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Introduction to Romantic Age:

William Blake (1757 1827)
Lord Byron (1782 1824)
John Keats (1795 1821)
William Wordsworth (1770 1850)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 1834)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 1822)

William Blake:-

William Blake (1757 1827) British mystical Poet. William Blake was a poet,
artist, engraver and print-maker. Largely misunderstood during his lifetime, he is now
regarded as one of the finest poets of the English language. His unique poetry
encompassed a range of emotions and mystical under-currents, shaped by his vision and
empathy for the world around him.
William Blake achieved little fame in his own lifetime but in the twentieth century
he has come to be recognized as a poetic genius. Blake was also an engraver, and
illustrated many of his poems so that they could be read visually as well as verbally. His
life was spent in rebellion against the rationalism of the eighteenth century and he
rejected, in particular, the formal restrictions of Augustan poetry, writing in a lyrical
visionary style and developing, in the process, an individual view of the world. A
characteristic feature was a tendency to see the world in terms of opposites. Blake wrote
that Without Contraries is no Progression (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell) and much
of his poetry illustrates this. The major opposition reflected in his poetry is a contrast
between the order of the eighteenth century and the sense of liberation felt in the 1790s as
a new century approached.
Poetry of Blake:-
Blake makes extensive use of symbolism in his poetry. Some of the symbols are
straightforward: innocence is symbolised by children, flowers, lambs, or particular
seasons. Oppression and rationalism are symbolized by urban, industrial landscapes, by
machines, by those in authority (including priests), and by social institutions. The
symbolism in some of his later poems, such as the epic Milton, is less easy to interpret.
Blake sometimes creates a mythological world of his own.
Images of childhood have a central place in Blakes poetry, as they do in the
work of many Romantic poets. Blakes most famous collection of poetry, Songs of
Innocence and Experience, published separately in 1789 (Songs of Innocence) and 1793
(Songs of Experience), and together in 1794, abounds in images of children in a world in
which people are exploited. (A good example is Blakes poem The Chimney Sweeper.)
The child in Blakes poetry stands for the poets dissatisfaction with society and for his
belief in the power of uncorrupted feeling and imagination. Through the images of
childhood, Blake dramatizes the conflict between nature and social order, between
natural innocence and the pressures of social experience.
William Wordsworth:-

William Wordsworth (1770-1850). British Romantic poet from Grasmere, Lake
District. Wordsworth encapsulated mans mystic relationship with nature.
WORDSWORTH, WILLIAM born at Cocker mouth. His boyhood was full of
adventure among the hills, and he says of himself that he showed a stiff, moody, and
violent temper. He lost his mother when he was 8, and his father in 1783 when he was
13. The latter, prematurely cut off, left little for the support of his family of four sons and
a daughter, Dorothy (afterwards the worthy companion of her illustrious brother). With
the help however, of uncles, the family were well educated and started in life. William
received his earlier education at Penrith and Hawkshead in Lancashire; and in 1787 went
to St. Johns Coll., Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1791.
William Wordsworth as a Poet of Nature:-

As a poet of Nature, Wordsworth stands supreme. He is a worshipper of Nature,
Natures devotee or high-priest. His love of Nature was probably truer, and more tender,
than that of any other English poet, before or since. Nature comes to occupy in his poem
a separate or independent status and is not treated in a casual or passing manner as by
poets before him. Wordsworth had a full-fledged philosophy, a new and original view of
Nature. Three points in his creed of Nature may be noted:
(a) He conceived of Nature as a living Personality. He believed that there is a divine spirit
pervading all the objects of Nature. This belief in a divine spirit pervading all the objects
of Nature may be termed as mystical Pantheism and is fully expressed inTintern
Abbey and in several passages in Book II of The Prelude.
(b) Wordsworth believed that the company of Nature gives joy to the human heart and he
looked upon Nature as exercising a healing influence on sorrow-stricken hearts.
(c) Above all, Wordsworth emphasized the moral influence of Nature. He spiritualised
Nature and regarded her as a great moral teacher, as the best mother, guardian and nurse
of man, and as an elevating influence. He believed that between man and Nature there is
mutual consciousness, spiritual communion or mystic intercourse. He initiates his
readers into the secret of the souls communion with Nature. According to him, human
beings who grow up in the lap of Nature are perfect in every respect.

Major themes in William Wordsworth poetry:-
"Come forth into the light of things, / Let Nature be your Teacher." No discussion on
Wordsworth would be complete without mention of nature. Nature and its connection to
humanity makes an appearance in the vast majority of Wordsworth's poetry, often holdin
g a poem's focus, and has become the cornerstone of the Romantic Movement primarily b
ecause of him. For Wordsworth, nature is a kind of religion in which he has the utmost
faith. Nature fills two major roles in Wordsworth's poetry:
1. Even though it is intensely beautiful and peaceful, nature often causes Wordsworth to
feel melancholy or sad. This is usually because, even as he relishes in his connection with
nature, he 26worries about the rest of humanity , most of who live in cites
completely apart from nature. Wordsworth wonders how they could possibly revive
their spirits. In the end, however, he often decides that it is wrong to be sad while
in nature: "A poet could not but be gay, / In such jocund company."
2. Nature also gives Wordsworth hope for the future. Form past experience Wordsworth kno
ws that spending time in nature is a gift to his future self, because later , when he is
3. alone, tired and frustrated in the busy, dirty city, he will be able to look back on a field
of daffodils he once spent time in and be happy again.
Memory :-
For Wordsworth, the power of the human mind is extremely important. In several of his
poems he begins in a negative or depressed mood, and then slowly becomes more
positive. The most important use of memory, however, is to maintain connections.
One of Wordsworth's greatest worries is the descent of humanity. As man moves further
and further away from humanity he seems to be losing more and more of his soul.
Religion, while not as prevalent as in the poetry of the Enlightenment, does have a place
in much Of Wordsworth's poetry. Often religion is included simply to help Wordsworth's
more pious readers understand the level of his commitment to and faith in nature.
Wordsworth uses religious imagery and language in his poems in order to convey his
ideas about the power of nature, the human mind, and global interconnectivity
Samuel Taylor Coleridge:-

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (21 October 1772 25 July 1834) was an English Romantic
poet, literary critic and philosopher. He was a key figure in the Romantic Movement of
the early Nineteenth Century. He was good friends with fellow Romantic Poet, William
Wordsworth. His most famous poems include: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and
Kubla Khan,
Coleridges poetry:-
Coleridges poetry frequently communicates a sense of the mysterious,
supernatural and extraordinary world. Wordsworth stated that he wanted to explore
everyday subjects and give them a Romantic or supernatural coloring; by contrast,
Coleridge wanted to give the supernatural a feeling of everyday reality. One of
Coleridges best-known poems is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. In the poem an old
sailor or mariner narrates the terrible sequence of events which followed when he shot an
albatross and was cursed. His ship is becalmed, he is subjected to nightmare visions and
to a long period of suffering and his water supply runs out in punishment for his deed.
When the mariner blesses some sea-creatures, his offence against the power of nature is
forgiven and he is able to return home, a wiser man through his suffering. The whole
poem is written in the form of a mediaeval ballad.
Other poems by Coleridge explore a mystical and supernatural world. Unlike
Wordsworth, who concentrates on the everyday world of the present, Coleridge turns to
the romance and mystery of the past. Christabel, also written in a mediaeval ballad form,
is another allegory in which sinister and grotesque images from a distant past have an
everyday reality. In Kubla Khan, Coleridge presents an exotic landscape which has often
been interpreted as symbolising the movement of the creative imagination. The poem
opens with a basic contrast between the River Alph, a potentially destructive force, and
the pleasure-dome, a source of deep perception and understanding:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
In Kubla Khan, Coleridge embodies the essence of the poetic imagination, the
most powerful of the human senses which is alone capable of perceiving the underlying
harmony of all things and of understanding the truth about the world. The subtitle to the
poem is A Fragment.It was reported that Coleridge did not complete the poem because he
was interrupted by a visitor during its composition. The poem is indeed a fragment of a
powerful vision, but it is a complete statement of a vision which can only be
communicated in parts and fragments.

Percy Bysshe Shelley:-

Shelley was born in Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, in 1792. On both his father's and
his mother's side he was descended from 'noble old families, famous in the political and
literary history of England. From childhood he lived, like Blake, in a world of fancy, so
real that certain imaginary dragons and headless creatures of the neighboring wood kept
him and his sisters in a state of fearful expectancy. He learned rapidly, absorbed the
classics as if by intuition, and, dissatisfied with ordinary processes of learning, seems to
have sought, like Faustus, the acquaintance of spirits, as shown in his " Hymn to
Intellectual Beauty "
Poetry of Shelley:-
The lone and level sands stretch far away
(Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias)
The poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley is similar to that of Keats in a number of
respects, but, unlike Keats, Shelley explores political and social questions more
explicitly. Shelley represents the more revolutionary and non-conformist element in
English Romanticism and was constantly critical of conventional authority. He was the
individualist and idealist who rebelled against the institutions of family, church, marriage
and the Christian faith and against all forms of tyranny. He started writing and publishing
poetry while at Oxford University, some three years before Keatss first publication.
One of Shelleys first major poems, published in 1813, was Queen Mab. In the
poem he attacks institutional religion and codified morality, portraying a utopian vision
of mans need for simple virtue and straightforward happiness.
Other major poems by Shelley also addressed social and political issues. The
Mask of Anarchy was a direct response to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819. Like the sonnet
England in 1819, it closes with a vision of the future revolution of the working classes: a
glorious phantom may/Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.
Shelley also wrote many intense short lyrics which draw direct inspiration from
nature and are written in controlled, sparse language:
Like several of his contemporaries, Shelley believed that poetry could reform the
world. Central to this belief is that the creative power of the imagination and the poets
quest for beauty and the eternal truths of beauty will show the way to a better society.
According to Shelley this makes poets the unacknowledged legislators of the world. In
his A Defence of Poetry (written in 1821 but not published until 1840), Shelley wrote a
poetic manifesto for these beliefs, making the poet a missionary, a prophet, a potential
leader for a new society.
Shelley has often been criticised for putting his own feelings too directly at the centre
of his poems and for being too self-indulgent and self-pitying. There are certainly lines in
some poems where this is the case. For example:
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!
(Ode to the West Wind)
I could lie down like a tired child,
And weep away the life of care
Which I have borne and yet must bear.
(Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples)
John Keats:-

John Keats (1795 1821). A leading English Romantic Poet. Keats became
famous after his death for the power and vivid imagery of his Odes and epic Endymion.
His first work some sonnets appeared in Hunts Examiner, and his first book,
Poems, came out in 1817. This book, while containing much that gave little promise of
what was to come, was not without touches of beauty and music, but it fell quite flat,
finding few reader beyond his immediate circle. His next work Endymion appeared in
1818 but received harsh criticism from leading magazines. Despite Keats own self
confidence in his poetic powers these harsh criticism took their toll. Because of this and
other factors his health broke down leading him to suffer from heredity consumption for
the rest of his life.
The Poetry of John Keats:-
Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know
(John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn)
John Keats is likewise a poet who reflected on the nature of poetry. Keatss
letters are important documents and offer many revealing insights into the nature of
poetry and many critical precepts which are still cited today as a basis for the evaluation
of poetry. Keats wrote that we hate poetry that has too palpable a design upon us. By
this he means that we distrust poetry which tries overtly to persuade or convert us to the
poets point of view. According to this statement, poetry should be more indirect,
communicating through the power of its images without the poet making his own
presence too obvious.
Like other Romantic poets, Keats wrote poems which were incomplete;
unfinished fragments of a larger vision. He also, like other Romantic artists, died at a
very young age before fulfilling his potential and completing the poetic journey he had
begun. However, by the age of 25, he had written a major body of work containing some
of the most memorable poems in the English language. Keatss bestknown poetry was
composed twenty years after the publication of Lyrical Balladsand, although his poetry
contrasts with that of Wordsworth and Coleridge, they remained an important influence
on his work and his theories of poetry.
Keats continued to write long narrative poems which allowed him to develop a
characteristic feature of the style of all his poems: lush, sensuous imagery which supports
precise descriptive detail. Keats, like Coleridge, was also attracted to exotic settings for
his narratives. These include mythic classical backgrounds and mediaeval contexts of
high Romance. The poems Isabella, Lamia, The Eve of Saint Agnes and La Belle Dame
Sans Merciexplore familiar Romantic themes: the relationship between emotion and
reality; the impermanence of human love; the search for an elusive beauty.
Keats also gives us occasional glimpses of solitude and desolation. In his famous
letters, he calls the world The Vale of Soul-Making; in his sonnet beginning When I
have fears that I may cease to be, he depicts a desolate shore which anticipates John
Clare and Matthew Arnold in its emptiness. The sonnet is all the more poignant when we
know that Keats died at the age of 26, a tragically young age, with a poetic career of even
greater fulfillment in front of him. He was the Romantic poet par excellence.

George Gordon Byron:-

George Gordon Byron was born on January 22nd 1788. Lord Byron was an English
poet who was a leading figure in the Romantic Movement.
It is appropriate that Byron should be the last major Romantic poet we
examine, for many readers, especially in the nineteenth century, regarded Byron as the
prototype of the Romantic poet, and many writers across the whole of Europe were
influenced by his approach. Like Shelley, Byron was heavily involved with contemporary
social issues and became particularly well known for his verse satires. The heroes of his
long narrative poems were often imitated; in fact, the Byronic hero almost became a
literary fashion. The hero is usually a melancholy and solitary figure who in his actions
often defies social conventions; almost, indeed, the poet as reclusive pop star.
Works of Byron:-
Byron it is well to remember that he was a disappointed and embittered man, not
only in his personal life, but also in his expectation of a general transformation of human
society. As he pours out his own feelings, chiefly, in his poetry, he is the most expressive
writer of his age in voicing the discontent of a multitude of Europeans who were
disappointed at the failure of the French Revolution to produce an entirely new form of
government and society.

Byrons poems:-
The long poem Childe Harolds Pilgrimage the term childe is a mediaeval
word for a young nobleman waiting to become a knight was the work which made
Byrons name. The hero, Childe Harold, is often identified with Byron himself. He is a
restless wanderer, alternating between despair and great energy and commitment to new,
usually forbidden experiences. The poem was published when Byron was only 24 years
of age, in 1812.
A more developed example of the Byronic hero comes in his dramatic poem
Manfred(1817). Manfred is a particularly passionate outcast and rebel whose typically
Romantic heroism contrasts with the restraint and humility of the typical Augustan,
classical hero. Manfreds disdain for ordinary humanity, his unidentified guilt, his sense
of gloom and doom, make him, paradoxically, a deeply attractive, even erotic figure. He
seems to be beyond good and evil and to define his own moral codes.
Then if youd have them wedded, please to shut
The book which treats of this erroneous pair,
Before the consequences grow too awful;
Tis dangerous to read of loves unlawful.
Don Juanwas judged an immoral poem by many of Byrons contemporaries but it is
never clear how far this is a judgment on Byron himself, who scandalized society with a
series of well-publicized affairs and who seemed compelled to try forbidden experiences:
societys contempt for his incestuous relationship with his half-sister Augusta Leigh led
Byron to leave England forever in 1816. As a Lord, he held an unconventional liberal
(Whig) view of society, supporting Catholic emancipation and the Nottingham weavers,
who were made unemployed as a result of new technology in the industry.