Romantic Poetry #
It is important to distinguish between Romance/Romantic and Romanticism.
Romance: A story told in a long poem in a Romance language such as French, Italian or Spanish dealing with chivalry, love and adventure.
Romantic: A glorified way of seeing life; unrealistic. Also a romantic story can be a love story, while to feel romantic is to seek affection and intimacy.
Romanticism: The movement in thinking that values the individual, nature, common language and imagination.
The Romantic Movement was a reaction against the Age of Reason and the Metaphysical period. It affected many areas of human thought, influenced by the Philosophers and spreading to other genres in the arts such as painting, music, novels, drama and poetry as well as politics especially the rise of Nationalism. Romantic Art flourished following the French Revolution, when all things seemed possible and life was on a trajectory of unlimited improvement heading towards perfectibility and the ultimate triumph of good. Romanticism celebrated the individual imagination and intuition in the enduring search for individual rights and liberty. It believed that Nature was good and therefore the ideal of goodness was a natural state achievable by man.
Romantics like Wordsworth claims man is a reflection of nature, however Coleridge disputes this by writing:
O Lady, we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone doth Nature live…
Romantic forms were organic rather than mechanical, the application of this paradigm to literature is evident in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan where nature’s garden is contrasted with the best man can envisage.
Romanticism inspired the sublime; the grandeur of natural phenomena in wild natural scenery, before which we feel dwarfed, insignificant and terrified, and yet simultaneously uplifted, exhilarated and transcendent. Machu Pichu springs to mind.
Epic poetry, Homer et. El. And Great drama, Shakespeare, the Gothic Cathedrals and ancient ruins also elevate our spirits.
Artists love to paint ancient ruins surrounded by picturesque vegetation contrasting the power of nature with the frailty and transience of human ambition. Christopher Allen -Weekend Australian Review.
As in most areas of thinking, Hegel’s dialectic emerges where each dominant ideology (the thesis) is challenged by a reaction (The antithesis) resulting in a conflict resolved by a compromise (the synthesis) which eventually achieves domination to become the new thesis. Then the whole process begins again with a conflict of opposites.
Matthew Arnold was one of the first poet/critics in the mid Victorian era to question whether Romantic poetry dealt with the real complexity of ideas and life;
“English poetry of the 1 (st)quarter of the century, with plenty of energy, plenty of creative force, - did not know enough”.
Among many things, it was the Industrial Revolution and later the ferocity and wanton destruction of WWI that rocked the sensibilities of the Romantics forcing them to reevaluate their fanciful assumptions, creating doubt and disillusionment on a massive scale.Thinkers (Philosophers)
Rousseau - Challenged the absolute faith in reason and proclaimed “conscience” – not rationalism – the true guide of man.
Hume - emphasised mankind’s sentiments and affections.
Kant - exalted idealism and external values.
Burke - Rejected simple mathematical laws of Newtonian Science as an oversimplification of society. Human relationships too intricate and complex.
Hegel - Loyalty to nation; the only freedom.– Influenced nationalism
- Reason and order of classical literature
- Stilted artificial and affected verse of Pope and Milton.
- Industrialism and urbanization
- Classical allusions
- Colour and vigour of the Bible, Homer, Shakespeare
- Belonging to Nature – harmonious and connected to the great spirit – God.
- Language of the common man (vernacular) rather than the erudite, the formal or the language of the gods.
- Emotions, feelings and experience more important than reason or argument.
- Imagination, creativity, fantasy and the senses were more important than logical reasoning to find ultimate reality.
- Supremacy of the individual. Romanticism celebrated the individual imagination and intuition in the enduring search for individual rights and liberty. Conversely Romanticism was also used to subject individuals to the national interests.
Romanticism praised: #
Romantics looked at the world around them to visualise truth. They used a holistic approach; the mind, especially imagination and inspiration, all their five senses, and a transcendence that pierced the external appearance and revealed the core or essence of things. Imagination is intimately connected with a special insight, perception or intuition.
Reason and logic only allow us to see the outside of matter no the essence.
In The Making Of Poetry: Coleridge the Wordsworths - Adam Nicolson examines the intense creative period which started in the summer of 1797 and ended in Autumn 1798. Two obscure British poets spend several months in the Somerset countryside, distracted only by walks and meals and long discussions about poetry. A new vernacular poetry movement is born and the lives of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge are forever changed.
Critical to the rise of this strain of English Romanticism was Dorothy Wordsworth, William’s sister, who prompted and prodded her 20-something companions in their discovery of the natural world.
A number of early Romantic works were written under the influence of opium, including, famously, the poem Kubla Khan (1816) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), who became a serious addict, consuming up to four quarts of laudanum (tincture of opium) a week. The drug’s impact was recorded in detail by Thomas de Quincey (1785-1859) in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821). Opium distorted perceptions of time and space and heightened emotional experience, something that strengthened its appeal to the Romantics. Whereas the Enlightenment had stressed the need to subordinate the emotions to the intellect, Romanticism instead stressed feeling as the fundamental source of truth and authenticity and their expression in art. Wanderer above the sea of fog – Caspar David Friedrich