Romantic and Victorian Eras in British Literature
The Romantic Period, which included the years 1798-1832, was an era revolting against the 18th century literary style. The time period was filled with poets who dramatically poured their beliefs into their writings and poetry such as William Wordsworth, a very notable Romantic poet during this time period. In stark contrast, the Victorian Period was a time during which poets wrote about the environment that surrounded them, and tended to have a pessimistic view of life. Matthew Arnold, a Victorian poet, encompassed many of these qualities in his writing. The two poets, distinguished in two completely different time periods with different characteristics, had some literary commonalities, such as similar references to nature, their faith in God, and highly descriptive verses, despite obvious differences ("English Literature", 6-7).
William Wordsworth was a prominent Romantic poet. One of the first events in his life to influence his writing style and content was the French Revolution. The French Revolution symbolized the rebellion against the aristocracy in France. During this era, British Literature was in rebellion against its own current dominating writing style- neoclassical. This particular writing style had a rigid structure, used ornate and dignified vocabulary, and was directed towards the upper class of England. Wordsworth went back to France for a second trip, but returned emotionally depressed. He had to leave a lover and a daughter because of international strife between England and France. The French Revolution sparked Wordsworth's hunt for his own philosophical quandaries. However, he did not agree with his research, and ultimately thought up his own philosophy, which, with the help of his Romantic style, was employed throughout his poems and writings (Legouis, 4). His sister, Dorothy, with whom he was reunited with after his trip to France, further influenced Wordsworth. Wordsworth's nautical references and ocean metaphors were strongly influenced by his brother, who was a sailor and died in a shipwreck. His work is largely characterized today by his oneness with nature and bringing about a new relationship between man and nature (Encyclopedia of Literature "William Wordsworth"). Wordsworth's "Ode: Imitation of Immortality" is an exceptional example of Romantic poetry (Wordsworth "Complete Poetical Works"). The first most obvious characteristic of the poem that depicts its Romanticism is its strong references to Earth's natural life. For example, he writes about "the birds [singing] a joyous song," "the young lambs," and how "all the earth is gay;/Land and sea/Give themselves up to jollity." This poem, in particular, is written with amorous words for nature, like "I only have relinquish'd one delight/ To live beneath your more habitual sway." Wordsworth was in awe by the power and magnificence of nature, specifically in the last stanza of the poem. The poem also depicts Wordsworth's longing for the past beauty of life, which, during his lifetime, was slowly diminishing as a result of the Industrial Revolution. His despair is felt through his words: "The things which I have I can see no more." The ode, like most other Romantic poems, is full of imagery. Wordsworth uses imagery to share the beauty of nature with the reader. He especially helps the reader imagine the beauty of the sun in the lines "The clouds that gather round the setting sun/Do take a sober colouring from an eye" and in the beautifully written line, "Innocent brightness of a new-born Day." Wordsworth believed that love extended beyond nature and into families. Wordsworth's ode exemplifies such happiness in families in the lines "Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses," and "With light upon him from his father's eyes." Wordsworth also exemplified Romantic writing in his poem, " It is a beauteous evening, calm and free," a poem written for his daughter with whom he had...
Cited: Adams, Robert M. The Land and Literature of England. New York: W. W Norton & Company, 1983. 1-555.
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Legouis, Emile. "The French Revolution." The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes. 2000. Bartleby. 23 May 2006.
"Matthew Arnold." : Merriam-Webster 's Encyclopedia of Literature
"William Wordsworth." Merriam-Webster 's Encyclopedia of Literature. 1995. Literary Resource Center. 17 May 2006. Keyword: William Wordsworth.
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