The Romantic sonnet holds in its topics the ideals of the time period, concentrating on emotion, nature, and the expression of "nothing." The Romantic era was one that focused on the commonality of humankind and, while using emotion and nature, the poets and their works shed light on people's universal natures. In Charlotte Smith's "Sonnet XII - Written on the Sea Shore," the speaker of the poem embodies two important aspects of Romantic work in relating his or her personal feelings and emotions and also in having a focused and detailed natural setting. The speaker takes his or her "solitary seat" near the shore of a stormy sea and reflects upon life and the "wild gloomy scene" that suits the "mournful temper" of his or her soul (ll.4, 7,8). While much Romantic writing dealt with love and the struggles endured due to love, there was also emphasis placed on isolation, as seen in the emotions of Smith's speaker and also in the setting on the work. Nature, in many Romantic sonnets, is in direct parallel with the emotions being conveyed. Smith, for example, uses the water to aid the reader's comprehension of the speaker's state of mind. Included in this traditional natural setting is the use of the sea as stormy, deep, extensive, and dark which ties the speaker in with the setting as the scene applies to the tone of the poem as well. Also characteristic of the Romantic sonnet is the retreat from the neo-classical age and its significant historical references into a new age where it becomes common to speak of "nothing." In William Wordsworth's "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," there is no deeper meaning to be grasped other than the beauty of the day's dawning. The speaker's view of the morning and its "majesty" and the "calm" that comes over the speaker are central ideas in the poem (ll. 3, 11). In this sonnet, it is again apparent how influential and prevalent nature is.
The reflection upon simplicity runs through many...
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