Romantic Orientalism

Topics: Romanticism, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley Pages: 5 (1594 words) Published: April 3, 2006
Romantic Orientalism during the Romantic period of writing is visible in "The Indian Serenade" by Percy Shelley, "The Little Black Boy" by William Blake, and "Lamia" by John Keats. The exaggerations, cultural expressions, references to African or Indian background, and fictional story lines and characters play as proof that Romantic Orientalism is pieced into these author's writings, considering these are characteristics of which Romantic Orientalism displays. Each author, Shelley, Blake, and Keats, all display different characteristics of these Romantic Orientalism qualities. First, Percy Shelley displays characteristics of Romantic Orientalism in his lyric "The Indian Serenade". Before even reading the lyric, the title gives the reader a hint of Romantic Orientalism, through the idea of looking through the eyes of a group of legendary people – the Indians. By the end of the lyric, it is possible to receive a mental picture of the surroundings that the Indian speaker sees, but if it were not for the title, the reader would not make the connection that this lyric is from an Indian's perspective. So since there is a title, it is possible to see other characteristics that suggest Orientalism. Another way this sense of Romantic Orientalism can be seen is through the abundant natural language that Shelley uses to describe the surroundings of the speaker. The speaker illustrates, "The wandering airs they faint / On the dark, the silent stream– / And the champak's odours"(Shelley). These words, amongst others presented in the lyric, paint a picture in the reader's mind of what it is like to take a walk on a beautiful Indian night. It presents the geographic display of a different reality not seen in the readers every day life, therefore creating the concept of Romantic Orientalism. This vivid description of the outside world also corresponds with the inner feelings that the speaker experiences. Throughout the lyric, there is much exaggeration of both environment and feeling. The speaker is overcome with emotion when he proclaims, "My heart beats loud and fast: / O press it to thine own again, / Where it will break at last!" (Shelley). The overwhelming amount of emotion is so extreme that the speaker falls to the ground and faints, hence he states, "O lift me from the grass! / I die! I faint! I fail!"(Shelley). The portrayal of the speaker's love is so extravagant that it overpowers the man both physically and emotionally, therefore once again the elaborate description of the world around. This exaggeration of emotion and atmosphere is a key indicator of Romantic Orientalism. By the end of the lyric, the reader will be able to realize the goal of the author, which is to portray how deeply in love the speaker is with this woman. So Shelley uses Romantic Orientalism in a way to connect with his readers. Another poem that illustrates characteristics of Romantic Orientalism is "The Little Black Boy" by William Blake. The first clue, like in "The Indian Serenade", is through the title, telling the reader immediately that this poem refers to a black boy. It is then learned in the first line that this boy was born in the "the southern wild"(Blake 84), which refers to Africa. This is a key indicator that this poem has a tone of Orientalism, because the author is going to proceed to display the culture of a boy from South Africa. From the beginning, the reader is asked by Blake to put oneself into the shoes of the boy as he describes his growing up in the world of whites. Being surrounded by English children has caused him to think of himself as being white, not on the outside but in his soul. This is presented when the boy informs, "And I am black, but O! my soul is white"(Blake 84) This helps the reader to realize that this boy has had to go through a lot of transitions in order to make this claim, because in Africa his whole culture was completely different. One of the main ways that this black boy comes to cope with the idea...

Cited: Feb. 2006 .
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