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Romanticism

Romanticism is an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature. Its effect on politics was considerable and complex; while for much of the peak Romantic period it was associated with liberalism and radicalism, in the long term its effect on the growth of nationalism was probably more significant. The movement validated strong emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror At the turn of the century, fired by ideas of personal and political liberty and of the energy and sublimity of the natural world, artists and intellectuals sought to break the bonds of 18th-century convention. The romantic era was also rich in literary criticism and other nonfictional prose. Coleridge proposed an influential theory of literature in his Biographia Literaria (1817). William Godwin and his wife, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote groundbreaking books on human, and women's, rights. William Hazlitt, who never forsook political radicalism, wrote brilliant and astute literary criticism. The master of the personal essay was Charles Lamb, whereas Thomas De Quincey was master of the personal confession. The periodicals Edinburgh Review and Blackwood's Magazine, in which leading writers were published throughout the century, were major forums of controversy, political as well as literary. Identified by many as the opening act of the Romantic Period in English literature Lyrical Ballads (1798 and 1800), by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge presented and illustrated a liberating aesthetic: poetry should express, in genuine language, being the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, experience as filtered through personal emotion and imagination; the truest experience was to be found in nature. The concept of the Sublime strengthened this turn to nature, because in wild countrysides the power of the sublime could be felt most immediately. Wordsworth's romanticism is probably most fully realized in his great autobiographical poem, "The Prelude" (180550). In search of sublime moments, romantic poets wrote about the marvelous and supernatural, the exotic, and the medieval. The dominant theme of Lyrical Ballads was Nature, specifically the power of Nature to create strong impressions in the mind and imagination. The voice in Wordsworth s poetry is observant, meditative and aware of the connection between living things and objects. There is the sense that past, present, and future all mix together in the human consciousness. One feels as though the poet and the landscape are in communion,.

Wordsworth quite deliberately turned his back on the Enlightenment traditions of poetry, specifically the work of Alexander Pope. He instead looked more to the Renaissance and the Classics of Greek and Latin epic poetry for inspiration. In the Advertisement to the 1798 edition of Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth and Coleridge state that the poems in the collection were intended as a deliberate experiment in style and subject matter. Wordsworth elaborated on this idea in the Preface to the 1800 and 1802 editions which outline his main ideas of a new theory of poetry. Rejecting the classical notion that poetry should be about elevated subjects and should be composed in a formal style, Wordsworth instead championed more democratic themesthe lives of ordinary men and women, farmers, paupers, and the rural poor. In the Preface Wordsworth also emphasizes his commitment to writing in the ordinary language of people, not a highly crafted poetical one. True to traditional ballad form, the poems depict realistic characters in realistic situations, and so contain a strong narrative element. Wordsworth and Coleridge were also interested in presenting the psychology of the various characters in the Lyrical Ballads. The poems, in building sympathy for the disenfranchised characters they describe, also implicitly criticize England's Poor Laws, which made it necessary for people to lose all material possessions before they could receive any kind of financial assistance from the community. Wordsworth also discussed the role of poetry itself, which he viewed as an aid in keeping the individual sensitive in spite of the effects of growing alienation in the new industrial age. The poet, as Wordsworth points out, is not a distant observer or moralist, but rather a man speaking to men, and the production of poetry is the result of the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, recollected in tranquility, not the sum total of rhetorical art. Nature provides the ultimate good influence on the human mind. All manifestations of the natural worldfrom the highest mountain to the simplest flower elicit noble, elevated thoughts and passionate emotions in the people who observe these manifestations. Wordsworth repeatedly emphasizes the importance of nature to an individuals intellectual and spiritual development. A good relationship with nature helps individuals connect to both the spiritual and the social worlds. As Wordsworth explains in The Prelude, a love of nature can lead to a love of humankind. In such poems as The World Is Too Much with Us (1807) and London, 1802 (1807) people become selfish and immoral when they distance themselves from nature by living in cities. Humanitys innate empathy and nobility of spirit becomes corrupted by artificial social conventions Wordsworth praised the power of the human mind. Using memory and imagination, individuals could overcome difficulty and pain. For instance, the speaker in Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey

(1798) relieves his loneliness with memories of nature, while the leech gatherer in Resolution and Independence (1807).

I wandered lonely as a cloud is one of the loveliest and most famous in the Wordsworth canon, revisits the familiar subjects of nature and memory, this time with a particularly (simple) spare, musical eloquence. The plot is extremely simple, depicting the poets wandering and his discovery of a field of daffodils by a lake, the memory of which pleases him and comforts him when he is lonely, bored, or restless. The characterization of the sudden occurrence of a memorythe daffodils flash upon the inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitudeis psychologically acute, but the poems main brilliance lies in the reverse personification of its early stanzas. The speaker is metaphorically compared to a natural object, a cloud I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high..., and the daffodils are continually personified as human beings, dancing and tossing their heads in a crowd, a host. This technique implies an inherent unity between man and nature, making it one of Wordsworths most basic and effective methods for instilling in the reader the feeling the poet so often describes himself as experiencing. In the second stanza, he compares the daffodils to the shining stars that twinkle in the Milky Way as the number of daffodils lined near the river seem to be thousands in number. He compares the quantity of the flowers to the continuity of the stars using words like "never-ending" and "continuous". His words paint the picture of all of them dancing while they toss their heads in a "sprightly dance" There is an almost human attribute to the daffodils as they "toss" their heads like a group of dancers performing for someone on a stage: The waves beside them danced, but they/ Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:/ A poet could not but be gay/In such a jocund company:/ I gazed -and gazed -but little thought/What wealth the show to me had brought. The daffodils become much more than mere flowers. They are a symbol of natural beauty and, more importantly, symbolize living a life as rich in experience and sensation as would make a life worth living. They represent, in their light-hearted dance, the joy and happiness of living an adoring and fulfilling life, embracing it for every drop of nectar it could so bring. Along with I wandered lonely as a cloud, The Solitary Reaper is one of Wordsworths most famous post-Lyrical Ballads lyrics. In Tintern Abbey Wordsworth said that he was able to look on nature and hear human music; in this poem, he writes specifically about real human music encountered in a beloved, rustic setting. The text deals with the poet's memory of a scene he happened to live while walking in the country. The song of the young girl reaping in the fields is incomprehensible to him (a Highland lass, she is likely singing in Scots), and what he appreciates is its tone, its expressive beauty, and the mood it creates within him, rather than its explicit content, at

which he can only guess. To an extent, then, this poem ponders the limitations of language, as it does in the third stanza (Will no one tell me what she sings?). But what it really does is praise the beauty of music and its fluid expressive beauty, the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling that Wordsworth identified at the heart of poetry. The effect is so pleasant that the poet invites any passer-by to stop and listen or to walk on without disturbing the lady's singing. The second part of the poem mainly expresses the poet's comparison of the girl's song effect with the chant of a Nightingale, refreshing some tired travelers along the sands of an Arabian desert. In addition the reaper's song is also compared to the voice of a Cuckoo-bird that seems to disturb the silence of the Hebrides. All in all, the pleasant atmosphere and the positive mood conveyed by the girl's song seems to win all competitions. The poet is curious about the possible content of the song, probably, because he cannot make out the precise words of the song. He wonders whether somebody is able to tell him what the reaper's song is about. But, on a second thought, he does not seem to be really interested in any of the possible hypothesis ha has made about the song content (the song may be about unhappy experiences of the past, perhaps battles of a very distant time or even about some tragic family experience or loss or sorrow) because what really matters to him is that he was totally captured by the scene and the song and such feelings are so strong that he still feels that music in his heart. The poem ends with the poet's regret he can no longer listen to that song, but what the poet appreciates is the song's tone, its expressive beauty, and the mood it creates within him. The true beauty and power of the song lay in the speaker's experience of it as well as his memory of that experience. And as the speaker carries the girl's song with him up the hill, readers carry with them the fluid expressive beauty of the poem, as well as that 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings' that Wordsworth identified as the heart of poetic expression, long after the poem is read.