Romantic poetry: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Romanticism largely began as a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment ideals of the day. Inevitably, the characterization of a broad range of contemporaneous poets and poetry under the single unifying name can be viewed more as an exercise in historical compartmentalization than an attempt to capture the essence of the actual ‘movement’. Indeed, the term “Romanticism” did not arise until the Victorian period. Nonetheless, poets such as William Wordsworth were actively engaged in trying to create a new kind of poetry that emphasized intuition over reason and the pastoral over the urban, often eschewing modern forms and language in an effort to use ‘new’ language. Romantic poetry referred to the natural aspects of the world, focusing on the feelings of sadness and great happiness. An early exponent was Robert Burns, who is generally classified as a proto-Romantic poet and influenced Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Burns's Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect was published in April 1786 and included "The Two Dogs," "Address to the Deil," "To a Mountain Daisy," and the widely anthologized "To a Mouse."

Wordsworth himself in the Preface to his and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads defined good poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” though in the same sentence he goes on to clarify this statement by asserting that nonetheless any poem of value must still be composed by a man “possessed of more than usual organic sensibility [who has] also thought long and deeply”.[1] Thus, though many people seize unfairly upon the notion of spontaneity in Romantic Poetry, one must realize that the movement was still greatly concerned with the pain of composition, of translating these emotive responses into the form of Poetry. Indeed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, another prominent Romantic poet and critic in his On Poesy or Art sees art as “the mediatress between, and reconciler of nature and man”.[2] Such an attitude reflects what might be called the dominant theme of Romantic Poetry: the filtering of natural emotion through the human mind in order to create art, coupled with an awareness of the duality created by such a process.


English Romanticism of the Age

The movement was, in a sense, formalized with the joint publication by Wordsworth and Coleridge of Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The work emphasized what would become the key tenets of Romanticism, namely the reconciliation of man and nature, along with an attempt to abandon the low language of 18th century English poetry and to attempt to convey poetic ideas via a common vernacular. Their work is deeply rooted in the tradition established by Edmund Spenser and John Milton.[3] They, along with William Blake believed that they were reviving the true spirit of English poetry by pursuing the "romance" and the sublime that was lost since Milton.[4]

John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron then comprised the latter half of the movement, largely continuing in the same tradition, though deviating slightly into more metaphysical matters.

Perhaps due to the perceived personal nature of Romantic poetry (one which the Romantic Poets themselves are not entirely innocent of encouraging), there has often been a fascination with the lives of the Romantic poets. This view is often reinforced by the imagery conjured up in contemporary discourse because a number of them died before reaching thirty, notably Percy Bysshe Shelley (29) and John Keats (25). This has led to a conflation of the lives of the Romantic poets with the poetry itself.


The "Big Six"

Wernyhora on painting by Jan Matejko

The "Big Six" of English romantic literature pertains to the six figures who are historically supposed to have formed the core of the Romantic movement of late 18th and early 19th century England. The term, though widely used as an easy term for the canonical Romantic poets, is just as widely known to be both anachronistic and unduly exclusive.[5] Reconstructing centered around Leigh Hunt. Although chronologically earliest among these writers, William Blake was a relatively late addition to the list; prior to the 1970s, romanticism was known for its "Big Five."[6]

For some critics, the term establishes an artificial context for disparate work and removing that work from its real historical context" at the expense of equally valid themes (particularly those related to politics.)[7]

The six authors are, in order of birth and with an example of their work:

The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier (1889); pictured in the centre are, from left, Trelawny, Hunt and Byron

The "Three Bards"

The term "Three Bards" (Trzej Wieszczowie) pertains to the three major poets of Romanticism in Polish literature. The word Wieszcz in English means a prophet and is according to a figure of legendary Ukrainian bard Wernyhora, so The "Three Bards" were considered as Ralph Waldo Emerson called it to be "Representative Men" of nations. Moreover, their verses for a long time were considered to be a moral typified, historiosophical and Metaphysical prophecy according to Christianism and ideals of Freedom, Love and Faith. It was heavy influenced by 1 Corinthians 14: "But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort" (1 Cor 14:3).

His memory was
Written upon, and deeply, but, because
It had long rotted in the dark, my friend
Could not read what was written: "We'd better send
For God. He will remember and tell us all."[8]
(Adam Mickiewicz)

Sometimes Cyprian Kamil Norwid or Kornel Ujejski is called The "Fourth Bard".

Notable Females

Although the "Big Six" male poets remain the principle figures in English romantic literature, some of the best-regarded poets of the time were in fact women.[9] Notable female poets include: Mary Shelley, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, and Joanna Baillie.

Major Romantic poets

Minor Romantic poets

See also


  1. ^ Wordsworth, William. The Poetical Works of Wordsworth. Oxford University Press. London, 1960.
  2. ^ Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. On Poesy or Art. Harvard Classics, 1914.
  3. ^ Bloom p. xviii
  4. ^ Romanticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism by Harold Bloom p. 11
  5. ^ Hume, Robert (1999)
  6. ^ Wu, Duncan and David Miall (1994). Romanticism: An Anthology. London: Basil Blackwell, xxxvi.
  7. ^ Hume
  8. ^ Verses from Forefather's Eve by Adam Mickiewicz, translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer
  9. ^The Romantic Period.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. D. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt, 8th Edition. New York: Norton, 2006.1.


Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

Literary Studies > Romantic poetry

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Unit Summary

Content summary

This particular course will deal with the reading of both British and American Romantic Poetry and will include essays on assigned writers or poems.

This page is still being updated, please be patient. Soon, I will add readings and links under poets names and possibly more poets. Feel free to suggest!


Intended outcome

Unit materials

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