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7. Romantic

7. Romantic

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Published by Parlin Pardede
This file is intended to be used in my literature class only
This file is intended to be used in my literature class only

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Published by: Parlin Pardede on Apr 14, 2012
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Chapter 7:
Romantic
An Outline of English Literature 
(For EESP of UKI Use only)
 
54
THE ROMANTIC AGE(1789-1832)
he Romantic period lasts about forty years, from the French Revolution in1789
 
to the Reform Act of 1832
.
It is sometimes called the Age of Revolution:
the American Revolution of 1776, and the spirit of ‘liberty, equal
ity, and
fraternity’ of the French Revolution made it
 
a time of hope and change.William Wordsworth in
The Prelude 
 
[introduction] wrote ‘bliss was it in that dawnto be alive’ [bliss = great pleasure]. This shows the hope for the future when French
politics changed and many writers like Wordsworth hoped the same would happen inBritain. But the Reign of Terror began in 1793, the period of Napoleon followedrapidly, and by the early 1800s
 
most of Europe was at war against France.So the poetry of the Romantics, from Wordsworth and Coleridge's
Lyrical 
Ballads (1798), is in many ways poetry of war. Society was changing, becomingindustrial rather than agricultural as towns and cities developed; the governmentencouraged free trade; the new middle class became powerful, and there were movestowards voting reform and greater democracy. But change was slow, and there was alot of suffering, especially among the poor: they had to move from the country to thecity; the soldiers who returned after Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo in 1815found themselves unemployed; there were many social and political problems, theworst example of which was the Peterloo massacre of 1819, when governmentsoldiers attacked a large group of protesters, killing eleven people and injuring aboutfour hundred. (The name Peterloo [after Waterloo] was given by supporters of freespeech.) War abroad was followed by war between social classes at home.In literature, Romantic writing is mostly poetry: Wordsworth and Coleridgewanted a revolution too, in poetic language and in themes which contrasted withthe earlier Augustan age. Then the head controlled the heart; now the heartcontrolled the head. For Augustans, feelings andimagination were dangerous; for Romantics, reason andthe intellect were dangerous. The individual spirit ratherthan an ordered society became important. Thegovernment did not like this spirit - many of the writerswent abroad because their spirit was too dangerous,and many were not recognized in their own lifetimes. Infact the name Romantic was only given to the periodlater, when its spirit of freedom and hope could berecognized as different, as an important moment of change. In Europe, Romanticism was different: musicand art, politics and philosophy were all stirred by theRomantic spirit. In Britain it was limited to a few poets,but they changed the face of English literature for ever.
William Wordsworth
 
 
Chapter 7:
Romantic
An Outline of English Literature 
(For EESP of UKI Use only)
 
55
Blake
William Blake had a very individual view of the world, and his poetic style andideas contrast with the order and control of the Augustan world. Blake's best-known collection of poetry
Songs of Innocence and Experience 
was published in1794. His poems are simple but symbolic
 —
the lamb is the symbol of innocence,the tiger the symbol of mystery:Little lamb, who made thee?Dost thou
1
know who made thee?
(‘The Lamb’)
 
do you 
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night,What immortal
2
hand or eyeCould frame
3
thy
4
fearful symmetry?
5
 
(‘The Tyger’)
 
godlike 
arrange; invent 
your 
frightening balance or perfection 
Blake's later poems are very complex symbolic texts, but his voice in the early1790s is the conscience of the Romantic age. He shows a contrast between a worldof nature and childhood innocence and a world of social control. Blake saw thedangers of an industrial society in which individuals were lost, and in his famous poem
 ‘Londonhe calls the systems of society ‘mind
-
forged manacles’. For Blake, London is
a city in which the mind of everyone is in chains and all individuals are imprisoned.Even the River Thames has
been given a royal charter [charter’d = given rights] so
that it can be used for commerce and trade:
I wander thro’
1
each charter'd streetNear where the charter'd Thames does flow,And mark 
2
in every face I meetMarks of weakness, marks of woe.
3
In every cry of every Man, In every Infant’s
4
cry of fear,In every voice, in every ban
5
The mind-forg'd manacles
6
I hear.
(‘London’)
 
1
through
2
notice
3
sadness
4
very smallchild's
5
law to stop something
chainsaround the hands, which are made in the brain
 ‘
London
’ 
contrasts with Wordsworth
’s ‘Sonnetcomposed upon Westminster Bridge’ [composed =
written]
1802
 ,
published 1807):
 
 ‘Eart
h has notanything to show more
fair’ Wordsworth wanted always
to see the positive side, where Blake's vision is moresocial and political.
An illustration by William Blake for his 
Sons of
Innocence.
 
 
Chapter 7:
Romantic
An Outline of English Literature 
(For EESP of UKI Use only)
 
56
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth’ 
s poetry looks inward rather than outward, and in
The Prelude,
his long autobiographical poem, we read how an individual
’ 
s thoughts andfeelings are formed. Wordsworth is the main character in most of his poems. He wants
 ‘
to see into the heart of things,
’ 
as he says in
 ‘
Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey
’ 
. Heconsiders, in `Daffodils', for instance, how the past relates to the present, and
The Prelude 
takes that as its main theme. He continued to write
The Prelude 
for many years.It is a psychological poem in which the individual searches for personal understanding,in a manner which has become a main theme of modern literature.When Wordsworth wrote that the
 ‘
child is father of the Man
’ 
he means that adultscan learn from children. However, the Augustans believed that children should becontrolled as soon as possible. Augustan writers believed that an ordered society wasimportant, whereas Romantic writers believed that the life of the individual spirit wasimportant. These different ideas resulted in different styles of writing and different usesof language. For example, Augustan poets often use a special poetic language and aspecial poetic pattern of heroic couplets.Here is a section from the Preface to
Lyrical Ballads 
in which Wordsworth statesthat he wanted to write in a clear and simple way about everyday life and people:
The principal object
1
,
…:
in these poems was to choose incidents
2
and situations fromcommon life, and to relate or describe them throughout, as far as it was possible, in aselection of language really used by men.
l
aim
2
events
Sometimes Wordsworth does indeed write in simple direct language which is close tothe spoken language of ordinary people. For example:
A slumber
1
did my spirit sea1
2
I had no human fears;She seemed a thing that would not feelThe touch of earthly years.(`A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal')
1
sleep
2
close lightly
However, sometimes he uses more difficult grammar and vocabulary, and seems along way from his poetic ideals.Wordsworth writes frequently about nature and about ordinary people, such as
 ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’ and ‘The Leech Gatherer[
leech = blood-sucking worm]who live against the background of the world of nature. Later in his life he stated that
he wanted his poetry to show that men and women ‘who do not wear
fine
 
clothes can
feel deeply,’ and to praise those who live close to nature. Above all, Wordsworth
wanted to show the importance of the human memory, because it is the memorywhich continues to give life to our major experiences. The memory allows us to keepour understanding of the world fresh and alive, although there is despair inWordsworth's later poetry when the imagination fails and memory no longer works. Inthis section from
 ‘
Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey
’ Wordsw
orth praises the powerof his memory and the pictures which his memory can recreate:

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