Romanticism in english literature and art




Romanticism in english literature and art




Romanticism was considered an age of change, in a context dominated by reason and common sense after the age of Enlightenment. It was the age of poetry, poets had a mighty power, like prophets, and their mission was to help people in experiencing. To do it, they wrote down the feelings they had felt and meditated, with the aim that also people can feel them through reading. The language became simple, like the spoken language of common people. The most important figures of this movement were Wordsworth and Coleridge, and their principal features were imagination, individualism, introspection, melancholy and a deep interest for the beauty that nature reveals.


The egotistical sublime

The spirit of the Romantic Period was interested in exploring the new possibilities of outlook, interest and behaviour. The themes of the Pre-Romantic poets, as Blake, were recovered and increased. The use of imagination became the most important element suitable for the expression of emotions without reason. The limitless possibilities of the human mind were celebrated to penetrate the “subconscious” levels. The childhood assumed importance as a period of the human life purer that the adulthood due to his freedom from civilisation. This aspect of Romanticism carried to an individualism of men, with an exaltation of atypical, outcast and rebel. This led to the cult of hero and to a disappointment at the society. Romantics resumed Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s idea of the “natural man”, driven by an impulsive behaviour, in contrast with the behaviour driven by reason and the rules of society. Rousseau’s theory influences also the “cult of exotic” that make danger, disaster and adventure, the symbols of the Romantic descriptions.


Reality and Vision

At the end of the 18th century had been a nascent appreciation of magical power of imagination and in the Early Romanticism of naturalness, spontaneity and primitiveness. The Romantic poets became able to see beyond surface reality driven by Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s philosophy. The poet could re-create and modify the external world of experience; as a visionary prophet or as a teacher he could mediate between man and nature, see the evils of society and tell about the ideals of beauty, truth and freedom. The nature, seen as a living force, became the main source of inspiration for the poets. The features of the poetic texts changed in this period: the metre, the rhyme, symbols and images became essential. There was a return to forms of ballad, sonnet, blank verse and lyric poems.
The Romantic poets can be divided in two generation: the first one, called “the Lake poets”, included William Wordsworth and S.T. Coleridge; The poets of the first generation were characterised by the attempt to theorise about poetry. They also supported the French Revolution with his ideas of freedom and equality, but they were disillusioned of the results of the Industrial Revolution after the Napoleonic wars.


William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Wordsworth used in his works an artificial, elevated and difficult language that he called Poetic Diction. In the Lyrical Ballads he affirmed his idea of poetry: poetry should deal with everyday situations or incidents and with humble, simple and rural people. Even the language should be simple and real. He decided to speak about simple people because they are more spontaneous and because the poet should deal with things that interested normal people.
With the power of his imagination, the poet can see the real nature of things and he have to teach to the other people how to understand their feelings and to live in a moral way. Wordsworth is also interested in the relationships between man’s consciousness and nature rather than in a realistic description of natural events: nature is always linked with human feelings and emotions. Man and nature are inseparable and man is an active part of nature. Nature comforts man in sorrow, it is a source of pleasure and joy, it teaches man to love and to live in a moral way. Nature can be known by sensations that lead to simple thoughts, which later combine into complex and organised ideas.
These three stages of knowledge correspond to the three ages of the man: childhood, youth and adulthood. Wordsworth regarded childhood as the most important stage (The child is father to the man) because children use imagination and can understand better nature. The poet also uses Child’s experiences with the employ of Memory. Through the re-creative power of memory, the emotions are reproduced and purified in poetic form in order to generate another emotion linked to the first in the reader (Emotions recollected in tranquillity).


A certain colouring of imagination

In this preface to the second edition of lyrical ballads, regarded as the Manifesto of English Romanticism, Wordsworth expresses a new concept of poetry.
The passage starts with the author’s objective: choose incidents and situations from common life and describe them through a language really used by men. He also wants to throw over them a definite colouring of imagination, to present these common experiences to the mind in an unusual way. He chooses low and rustic life because in that condition our elementary feelings co-exist in a state of grater simplicity and, therefore, can be more accurately contemplated. The description of poet that the author gives is “a man speaking to men”: he however has a more lively sensibility, enthusiasm and already a greater knowledge of human nature. He has acquired a greater readiness and power in expressing what he thinks and feels, and especially those thoughts and feelings which take place in him without immediate external excitement. So poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, originates from an emotion and allows man to feel better nature.



The poem opens with the poem wandering in a state of loneliness and mindedness, as a cloud that isn’t fully related to the world around us. The sight of the daffodils busts this mood, and his unconscious mind starts to work: it allows him to order the experience, giving it coherence and vividness. Wordsworth spends no words on a detailed description of the daffodils, but places them in relationship to the lake and threes: the curve they describe along the lake is related by poet’s active intelligence to the very curve of the heavens.
In the second stanza the author shows the daffodils as a part of universal order: only man, inside the whole creation, seems the only creature that is capable of feeling not at home, as a cloud. Both the dancing flowers and the stars that twinkle exhibits joy, by the pot’s use of personification.
The daffodils are then compared with the waves on the lake, which also dance, thought not with so much glee (gaty) as the flowers. The breeze is important as a symbol of the creative activity of the poet: the light wind as the poetic glee, which is blowing through the poet’s mind. The experience of the poet is not limited to the immediate pleasure of the intellectual delight in the scene observed.
In the fourth stanza there’s the description of poet’s capability to recall this coherent and delightful experience at future times. Through poet’s ability, the hearth of the reader can feel in the future the joy that Wordsworth experienced when he observed the dancing of daffodils in the breeze.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

Coleridge wanted to speak about extraordinary and supernatural events in a credible way. He thought that unnatural events were originated by natural events, so they were always linked with everyday life and they could be considered real.
He stressed the role of imagination as the faculty that controls creative power. There is a distinction to make between “primary” and “secondary” imagination. The first is a perception of creation, by way of the poet can create the infinite and he also can have a perception of it despite his mind is finite. With this kind of imagination the poet can go beyond the normal appearances of things. Through secondary imagination the poet can create another reality and build a new world, driven by the power of opium. Fancy is less important then imagination, because it is connected with memory: it enables the poet to put various “ingredients” into beautiful images.
Coleridge wasn’t pantheistic, as Wordsworth: he did not identify Nature with the divine. He was bigot. He saw nature as the reflection of the perfect world of “Ideas” on the flux of time (like Plato). Natural images carried abstract meanings and Coleridge used them in his visionary poems.
Coleridge used archaic and complex language, connected with old ballads, rich in alliteration, repetition and onomatopoeia.


The rime of the ancient mariner

This poem is made up of seven parts and is set in a boundless sea with days of pitiless sun and nights lit by the moon.
It is introduced by an “argument” which contains a short summary of the whole poem: a ship in the austral hemisphere was driven by storms to Antarctica, after she made her course to the Tropic of Capricorn in the Pacific Ocean, a lot of strange things befall but the ancient Mariner can already came back to his own country.
The first part presents an old, lonely ancient Mariner who compels one member of a group on their way to a wedding party, to listen to his story. The mariner appears from nowhere, his beard is long and grey, and he has glittering eyes and skinny hands. When the mariner stops him, the wedding guest immediately tries to ignore the old man, and he quivers with anxiety during all this initial poem’s part: as Coleridge says, “he cannot choose but hear” because of the glittering eyes of the mariner. This last starts to tell his story: he sailed with his ship to the south direction, with good wind and fair weather; but after a little time a strong storm-blast came, and directed the ship more and more southward, while the sailors couldn’t do anything to change their course. In conclusion the ship reached the land of ice, full of fearful sounds and where no living things was to be seen. In this landscape of desolation the albatross, a great sea bird, came through the fog and was received with a great hospitality, as a symbol of god. Immediately a south wind sprung up, so the ship could return northward while the albatross followed it, accepting the food that mariners offered him and playing with them, even in mist and clouds. But the mariner, a day, kills the big sea bird shooting him with his crossbow.
The third part presents the mariner and his fellows losing all hope, till a ship is seen approaching from the west. Was passed many time since the mariner’s crime, and the sailors are pervaded by thirst and their eyes are glazed. When the mariner looks westward sees something approaching: it seems a ship, and because of his dehydrated throat cannot call the ship or warn his fellows, he bit his arm and sucked his blood. But when the moment of joy passed, the mariners started to reflect how the approaching ship could move without a breeze or tide. When it is more near, the ship looks like a phantom, and it is burning; its sailors are two skeletons, the Death and Life-in-Death. They have diced for the ship’s crew, and the Life-in-Death won the ancient mariner. All the shipmates drop down death, and when their souls flied away from their corpses, they passed the mariner’s body like the wizz of his crossbow.


John Keats (1795-1821)

Keats is the greatest member of the second generation of Romantic poets who blossomed early and died young. He is romantic in his relish for sensation, his feeling for the Middle ages, his love for greek civilization

Keats was born in London at the end of October 1795 and he was the first of four children. His father was a stable-keeper, but both his parent died when he was a schoolboy; one brother died for tubercolosis wen he  was 23, another brother emigrated to America an the guardian of his sister didn’t allowed him to see her.
Keats matured rapidly both as a man and as a poet. Also if he obtained a certificate authorizing to pratice as an apothecary, he devoted his life to poetry. In 1816 he met Leigh Hunt, a radical journalist who, with the help of SHELLY, published Keats’ first volume of verse: POEMS, BY JHON KEATS; the book was not a succes and was well recived only by a few appreciative friend.
A second phase in Keats’ poetry is marked by the composition and publication of ENDYMION: A POETIC ROMANCE, in four book. The story, taken from greek mytology, tells of Endymion falling in love witht the moon. Keats himself was dissatisfied with Endymion, which he described in the preface as a “feverish attemp was attacked rather tahn a deed accomplisheed”. This work was attacked by conservative critics in 1818 in the most autoritative literary magazine (“Quarterly Review”); this produced a violent effect on his mind, but he continued to write.
At the age of 24, he felt in love with a joung girl, Funny Brawne but they couldn’t marry because of pecuniary difficulties. In this period he wrote all his best poety, and it is astounding that in a short space of time he had a so great moral, intellectual and artistic development.
In July 1820 appeared his third and last volume of poetry: LAMIA, ISABELLA, THE EYE OF ST.AGNES, AND OTHER POEMS. It is the most memorable achievements in English poetry in the 1800. The volume contained, besides the tales in verse recorded in the title, the infinished poem of HYPERION AND ALL KEATS’ GREAT ODES. For their richness of colour, musical suggestiveness, purity, and perfection of language, the tales in verse are one example of Keats’ supreme artist. But it is in the odes, in which the perfection of form combines with a deeper and tragic sense of uman experience.
The central theme of the best odes is the romantic sense of a conflict between the real and the ideal, between the uman desire of a life of  beauty and happiness after death and the thought that is the ultimate reality of man’s existence in the word. His aestetic philosophy is expressed in ODE ON A GRECIAN URN. The urn is decorated with three scenes, which are a perfect work of art. Keats’ message is contained in the two last lines of the ode: “poetry is truth beauty . That is all he know on earth, and all he need to know”. Here he doesn’t refer factuar realty but to the truth of art.
LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI, written in 1819 is a literary ballad. The story tells about a mortal who falls in love whit supernatural being, who is a beautiful lady who attracts and destroys lovers with her supernatural powers. The theme is love as an illusion which can be destructive.
The second and last attempt to write a long narrative poem is HIPERION. Keats wrote it under Paradise Lost influence, but he didn’t like work and dropped it because he realised that the artificial language of Milton wasn’t congenial to him. But Hyperion is a beauttiful epic fragment, indeed one of the best modern recreation of ancient myth.
After the splended achievemen of the years 1819-1820, Keats realised that he was doomed to an early death. In March of 1820 his physician order him to give up all work and in September he went in Italy to try to recover his health. In Rome he took lodgings at No. 26 of Piazza di Spagna, but he died on Febrary 23rd 1821 and was buried in the Protestant Cemetry of Roma, with the words: ”Here lies one whose name was write in water”.
He died at 25, and it is in some of his poem that English romantic poetry scems to reach the acme of artistic perfection; none possessed a comparable awarness of the poet’s work. Keats has become a symbolic figure in English litterature, the figure of an artist who regards his life as a priesthood in the service of poetry and poetry as a religion.


Author : not indicated on the document source


Romanticism in english literature and art



Visita la nostra pagina principale


Romanticism in english literature and art



This site is not a news organization and is updated without any periodicity, solely on the basis of availability of material, so is not an editorial product subject to discipline in art. 1, paragraph III of Law No. 62, 7.03.2001. The summaries, notes, lyrics and quotes contained on this site are available free of charge to students, researchers, professors, technicians with illustrative educational and scientific purposes with the concept of fair use and purpose of compliance with EU Directive 2001/29 / EC and the Law Article 633. Dlg 70 and 68. The site is managed and coordinated by the author only for informational and educational purposes. While considering the reliable sources used, the author of this site does not guarantee the accuracy and integrity of information and therefore accepts no responsibility for any problems or damage caused by errors or omissions, if such errors or omissions result from negligence , accident or other cause. All notes, quotes the texts and images are property of their respective authors and production companies that own the rights, if the beneficiaries were considered damaged by the inclusion of these files on this site or had been inadvertently inserted images, information, text or other copyrighted material will be immediately removed and or it will be referred to the source from simple message to the e-mail address indicated on the contact page.

The mission of this site is the progress of science and useful arts, as we think they are very important for our country's social and cultural benefits of the free sharing of information. All information and images on this site are used here only for educational purposes, cognitive and informative. The medicine and health information contained on this site is general in nature and informative purposes only and therefore can not replace in any case the advice of a doctor (or a legally authorized person to the profession). On this site we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of tools, calculators and information, we can not give a guarantee or be held responsible for any errors that were made, the texts used were taken from sites that have put them in available free of charge to make them known on the web with educational purposes. If you find an error on this site or if you find a text or tool that may violate any applicable laws of copyright, please notify us via e-mail and we will promptly remove it.




Romanticism in english literature and art