In a reaction to the rational, conformist conventions of the Augustans, writers and artists of the Romantic era advocated the transcendence of rationality through a sublime and imaginative connection with the natural world. This emancipation from traditional social and moral restraints informed their literary, artistic and philosophical pursuits. It was these qualities that marked the movement as unique in the history of European intellectual discourse. Romanticism derived largely from the ‘transcendental idealism’ of Emmanuel Kant, which proposed that things exist outside the intellect that we simply cannot comprehend through pure reason.
Three Romantic texts – Samual Taylor Coleridge's poems 'This Lime Tree Bower My Prison' and 'Kubla Khan' and Joseph Turner's painting Snowstorm: steamboat off a harbour's mouth – reveal how the human imaginative appreciation of the natural world is able to transcend physical limitations as well as the restrictions of technology and logic.
Coleridge, in particular, was a true proponent of the Romantic tradition. He described the uniting of reason and feeling as ‘intellectual intuition’ and saw imagination as ‘the ultimate synthesising faculty, enabling humans to reconcile differences and opposites in a world of appearances.’ His poem 'This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison' clearly exemplifies the power of the imagination, combined with the redeeming and regenerative power of nature, which enables him to overcome the isolation of egotism.
The intimate, personal nature of this conversation poem engages the reader as they are transported with the poet to new locations and perhaps themselves transformed. Coleridge presents an idealised view of pastoral England with vividness, intensity and delicacy, thereby stimulating the senses and the mind. Colours used to evoke mood and imagery, 'blue betwixt two Isles Of purple shadow!' is integral throughout. His vision is visceral, bringing enlightenment and contentment to the poet and the...
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