The Characteristics of Romantic Poetry

The Romantic Movement lasted from about 1750 to about 1870, is often defined as second Renaissance. Romanticism cannot be identified with a single style, technique, or attitude, but romantic writing is generally characterized by a highly imaginative and subjective approach, emotional intensity, freedom of thought and expression, an idealization of nature, and a dreamlike or visionary quality.

 The Romantic Movement is both a revolt and revival .This movement in literature and the revolutionary idealism in European politics are both generated by the same human craving for freedom from traditions and tyranny. The Romantic Movement revives the poetic ideals of love, beauty, emotion, imagination, romance and beauty of Nature. Keats celebrates beauty, Shelley adores love, Wordsworth glorifies nature Byron idealizes humanism, Scott revives the medieval lore and Coleridge amalgamates supernatural. As a result, the Romantic Movement revolts against the ideals, principles, intellectualism, aristocracy and technicality of Augustan period and smoothed the run of broad emotional gallery of substance relinquishing the rigidity of ‘form’. 

  From sociological and political perspective it is not unfair to say that Romanticism and French Revolution are synonymous. In fact, Rousseau’s social theory roughly embodies in the familiar phrase of ‘the return to nature’ while the battle cry of French Revolution – liberty, equality and Fraternity – are influential on the youthful imagination of Romantic poets. Read More Romantic Period Rousseau establishes the cult of the individual and championed the freedom of the human spirit. Rousseau’s sentimental influence touches Blake, Wordsworth and Coleridge; his intellectual influence Godwin, and through Godwin Shelly. Byron and Shelley also share the champion of liberty and revolutionary idealism. A wonderful humanitarian enthusiasm and gorgeous dream of progress and perfection are thus kindled in ardent young souls. This is the central creed of Romantic poetry. Here is the prophecy of a new day, forwarding immediately into an era of realized democratic ideals –
          “The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
          If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
                                                (Ode To The West Wind – Shelley)

          The other most important feature of Romantic poetry is emotionalism. Here is effusion of feelings, emotions and heartfelt appreciation of beauty in all form – human or natural. Read More Romantic Period It springs from the heart and makes an appeal to the heart. It is spontaneous and natural, and no laboured exercise. The preface to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (1800), by English poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the prime importance as a manifesto of literary romanticism, affirms the importance of feeling and imagination to poetic creation and disclaimed conventional literary forms and subjects. Thus imagination, emotions ,intuition rolls over to the literary output of sensibility and passion.

          Lyricism, rather than intellectual or satirical, is the basic preoccupation of Romantic poetry. Here is the full expression of one’s own personal feelings and sentiments towards an object. As such there is an abundance of lyrics, songs, sonnets, odes, and egotistical poems in Romantic poetry. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats and Byron are all famous lyrical poets. All these lyrics favour subjectivity, emotionalism, impulse and free play of imagination. Such intensity of feeling can be read in Shelley’s To A Skylark:

We look before and after,
          And pine for what is not;
          Our sincerest laughter
          With some pain is fraught
Our sweetest songs are those that tells of saddest thought.

          In their choice of subject matter, the romantics showed an affinity for nature, especially its wild and mysterious aspects, and for exotic, melancholic, and melodramatic subjects likely to evoke awe or passion.Read More Romantic Period  Nature comes to the new light in Romantic poetry. It takes the widest possible connotation. Nature, for the Romantic poets, includes landscape, trees, plants, hills, rivers, mountains as well as rural folks together with their cottages, sheep, goats and rural festivals. Keats visualizes its nature; Shelley intellectualizes; Wordsworth mystifies and Byron revolutionizes it. Wordsworth, the worshiper and high priest of Nature, thus says –
          “ ………….. and that I, so long
          A worshipper of Nature, hither come
          Unwearied in that service; rather say
          With warmer love – Oh! With far deeper zeal
          Of holier love …..”
                                                ( Tintern Abbey- William Wordsworth )

          The medieval age – the magic of distance, spirit of adventure, knight – errant, duels, battles and tournaments and voyages over unchartared seas offer a store-house of fascination for Romantic poets. Coleridge creates a ‘make believe world’ on the doctrine of willing suspension of disbelief. Keats explores Hellenism as if a Greek born in England. This lure of exotic is everywhere in their text.

          Apart from these the pictorial quality, the subtle harmony of phrase, extensive use of poetic imagery and simplicity of diction are the other characteristics of Romantic poetry.

          Thus both in manner and matter Romantic poetry are far different from Augustan Age. Read More Romantic Period Though the Romantic age and literature stops with the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne of England in 1837, its spirit is still relevant in present day literary production.

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