The Characteristics of Romantic Poetry
The Romantic Movement lasted from about 1750 to about 1870, is often defined as second Renaissance. Romanticism cannot be identified with a single style, technique, or attitude, but romantic writing is generally characterized by a highly imaginative and subjective approach, emotional intensity, freedom of thought and expression, an idealization of nature, and a dreamlike or visionary quality.
The Romantic Movement is both a revolt and revival .This movement in literature and the revolutionary idealism in European politics are both generated by the same human craving for freedom from traditions and tyranny. The Romantic Movement revives the poetic ideals of love, beauty, emotion, imagination, romance and beauty of Nature. Keats celebrates beauty, Shelley adores love, Wordsworth glorifies nature Byron idealizes humanism, Scott revives the medieval lore and Coleridge amalgamates supernatural. As a result, the Romantic Movement revolts against the ideals, principles, intellectualism, aristocracy and technicality of Augustan period and smoothed the run of broad emotional gallery of substance relinquishing the rigidity of ‘form’. From sociological and political perspective it is not unfair to say that Romanticism and French Revolution are synonymous. In fact, Rousseau’s social theory roughly embodies in the familiar phrase of ‘the return to nature’ while the battle cry of French Revolution – liberty, equality and Fraternity – are influential on the youthful imagination of Romantic poets. Rousseau establishes the cult of the individual and championed the freedom of the human spirit. Rousseau’s sentimental influence touches Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge; his intellectual influence Godwin, and through Godwin Shelly. Byron and Shelley also share the champion of liberty and revolutionary idealism. A wonderful humanitarian enthusiasm and gorgeous dream of progress and perfection are thus kindled in ardent young souls. This is the central creed of Romantic poetry. Here is the prophecy of a new day, forwarding immediately into an era of realized democratic ideals – “The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” (Ode To The West Wind – Shelley)
The other most important feature of Romantic poetry is emotionalism. Here is effusion of feelings, emotions and heartfelt appreciation of beauty in all form – human or natural. It springs from the heart and makes an appeal to the heart. It is spontaneous and natural, and no laboured exercise. The preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), by English poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the prime importance as a manifesto of literary romanticism, affirms the importance of feeling and imagination to poetic creation and disclaimed conventional literary forms and subjects. Thus imagination, emotions ,intuition rolls over to the literary output of sensibility and passion.
Lyricism, rather than intellectual or satirical, is the basic preoccupation of Romantic poetry. Here is the full expression of one’s own personal feelings and sentiments towards an object. As such there is an abundance of lyrics, songs, sonnets, odes, and egotistical poems in Romantic poetry. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Byron are all famous lyrical poets. All these lyrics favour subjectivity, emotionalism, impulse and free play of imagination. Such intensity of feeling can be read in Shelley’s To A Skylark:
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught
Our sweetest songs are those that tells of saddest thought.
In their choice of subject matter, the romantics showed an affinity for nature, especially its wild and mysterious aspects, and for exotic, melancholic, and melodramatic subjects likely to evoke...
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