childhood. See The world of the Romantics: Attitudes to childhood
- Emphasis on the imagination as a positive and creative faculty
- An interest in ‘primitive’ forms of art – for instance in the work of early poets (bards), in ancient ballads and folksongs. Some of the Romantics turned back to past times to find inspiration, either to the medieval period, or to Greek and Roman mythology. SeeAspects of the Gothic: Gothic and the medieval revival
- An interest in and concern for the outcasts of society: tramps, beggars, obsessive characters and the poor and disregarded are especially evident in Romantic poetry
- An idea of the poet as a visionary figure, with an important role to play as prophet (in both political and religious terms).
Who were the Romantics?
Some authors have been regarded as pre-Romantic:
- William Blake (1757-1827) a visionary poet who was also an artist and engraver, with a particular interest in childhood and a strong hatred of mechanical reason and industrialization;
- Robert Burns (1759-1796) who worked as a ploughman and farm labourer but who had received a good education and was interested in early Scots ballads and folk-song;
- Walter Scott (1771-1832), another Scot, who developed his interest in old tales of the Border and early European poetry into a career as poet and novelist.
The first generation of Romantics is also known as the Lake Poets because of their attachment to the Lake District in the north-west of England:
- William Wordsworth (1770-1850) who came from the Lake District and was the leading poet of the group, whose work was especially associated with the centrality of the self and the love of nature;
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was Wordsworth’s closest colleague and collaborator, a powerful intellectual whose work was often influenced by contemporary ideas about science and philosophy;
- Robert Southey (1774-1843), a prolific writer of poetry and prose who settled in the Lake District and became Poet Laureate in 1813; his work was later mocked by Byron;
- Charles Lamb (1775-1834) was a poet but is best-known for his essays and literary criticism; a Londoner, he was especially close to Coleridge;
- Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) the youngest member of the group, best known as an essayist and critic, who wrote a series of memories of the Lake Poets.
The second generation of Romantic poets included:
- George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824);
- Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was one of the leading poets;
- John Keats (1795-1821) was a London poet, especially known for his odes and sonnets and for his letters, which contain many reflections on poetry and the work of the imagination.
The poets named so far are those who, for many years, dominated the Romantic canon – that group of writers whose works were most commonly republished, read, anthologised, written about and taught in schools, colleges and universities.
She Walks in Beauty
SHE walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow’d to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair’d the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
by: George Gordon (Lord) Byron (1788-1824)
A Thing Of Beauty
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
– By: John Keats
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breat whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art-
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors;
No-yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever-or else swoon to death. – John Keats
Composed Upon Westminster Bridge
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!
– William Wordsworth
I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud
I WANDERED lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. – William Wordsworth
The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
– William Wordsworth
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measurless to man,
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And there were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! That deep romantic chasm that slanted
Down a green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amidst whose swift half-intermitted burst,
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the threasher’s flail,
Amd ‘midst this tumult, at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river;
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ‘midst this tumult Kubla heard from afar,
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure,
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device;
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw;
It was an Abasynnian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me,
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that pleasure-dome.
That sunny dome! Those caves of ice!
And all who heard would see them there
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread;
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
It may indeed be phantasy, when I
Essay to draw from all created things
Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings ;
And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie
Lessons of love and earnest piety.
So let it be ; and if the wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings
Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.
So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,
Thee only God ! and thou shalt not despise
Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice
By: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
– Percy Bysshe Shelley
ODE TO THE WEST WIND
IO wild West Wind; thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, –
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed –
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow –
Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odors plain and hill: –
Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh, hear! –
Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean, –
Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aery surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head –
Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge –
Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might –
Of vapors, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh, hear! –
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams, –
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day, –
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers –
Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know –
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh, hear! –
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share –
The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be –
The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven –
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed! –
A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. –
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies –
Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! –
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse, –
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened earth –
The trumpet of a prophecy! O, Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind! –
– Percy Bysshe Shelley
Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
with any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.
To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—the
ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
Walt Whitman, 1819 – 1892
A Bird came down the Walk
A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his Velvet HeadLike one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
Leap, plashless as they swim.