The Rise of Romanticism (1784-1798)
Points to remember:
- Johnson and his group were the last great neoclassical writers.
- Younger authors began to revolt against classical rules of writing.
- The romantic writers were influenced by the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau in France.
- Romanticism began as a deliberate movement in 1798.
- The Pre-Romantics
- James Thomson (1700-1748) expressed a romantic attitude toward nature in The Seasons.
- Thomas Gray (1716-1771) used a tone of sadness in his famous Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
- William Cowper (1731-1800) indicated a sentimental love of nature in The Task.
- William Blake (1757-1827) and Robert Burns (1759-1796) were the greatest forerunners of the Romantic Movement.
Romanticism arose as a main literary trend, which prevailed in England during the period of 1789-1932, beginning with the publication of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads (1789), ending with Walter Scott’s death (1832) The basic aims of romanticism were various:
a) a return to nature;
b) to belief in the goodness of man;
c) the rediscovery of the artist as a supremely individual creator;
d) the exaltation of senses and emotions over reason and intellect.
Characteristic features of the Romantic Movement
- Subjectivism: Romantic poets describe poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” which expresses the poet’s mind. The interest of them is not in the objective world or in the action of men, but in the feelings, thoughts and experiences of the poet themselves. Even the description of natural and human objects is modified by the poets’ feeling. In short, Romanticism is relating to subjectivism, whereas neo-classicisms is related to objectivism. The poetry of the Romantic Age in England is distinctive for its high degree of imagination.
- Spontaneity: Wordsworth defines poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of feelings.” This emphasis on spontaneity is opposed to the “rules” and “regulations” imposed on the poets by neo-classic writers. Romanticism is an assertion of independence, a departure from the neo-classicism’s rules. A work of art must be original. The role of instinct intuition and the feeling of “the heart” is stressed instead of neo-classicists emphasis on “head”, on regularity, uniformity decorum, and imitation of the classical writers
- Singularity: Romantic poets have a strong love for the remote, the unusual, the strange, the supernatural, the mysterious, the splendid, the picaresque and the illogical.
- Worship of nature: The romantic poets are worshippers of nature, especially the sublime aspect of a natural scene, romantic poets read in nature some mysterious force, some treat nature as a living entity that even regard nature as the revelation of God.
- Simplicity: Romantic poets take to using everyday language spoken by the rustic people as opposed to the poetic diction used by neo-classic writers
- There is dominating note of melancholy in the poems. The theme of exile, isolation and a longing for the infinite, for an indefinite and inaccessible goal is commonly found in their works.
- It was an age of poetry by which the poets outpoured their feeling and emotions. Romantic poets love to use a free verse form, not the standard form of “heroic couplets” preferred by neo-classic writers.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
William Wordsworth is one of the great English poets and a leader of the Romantic Movement in England. Together with Samuel Taylor Coleridge published Lyrical Ballads (1789). The preface to this collection of poems can be read as a declaration of romanticism, in which Wordsworth openly expresses his theory of poetry, contrary to the theory of neo-classicism.
His principle of poetry:
Deep love for nature
Lines Written in Early Spring
To the Cuckoo
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
My Heart Leaps Up
Intimations of Immortality
Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey
The feeling of common people (Rural life and lower classes)
- The Solitary Reaper
- We Are Seven
- The Ruined Cottage
- Simon Lee
- The Old Cumberland Beggar
- Lucy Poems
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- Kubla Khan (1797)
- Christabel (1797-1800)
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
It is a long poem, telling a strange story in the form of ballads. Three guests are on their way to a wedding party but one of them is detained by an ancient mariner, who tells him of his adventures at sea. The albatross, a sea bird, is an omen of luck. A seaman for no reason at all kills the bird, and for this reason the whole ship is punished by God and the seaman is punished by his fellow seamen. The theme is about sin and its expiation. The poem introduces the reader to a supernatural realm, bit it manages to create a sense of reality. The combination of the natural and the supernatural, the ordinary and the extraordinary makes the “Ancient Mariner” one of the masterpieces of Romantic poetry.
Robert Southey (1774-1834)
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824)
- Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
- Don Juan
- The Prophecy of Dante
- The Vision of Judgment
- The Age of Bronze
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
The long poem contains 4 cantos. It is written in the Spenserian stanza. i.e. a 9-line stanza rhymed ababbcbcc, in which the first 8 lines are in iambic pentameter while the ninth in iambic hexameter.
The poem tells of Childe Harold’s travel in Europe. The poem is interspersed with lyrical outbursts which give utterance to Byron’s own philosophical and political views. These views are expressed through the mouth of Harold which shows his great yearning for freedom and justice and his intense hatred for all tyrants and tyranny.
Don Juan, a satirical epic, is Byron’s masterpiece. It is 16,000 lines long, in 16 cantos and written in ottava rima, each stanza containing 8 iambic pentameter lines rhymed abababcc.
Ottava rima, an Italian stanza of eight 11-syllable line, with the rhyme scheme abababcc, introduced by sir Thomas Wyatt and by Y. B. Yeats in “Among School Children” and “Sailing to Byzantium” and is adapted by George Gordon Byron as ten-syllable line in “Don Juan”.
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
- Queen Mab (1813)
- Alastor (1816)
- The Revolt of Islam (1818)
- The Mask of Anarchy (1819)
- Lyrical dramas
- The Cenci (1819)
- Prometheus Unbound (1820)
- Hellas (1822)
- Elegiac poem
- Adonais (1821)
- Ode to the west wind
- To a Skylark
- The Defence of Poetry
- Song to the Men of England
- Sonnet: England in 1819
- A Lament
An ode in ancient literature is an elaborate lyrical poem composed for a chorus to chant and to dance to in modern use, it is rhymed lyric expressing noble feelings, often addressed to a person or celebrating an event.
Ode to the West Wind
This poem is most representative of Shelley’s feelings and thoughts at the time. It is a mixture of death and rebirth. Shelley is concerned with the regeneration of himself spiritually poetically and of Europe politically. He is appealing to the west wind to effect this regeneration. In the first 3 stanzas, the dynamic force of the west wind is manifested in its power on the land in the air, and in the sea in different seasons; it is the destroyer and preserver. It will be destroying the old world and herald in a new one. In the 4th stanza Shelley wishes that he were a leaf, a cloud, and a wave, so that he could feel the power of the west wind; but he is aware of his age and his suffering in life which have bent him down. Finally, he appeals to the wind, the wind of aspiration and change, to reinvigorate him and to give force and persuasiveness to his poetry.
This ode consists of 5 stanzas, each a sonnet formed of 4 units of terza rima completed by a couplet. The first and third lines rhyme, and the second line is in rhyme scheme being aba, bcb, cdc, ded, ee. This linked chain gives a feeling of onward motion; the verse has a breathless quality which is in keeping with the onward motion of the wind’s movement. The metrical pattern of each line is basically iambic penatameter.
John Keats (1795-1821)
- Endymion (1818)
- The Fall of Hyperion (*1819)
- Isabella or the Pot of Bail (1820)
- The Eve or St. Agnes (1820)
- Lamia (1820)
- Ode on a Grecian Urn
- On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
- On the Grasshopper and the Cricket
- To Kosciusko
- Robin Hood
- Bright Star
- When I have Fear
- Ode to Autumn
- Ode to Melancholy
- Ode to a Nightingale
- Ode to Psyche
- Ode on Indolence
Ode to a Nightingale
In the poem, Keats identifies the nightingale with his ideal beauty and hopes that the song of the nightingale will help him to escape from the world of actually, where to “think is to be full of sorrow,” into the world of ideal beauty, a place of eternal happiness.
The poem contains 8 stanzas, each consisting of 10 lines in 5-stress iambic meter and the 8th in 3-stress iambic meter. The poem is remarkable for its imagery and its music. They appeal to reader’s senses-tactile, gustatory, olfactory as well as visual and auditory.
The first impression he gets from the singing of the nightingale involves his heartache and the drowsy numbness of his senses coming as if under the effect of hemlock or dull opiate. The cheerfulness of bird is a sharp comparison to the human miseries. The poet wished he could forget all painful memories by the power of wine, but in vain. The nightingale’s song made him feel that he was flying with it to the “Queen-moon on summer eves” and further carried him away to the ancient times and far-off lands. All this made him forget his painful life on earth. But the nightingale flew away with its sweet song, and the poet was left alone to face the cold reality again.
In this ode , Keats not only expresses his raptures upon hearing the beautiful songs of the nightingale and his desire to go to the “ethereal world of beauty together with the bird, but he also shows his deep sympathy for and his keen under standing of human miseries in the society in which he lived.”
The poem contains 3 stanzas, each stanza consisting of 11 lines in iambic pentameter with a rhymed scheme ababcdedde. In this ode, Keats celebrates the world of nature in the autumn season with autumn personified as a figure in various autumnal landscapes. The whole poem achieves its goal in 3 ways: the fruitfulness of autumn, the sound of autumn and the color of autumn.
The first two stanzas appear to paint rather positive pictures of good harvest of fruit and grain. In the beginning, Keats tells us autumn is the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” He uses some words, like “load”, “bless”, “ripeness”, “swell” and “plump” to describe the fruitful of autumn. He successfully leads us to a scene of busy peasants getting in their crops and happiness brought by the fruitfulness. In each stanza Keats makes autumn full of sounds. All kinds of creature seem to be excited in the warm days of autumn. For example, “”full-grown” lambs loud bleat from a garden-croft,” “gathering swallows twitter in the skies,” even the bees “think warm days will never cease.” In this ode, Keats also describes the color of autumn: the “rosy hue” of the stubble plains and various colors of fruits, leaves and budding flowers. All these add much richness to the already enchanting autumn. This ode consists of 3 stanzas. Although the last stanza falls on a mixed not of subdued joy and mild melancholy, the poem gives us a vivid and delightful scenes of the rural environment in the autumn season.
Ode on a Grecian Urn
The poem is written in uniform stanza, each consisting of 10 lines of iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme is ababcdecde with variation in the seset. In this poem, the poet gave his commentary on a Greek vase which as a relic of ancient culture, caught his imagination on the surface of the vase, there was an ornamental band of sculpture with figures of trees, pipes and lovers on it. Though they were quiet forms, the human beauty and love captured in the figures on its freezes can never die or fade as they do in real life. The pictured trees can never shed their foliage. Thus the urn remains forever a testimony that “beauty is truth, truth beauty” for its silent loveliness has the profound stability of the eternal. This poem declared Keats’ worship of beauty, especially in the field of art.
Jane Austen (1775-1817)
Jane Austen wrote during the height of Romantic Age, but she remained remarkably unaffected by Romantic literary influences. Her plots concern domestic situations, with sensitivity and manners dominant. Her most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, is about a genteel 18th –century family in an English country town. Realistic in tone, graceful, and deliberately decorous in the fashion of the novel manners, Austen’s novels usually revolve around the business of finding appropriate husbands for marriageable daughters. Much of the plot unfolds through brilliant conversations, as in the dialogue of a play. This dialogue reveals characters and directs plot in stylish, modern way. Austen has a keen ear for conversation and a wit turned to satire. She is truly more representative of the neoclassical tradition of 18th-century literature than of the Romantic Period. Although she received little public recognition during her lifetime, Austen is now one of the best-loved English novelists and one who- in her use of dialogue-helped to develop the modern novel.
1) Sense and Sensibility
2) Pride and Prejudice
3) Mansfeild Park
6) Northanger Abbey
Writing style of Jane Austen
Generally speaking, Jane Austen is a writer of the 18th century though she lived mainly in the 19th century. She holds the leads of landlord class in politics, religion and moral principles. Her works show clearly her firm belief in the predominance of reason over passion, the sense of responsibility, good manner and clear judgment over the romantic tendencies of emotion and individuality. She shows her contempt towards snobbery, stupidity, wordiness and vague through subtle, satire and irony. Her main literary concern is about human beings in their personal relationships. In her works she characterizes a human being not at moments of crisis, but in the most trivial incidents of everyday life. Compared with other writers, Austen defined her stories within a very narrow sphere. The subject matter, the character range, the social setting and plots are all restricted to the late 18th century England. Everything in her novel reminds us of a quiet, uneventful and contented life of the English country. Her characteristic theme is that maturity is achieved through the loss of illusions. Faults of character displayed by the people of her novel are corrected when, through tribulation, lessons are learned. All these show a mind of the shrewdest intelligence adapting the available traditions and deepening the resources of art with consummate craftsmanship. Because of her sensitivity to universal patterns of human behaviour, Jane Austen has brought the English novel, as an art of form, to it maturity, and she has been regarded by many critics as one of the great of all novelists.
Pride and Prejudice
It opens with a direct reference to money marriages. Mr and Mrs Bennet have 5 daughters, whose marriage prospects are Mrs’ Bennet’s chief interest in life. Money considerations in love and marriage are sustained. The eldest of their daughter, Jane, gets married to the rich landlord Bringley whom her parents have in mind for her at the beginning of the story. The second daughter, heroine of the novel, Elizabeth Bennet is eventually united to Darcy, richer and of higher social rank than Bringley, although she rejects him out of her own petulant will and prejudice at first. The younger daughter of the family Lydia, though happily consummated marriage with a rather poor officer, but is considered a much less fortunate one than Elizabeth’s or Jane’s partly because of her elopement at first with officer but more because it was a poor officer whose wealth cannot be compared at all with that of Darcy or Jane’s husband Bingley. However this novel gives a subtle expose of money hurt on the part of young and marriageable daughter of a clergy.
The title of pride and prejudice reveals the novelist’s concern: if making good relationship is our main task in life, we must firstly have good judgment. Our first impressions are usually wrong, as is shown here by that of Elizabeth. In the process of judging others, Elizabeth finds out absurd about herself: her blindness, partiality, prejudice and absurdity. At the same time, Darcy too learns other people and himself. In the end, false prejudice is humbled and prejudice dissolve.
Walter Scott (1771-1832)
- Based on Scottish history
- Waverley (1814)
- Guy Mannering (1815)
- Old Morality (1816)
- Rob Roy (1817)
- The Heart of Midlothian (1818)
- Ivanhoe (1820)
- The Monastry (1820)
- Kenilworth (1821)
- The Abbot
- The Fortunes of Nigel (1822)
- Wood Stock (1826)
- Peveril of the Peak (1828)
Based on French history
- Quentin Durward
- Author’s contemporary life
- St. Ronan’s Wells
Scott made his fame by novels, which are not only characterized by romantic elements, but also are noted for their realistic description of historical events.
The stories of his novels are about incidents of historical significance, usually about the turning point of a nation’s history. They are unfolded on a vast scale and cover a wide range of actions. He had a deep interest in the role the masses play in the crucial moment of their country and has a profound pride in the nation’s past glory. The fates of individual heroes in his novels are closely linked with the historical events. It should be noticed that Scott is the first novelist who makes the scene an important factor in the action.
- Life and Adventures of Peter Porcupine
- Life of Thomas Paine
- Cobbett’s Monthly Sermons
- Cottage Economy
- Advice to Young Men
- Rural Rides
William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
- Life of Napoleon
- My First Acquaintance with Poets
Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
- The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
- On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth
- Tales from Shakespeare
- The Essays of Elia
An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice
Thomas Paine (1738-1809)
- The Rights of Man
- The Age of Reason
- The American Crisis
- Common Sense