031 Term Paper
June 6, 2011
Two Generations Apart
Throughout time, literature has always been used as an outlet for debate and discussion of structural flaws. Thus, the poets of the Romantic period sought to change society’s neoclassic state of mind by breaking away from reliance on reasoning and instead encouraging individualism, using imagination and emotion as inspiration. Initially, Romantic poetry became the antithesis of classical poety as the poets soley challenged the established precepts of the Age of Reason by creating their own manifesto of composing poetry. However, as the English began to revolt against the principles of the French Revolution, which originally sparked this movement, a new generation of poets evolved. Rather than only focusing on defying the works of Neoclassic times, these poets strove to attack the established social order of their time. As this generation of poets longed for social and political stability, they began to reach out to artworks of the past to give them hope for a better future. Despite the common, underlying themes of emotion, nature, and imagination in Romantic poetry, two distinct generations arose during this period as the first-generation Romantics strictly focused on establishing a new form of poetry that differed from their Neoclassic counterparts, while the second-generation Romantics used poetry as a vessel to explore the relationship between art and life.
During the Romantic Period, poets from both generations challenged man’s reliance on rationality as they began to emphasis emotions over reason. As this shift occurred, the search for a creative force or spirit that lies only within a man’s inner self became apparent in the works of Romantic poets. In one of his poems, William Wordsworth seeks this supreme force as he cries out, “Wisdom and Spirit of the universe!/ Thou Soul, that art the Eternity of thought!” (“Influence of Natural Objects”, lines 1-2, RPO). He personifies the universe and seeks its power to draw out this inner spirit within him, for the universe can shape and fill his mind with purifying images of natural beauty. Similarly, Samuel Coleridge describes “[his] feeling heart, [his] searching soul” as he dedicates himself to this great, unknown force (“Ode to Tranquillity”, line 26, Columbia Grangers). He hopes to “trace/ The greatness of some future race” through this spirit “within [himself]” rather than “scan/ The present works of present man--…/Too foolish for a tear, too wicked for a smile” (“Ode to Tranquillity”, lines 31-33, Columbia Grangers). As the Romantic poets began to focus on the power of human emotions, they rejected the authoritative precepts of their classical precedents who concentrated greatly on logic and reasoning. Wordsworth rebukes society’s reliance on rationality as he says, “Enough of Science and of Art;/ Close up those barren leaves;/ Come forth, and bring with you a heart/ That watches and receives” (“The Tables Turned”, lines 29-32, RPO). He strongly urges his friend to turn away from meaningless books and learn through feeling the heart. Thus, the Romantics surpassed logical reasoning by expanding their knowledge through the use of imagination as a gateway to express their emotions. Personifying a cloud, Percy Shelley uses first person narrative as he imagines a cloud’s experience in nature. To the cloud, the moon becomes an “orbèd maiden with white fire laden” who “glides glimmering o'er [the cloud’s] fleece-like floor” (“The Cloud”, lines 45-47, RPO). Shelley introduces a new point of view to his readers that allows them to emotionally identify with natural objects around them rather than to analyze. The Romantic poets “called for a greater attention to the emotions as a necessary supplement to purely logical reason” (Flesch 2). As poets began to emphasis the significance of emotions during this time, a new focus emerged among British poets.
Usually overlooked by the materialistic society of...