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English 1411W

Assignment 1

Mihir Khubchandani 9/13/2012

Characteristics of Romantic Poetry


The Romantic Period stretched from 1785 to 1832, a time of great change in England. Industrialization was in progress, and cities like London were growing rapidly to become teeming, polluted centres. At the same time, England was thought to be on the brink of a revolution akin to that of France, and thus there were deep political tensions. It was a combination of these factors that greatly influenced the poems of this period. The romantic poems have several common features or characteristics. Two core characteristics are the appreciation for nature, and the strong references to God and religion. These features are seen in most Romantic poems, and while poets refer to these in different ways, they are typical to poems of this era. The appreciation of nature is seen clearly in these poems. For instance, William Blake refers to nature in Lamb, when he asks the Lamb who made it, By the stream and oer the mead. This is seen in a similar way in the Chimney Sweeper, as Blake mentions the sweepers wash in a river, and shine in the sun In both these cases, the reference to nature give the feeling of ease, openness and freedom to the poems. This is the effect Blake is trying to create in the Songs of Innocence, wherein he reminiscences on how life was before industrialization. Wordsworths poems also frequently mention nature. Wordsworth takes an angle of respect for nature, and cannot believe what mankind has done to destroy it. This is seen most clearly in Lines Written in Early Spring, where the birds around me [Wordsworth] hopped and played and the budding twigs spread out. Similarly, in I wandered Lonely as a Cloud, the cloud floats on high oer vales and hills, and Wordsworth discusses how the daffodils are beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze. It appears as if Wordsworth is nostalgic, remembering the valleys and hills he walked along. A similar appreciation of nature is seen in Byrons poem She Walks in Beauty, as the woman is described to walk like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies. As seen, Byron compares human form to nature to illustrate beauty, showing how much he appreciates nature. The romantic poets all viewed nature as precious, and were upset about the loss of the countryside during industrialization in England. As such, they refer to nature with a sense of nostalgia but also use it as a symbol of simpler times and of freedom that was there before these changes. Blake is even seen to be angry about the development of cities in London, wherein one of the reasons for his anger is the charterd Thames. Blake here is pointing out that he upset about how nature has been manipulated. This sentiment is seen in Wordsworths Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, in the line ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie open unto fields and to the sky. Again, Wordsworth is pointing out that the city has spread over o the countryside and has tarnished the fields and skies. As such the romantics are seen to not only be appreciative of nature, but also to be against the industrial movement which was thought to be destroying the pastoral environment. The second prominent feature of romantic poetry is the religious imagery, and in some cases the references to God seen both directly and indirectly. Possibly the clearest example of this is in Blakes poems Lamb and Tyger, wherein the Lamb is a symbol for Jesus. In Lamb, Blake specifies that the Lamb is symbolic for God by saying For He calls himself a Lamb, where the capitalisation of He tells the reader that Blake is referring to God. In another similar instance, Wordsworth calls to Milton! in

English 1411W
Assignment 1

Mihir Khubchandani 9/13/2012

London 1802. The romantic poems show strong belief in God, as seen by Blakes The Chimney Sweeper in The Songs of Innocence, when the angel tells Tom hed have God for his father, and never want joy. This belief in God as one to solve problems is also seen in Coleridges Rime of the Ancient Mariner, when the Mariner sat to pray, and from my [The Mariners] neck so free The Albatross fell and further along when A seraph-man, On every corse there stood. It was these angels that helped the Mariner find his way home. A further example of this belief in God to solve problems is seen in Wordsworths writing, in London 1802, when Wordsworth calls to Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour; England hath need of thee. In the times of change, especially those which the romantics did not approve of, they looked to God to guide them and expected God to correct what they believed was wrong, and thus religious imagery plays an important role in romantic poetry. However, as seen specifically in Blakes Songs of Experience, Blake is critical of religion, and possibly feels let down. For instance, in Tyger, Blake directly questions God, wondering Did he who made the Lamb make thee? This criticism of religion and the church is also seen in Blakes London, in the phrase every blackning Church appals. It appears that by this stage, there were so many changes that Blake did not approve of, that he felt disillusioned by God and perhaps felt let down. As seen in the above analysis, two key characteristics and features of romantic poetry are the references to nature, and the religious imagery, both of which help relate the poems to the events of change that were occurring in England at the time. These features are used in different ways by each poet, but help to convey the poets feelings to the reader, and inform the reader of a specific view that the romantic poets held. As such, these features are an essential part of these poems, and help give them identity as romantic poetry.