Poetry Analysis - Coleridge, Tennyson, Hopkins, and Wordsworth

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The Romantic poet Percy Shelley once wrote, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.” Both the Romantic and the Victorian periods of poetry followed Shelley’s vision of poetry as they exposed their respective societal issues. Romantic period lasted from1785 to 1830, a time in which England moved from an agrarian to industrial country and overall nationalistic ideals threatened the individuality of the poets and artists. The Romantic period of poetry was therefore very reactionary. It was a reaction to enlightenment ideas, to the disregard for human life in revolutions, and to the uniform of nationalism. The decay of social values that took place in the latter part of the Victorian period spurred many writers to shift the context of their work from the Romantic natural forms to education, women’s rights, and political ideologies. Though both periods produced a momentous achievements in structure, language, and musicality of the poetic movement, the Romantic period effectuated an extreme feat in poetry in a mere fifty years.

Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a Romantic ballad in seven parts, with fairly regular quatrains. Its short sentence structure develops steady movement, allowing to the reader’s engagement to grow as the tale progresses and the speaker’s message is unveiled. The tetrameter structure reveals an explanation of the title; the Ancient Mariner orally recites his tale, teaching a universal lesson on nature’s value and the earth’s deserving of respect. Coleridge uses both dialogue and varying perspective to establish a credibility in his work. An omniscient narrator speaks of an instance where the “bright-eyed” Mariner tells his story to a wedding-guest and the effect the tale has on him; “a sadder and a wiser man, / He rise the morrow morn” (Coleridge 624-625). Coleridge often utilizes the effect of exclamation points when the Mariner is speaking to convey his passion, as in “Farewell, farewell! but this I tell / To thee, thou Wedding-Guest! / He prayeth well, who loveth well / Both man and bird and beast” (610-613). By capitalizing the first letter in various important words, Coleridge successfully enables to the reader to interpret a symbolic meaning behind the select terms. For instance, “Albatross,” though not a proper noun, is capitalized in each reference he makes to the creature yet when referring to the “water-snakes” and the “sky-lark” Coleridge does not capitalize the terms as they hold less symbolic value in the Mariner’s tale.

‘Is this the man?
By him who died on cross,
With his cruel bow he laid full low
The harmless Albatross.

The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow,
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow.’
(Coleridge 397-405)
The Albatross is capitalized to depict the pure innocence and divinity of nature and God’s creations. Further interpretation also shows Coleridge’s capitalization of the Albatross to allude to Jesus Christ.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” is a comforting and uplifting Victorian Era poem about the end of life’s journey. Tennyson’s calm language and peaceful imagery envelop the reader in consoling compassion rather than a miserable mourning at the thought of a loved-one's passing. He introduces the dwindling of life’s candle as he opens with a metaphor beautifully comparing life ending and death to “sunset and evening star” (Tennyson 1). Hoping for the end to be as painless as the sunset Tennyson alludes to the sound of the ocean thrusting against the sandbar, “And may there be no moaning of the bar, / When I put out to sea” (Tennyson 3-4). Tennyson’s word choice throughout the extended metaphor of this poem impels the reader to think carefully about what his meaning is, rather than take the literal sense. For instance, when Tennyson refers to turning “home again” his home is not...
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