Romanticism in English Poetry

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ROMANTIC AGE:

The Romantic period lasts about forty years, from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Reform Act of 1832. Sometimes called the Age of Revolutions; the American Revolution took place in 1776 and its spirit of freedom affects the whole world.

It was also the Reign of Terror, which began in 1793, the period of Napoleon, most Europe was in war against France. We can consider the romantics poets of war; Society was changing rapidly, the industrial revolution change the way of life known until this epoch, free trade was growing stronger, new middle class become powerful and a numerous quantity of movement promoting a greater freedom. But the change was slow, even worst for the poor, who has moved from the country to the cities, the Napoleon final battle of Waterloo in 1815 left many soldiers unemployed, and many social problems took over these years (Peterloo massacre, 1819). In literature, poets wanted a revolution too, Wordsworth and Coleridge changed the way poetry was conceived in contrast with the period that came before, the Augustan Age. A change in the vocabulary used in the poems, much simpler than in the Augustans. Now, emotions were important, the feelings and the imagination, in despite of reason and intellect. The indivual rather than the society.

Some of the most important Romantic poets are:

William Blake (1757 -1827) had a very individual view of the world, a style that contrasts with the Augustan order and control . His best-known work, Songs of Innocence and Experience was published in 1794. An important characteristic of this set of poems if their simplicity, but symbolic; The lamb as a symbol of innocence, the tiger as the symbol of mistery:

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost Thou know who made thee?
(The Lamb)

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What inmortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
(The Tyger)

Later, his poems became more symbollicaly complex, showing a contrast between a world of nature and childhood innocence and a world of social control. Unlike Wordsworth, who showed the positive side of things, Blake is much more concerned in social and political issues.

William Wordsworth's poetry is so personal, in The Prelude,his autobiographical poem, studying the growth of the poet's mind, which now, it is the hero. Its purpose was to explore the psychology of a poet and what forces lead him to poetic utterance and the development of Romantic imagination.

Romantic poets believed that the life of the individual spirit was important. Unlike Augustans, which used some specific poetic patterns, the Wordsworth main issue is to portray situations of common life, using a language used by men, a very simple and direct language. For instance:

A slumber did my spirit seal;
I had no human fears;

She seemed a thing that would not feel
the touch of the earthly years
(A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal)

Most common themes in the Wordsworth works are nature and ordinary people, but above alll he was concerned about human memory as it is the one that give life to our experiences.

Wordsworth worked intensely with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Both worked in Lyrical Ballads, even if they are very different poets; Wordsworth poetry is more about common, simple life, instead, Coleridge poetry is more about the extraordinary and supernatural world. From the four poems of Coleridge in Lyrical Ballads, his best known work is The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, a poem where a sailor tells the story of how he shot a white bird, while he is trapped in his ship, he understands that he must suffer for what he has done, he cannot drink water until his soul is refreshed.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

In Christabel and in Kubla Khan, Coleridge creates magnificient...
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