Friday, 24 April 2015

Romantic Poets, Trends

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN


The period from 1798 to 1824 is termed as ‘The Romantic Age’ of English Literature. In this period the writing was mostly poetry. A revolution was taking place in poetic language and its themes. Previously the head controlled the heart, now the heart controlled the head; for the previous poets feelings and imagination were dangerous, but for the Romantics reason and the intellect were dangerous.

The romantic period is the most fruitful period in the history of English literature. The revolt against the classical school which had been started by writers like Chatterton, Collins, Gray, Burne, Cowper etc. reached its climax during this period and some of the greatest and most popular English poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats belong to this period.

To have knowledge of the trends and characteristics of this age we are to discuss some of its prominent and representative figures.

THE FIRST ROMANTIC GENERATION


These were Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Scott, etc. who belong to this generation. But they can be further divided into two groups.

1.   THE LAKE POETS


The Lake Poets formed a school in the sense that they worked in close co-operation, and their lives were spent partly in the Lake District. Among these poets Wordsworth and Coleridge are quite prominent.

William Wordsworth

1. Wordsworth chose the language of the common people as the vehicle of his poetry. This was the first point of attack on the artificial and formal style of classical school of poetry.

2. The other point at which Wordsworth attacked the old school was its insistence on the town and artificial way of life which prevailed there. He wanted the poet to breathe fresh air of the hills and beautiful natural scenes and become interested in rural life and the simple folk living in the lap of nature. In his words

                                    One impulse from a vernal wood
                                    May teach you more of man
                                    Of moral evil and of good
                                    Than all the sages can.

S. T. Coleridge

Wordsworth’s naturalism and Coleridge’s supernaturalism became the two important spearhead of the Romantic Movement. Coleridge’s supernaturalism established the connection between the visible world and the other world which is unseen. He treated the supernatural in his masterly poem ‘The Ancient Mariner’ in such a manner that it looked quite natural.

2.   THE SCOTT GROUP


The poets belonging to this group are Sir Walter Scott, Cambell, and Thomas Moore. Scott was the first to make romantic poetry popular among the masses. Most of his poems recapture the middle ages and breathe an air of supernaturalism and superstitions. Thomas Cambell and Thomas Moore were prominent among a host of minor poets who were followers of Sir Walter Scott.

THE SECOND GENERATION


Byron, Shelley, Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Hazlitt etc. belong to second generation of the romantic poets, who came to forefront after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815.

The second generation came in conflict with the social environment with which their predecessors were in moral harmony.


Thus Romanticism in the second stage became a literature of social conflict. Both Byron and Shelley rebelled against society and had to leave England.

But basically the poets of the two generations of Romanticism shared the same literary beliefs and ideas. They were all innovators in the form as well as in the substance of their poetry.

Byron

Of all romantic poets Byron was the most egoistical in all his poems. He attached the greatest importance to his personality.

Of the romantic traits, he represented the revolutionary iconoclasm at its worst, and that is why he came in open conflict with the world around him.

P. B. Shelley

Whereas Byron was the greatest interpreter of revolutionary iconoclasm, Shelley was the revolutionary idealist, a prophet of hope and faith. He was a visionary who dreamed of the Golden Age.

            If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind.

Byron’s genius was destructive, Shelley’s was constructive. Byron’s motive impulse was pride, Shelley’s was love.

In the whole of English poetry there is no utterance as spontaneous as Shelley’s and no where does the thought flow with such irresistible melody.

John Keats

Of all the romantic poets, Keats was the pure romantic poet. He was not only the last but the most perfect of all Romantics. He was devoted to poetry and had no other interest.

          In ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ we see Keats’ love for Greek mythology and art. It is this ode which ends with the following unforgettable lines

                   Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty, that’s all
                        Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.

CONCLUSION


So having made this survey, we can summarize that Wordsworth’s naturalism, Coleridge’s supernaturalism, Scott’s medievalism, Byron’s iconoclasm, Shelley’s idealism, and Keats’ Hellenism brought a great revolution in English Literature. And this was the essence of Romanticism that literature must reflect all that is spontaneous and unaffected.

Trends in the Poetry of Romantic Age

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN


The Romantic period is the most fruitful period in the history of English literature. The revolt against the Classical school which had been started writers like Chatterton, Collins, Gray, Burne, Cowper etc. reached its climax during this period and some of the greatest and most popular English poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats belong to this period. This period starts from 1798 with the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge, and the famous ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’ which Wordsworth wrote as a manifesto of the new form of poetry which he and Coleridge introduced in opposition to the poetry of the Classical school.

Wordsworth chose the language of the common people as the vehicle of his poetry, because it is the most sincere expression of the deepest and rarest passions and feelings. This was the first point of attack on the artificial and formal style of Classical school of poetry.

The other point at which Wordsworth attacked the old school was its insistence on the town and the artificial way of life which prevailed there. He wanted the poet to breathe fresh air of the hills and beautiful natural scenes and become interested in rural life and the simple folk living in the lap of nature. He describes in his ‘Lines written above Tintern Abbey’,

The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion; the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite.

Wordsworth’s revolt against the Classical school was in keeping with the political and social revolutions of the time as the French Revolution and the American War of Independence which broke away the tyranny of social and political domination, and which proclaim the liberty of the individual or nation to be the master of its own destiny. Just as liberty of the individual was the watchword of the French Revolution, liberty of a nation from foreign domination was the watchword of the American War of Independence; in the same manner liberty of the poet from the tyranny of the literary rules and conventions was the watchword of the new literary movement which we call by the name of Romantic movement.


This movement is also termed as the Romantic Revival, because all these characteristics- the liberty of the writer to choose the theme and form of his literary production, the importance given to imagination and human emotions, and a broad and catholic outlook in life in all its manifestations in towns, villages, mountains, rivers, etc. belonged to the literature of Elizabethan Age which can be called as the first Romantic Age in English literature. The poets of the Romantic period always looked back to the Elizabethan masters—Shakespeare, Spenser, and others—and got inspiration from them.

THE FIRST ROMANTIC GENERATION

Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey and Scott belong to the first romantic generation. Though they were in their youth filled with great enthusiasm by the outburst of the French Revolution which held high hopes for mankind, they became conservatives and gave up their juvenile ideas when the French Republic converted itself into a military empire resulting in Napoleonic wars against England and other European countries. The revolutionary ardour, therefore, faded away, and these poets instead of championing the cause of the oppressed section of mankind, turned to mysticism, the glory of the past, love of natural phenomena, and the noble simplicity of the peasant race attached to the soil, and still sticking to traditional virtues and values. Thus these poets of the romantic generation were not in conflict with the society of which they were a part.


THE SECOND (YOUNGER) ROMANTIC GERENATION

                 
The second generation of the writers—Byron, Shelley, Keats, Leigh Hunt, Hazlitt and others—who came after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, revolted from the reactionary spirit which was prevailing at that time in England against the ideals of the French Revolution. The result was that the second generation came in conflict with the social environment with which their predecessors were in moral harmony. Moreover, the victorious struggle with the French empire had left England improvised, and the political and social agitations which had subsided on account of foreign danger, gain raised their head. The result was that there was a lot of turmoil and perturbation among the rank and file, which was being suppressed by those who were in power. In such an atmosphere the younger romantic generation renewed the revolutionary ardour and attacked the established social order. Thus Romanticism in the second stage became a literature of social conflict. Both Byron and Shelly rebelled against society and had to leave England.

1.   Innovation, A Revolt Against The Artificiality
                 
But basically the posts of the two generations shared the same literary beliefs and ideals. They were all innovators in the form as well as in the substance of their poetry. They all condemned the theory and practice the poetical diction prevalent throughout the eighteenth century. They rebelled against the tyranny of the couplet, and preferred either blank verse or stanzas, or a variety of shorter lyrical measures.

Among the aspects of the Romantic Movement in England may be listed: sensibility; primitivism; freedom from rules; spontaneity; solitary life rather then life in society; love of nature; love of beauty; sympathetic interest in the past, especially the medieval; mysticism; individualism; and a reaction against whatever characterized neoclassicism.

2.   Excess Of Emotions And Imagination
                 
Romantic poetry emphasizes feeling, intuition and imagination to a point of irrationalization. An interesting schematic explanation calls romanticism the predominance of imagination over reason and formal rules (classicism) and over the sense of fact or the actual (realism).

3.   Common Themes During Romantic Age

Several common themes flow through poetry of the Romantic Period. The poets, either through conscious or unconscious efforts share similar hopes, fears, and concerns. These themes include “melancholy” that is relieved through nature, the frailty of human accomplishments, and intellectual beauty etc.

As with today’s poets and artists, depression is one of these themes, referred to as melancholy, and the poets found relief through nature. William Wordsworth is an excellent example of this self-medication through nature. His life, like many others, featured moments of pain and the grief of lost loves. Perhaps the most intense grief for him was for that of his daughter, Catherine, who died young. This pain is clear through his works, such as ‘Lucy Gray’, which takes on a nursery rhyme scheme and focuses on the death of a little girl. It ends with the lines

O’er rough and smooth she trips along,
And sings a solitary song  
That whistles in the wind.

              Another of these themes is the frailty of human accomplishments. Byron expresses his belief in several places, but the most predominant in my opinion is in “Darkness”. He writes,

The palaces of crowned kings—the huts, 
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed.

4.   Love For Nature
                 
Instead of living a dull, routine life in the town, and spending all his time and energy in the midst of artificiality and complexity of the cities, the poets called upon man to adopt a healthier way of living in the natural world which is full of significance for his soul.

5.   Renaissance Of Wonder
     
The human spirit began to drive a new richness from outward objects and philosophical ideas. The poets began to draw inspiration from several sources—mountains and lakes, the dignity of the peasant, the terror of supernatural, medieval chivalry and literature, the arts and mythology of Greece, the prophecy of the golden age. All these produced a sense of wonder which had to be properly conveyed in literary form. That is why some critics call the Romantic Revival as the Renaissance of Wonder.
                                                           
                                     

William Wordsworth and Nature

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN


Wordsworth’s passion for nature is well-known. As De Quincey puts it, ‘Wordsworth had his passion for nature fixed in his blood. It was a necessity of his being, like that of a mulberry leaf to the silk-worm, and through his commerce with nature did he live and breathe.’ Wordsworth had a complete philosophy of nature. Following major points in his creed of nature may be noted:

Nature, A Moral Teacher

Wordsworth emphasized the moral influence of nature. A careful reading of ‘The Prelude’ shows that he received the best part of his education from nature. He regarded her as a great moral teacher, as the best mother, guardian and nurse of man, as an elevating influence. Like the senior Duke in ‘As You Like it’, he too found

                   Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks
                        Sermons in stones, and good in everything

In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he tells his sister Dorothy that “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her”. In his eyes “Nature is a teacher whose wisdom we can learn if we will, and without which any human life is vain and incomplete”. In his words

                   One impulse from a vernal wood
                        May teach you more of man
                        Of moral evil and of good
                        Than all the sages can.

Wordsworth insists that through contact with nature the heart is exalted and made happy. Such happiness and exaltation is moral and in such a moral condition the heart can do no wrong.

Spiritual Interpretation Of Nature

Wordsworth believed that there is a divine spirit pervading all the objects of nature. This belief finds a complete expression in ‘Tintern Abbey’ when he tells us that he has felt the presence of a sublime spirit in the setting sun, the round ocean, the living air, the blue sky, the mind of man, tec. The spirit he says rolls through all things:

          A motion and a spirit, all objects of all thoughts rolls all things
            The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, the guide, the guardian of
            My heart, and soul of all moral beings.

This belief in a divine spirit pervading all objects on nature is called ‘Pantheism’. For him a walk in the country is as edifying and religious as a walk to Church. The fields and waters, the hills and woodlands are, according to his faith, visible outward manifestations of the ‘wisdom and spirit of the Universe’.

Development In His Love Of Nature

Wordsworth’s attitude towards nature did not become mystical or spiritual all at once. There were three stages in this development. In the first stage, he looked upon nature as a source of and scene for mere animal pleasure like skating, riding, fishing, and walking. In the second stage, developed into an impassioned love like a young man’s passion for his beloved, when

          The sounding cataract
            Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock
            The mountain and the deep and gloomy wood
            Their colours and their forms, were then to me
            An appetite; a feeling and a love

This stage was soon followed by the final stage of the spiritual interpretation of nature. He began to worship nature, because he saw in all natural objects the indwelling spirit of the ‘Supreme Being’. To him the myriad forms and phenomena around us were nothing but various manifestation of the divine. Moreover, he realized that there was an indissoluble bond between nature, man and God; this realization filled him with universal love and faith that all God’s creation is full of blessings. During this period his love of nature became linked with the love of man. 


Nature’s Soothing Influence And Healing Power
           
Wordsworth believed that the company of nature gives joy to the human heart. In ‘Tintern Abbey’ he expresses the joy he feels on revisiting a scene of nature. When after the failure of the great hopes of the French Revolution, Wordsworth’s mental horizon was darkened by doubts and disappointments; it was the lovely and peaceful surrounding of the Lake District that brought peace and solace to his subjected soul.


'The Prelude' As An Autobiographical Poem/Development of Wordsworth's Sensibilities

SHUAIB ASGHAR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
GOVT. RAZVIA ISLAMIA COLLEGE
HAROONABAD, PAKISTAN


‘The Prelude’, a kind of ‘semi-autobiography’ is only a record of the meaningful experiences of Wordsworth’s life. He tells the story of his inner life from earliest childhood up to 1798, the year of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’. It is not a self-portrait. In it, Wordsworth makes no attempt to bring his personality before the reader. It actually offers us a record of his mental and spiritual growth which starts from his very infant days. As it is concerned with the development of the poet’s sensibilities, only those aspects and events of his life which affected them are included. He selects only those of his actions and experiences which are significant for the evolution of his soul. It is the Nature inspired life which he lived through his childhood and youth that he tries to recapture and record.

The introduction to ‘The Prelude’ ends with a brief account of the paradisiacal state of childhood described as a golden age of poetic radiance and spontaneous creativity. The child is shown as undergoing the baptism of sun and water in Nature, in which he feels utterly secure. How such a state of innocent joy is lost, and how with the help of poetic imagination it may be restored, is the theme of ‘The Prelude’. The introduction in the Book I leads immediately to the account of Wordsworth’s childhood and school-time, and from the five year old child to the boy of ten. The seed of his soul that has been implanted in the world begins to take roots and grow under the influence of the ‘inscrutable workmanship’ which reconciles ‘discordant elements’.

          Fair seed-time had my soul, and I grew up
            Fostered alike by beauty and by fear

In fact, Nature affected her discipline on the growing boy by providing occasions to evoke the emotions of pleasure and fear. We can divide these experiences into three degrees of emotions:

1.   Pure Joy (Innocent Delight)

We find the boy of five enjoying long spells of bath:

     In a small mill-race severed from the stream
      Made one long bathing of a summer’s day

Sometimes Wordsworth would run about in the sandy fields leaping through flowery fraves of yellow ragwort bush. Then the frosty season was perhaps the happiest time of rapture for the poet. The most delightful experiences recalled by Wordsworth is he exciting game of skating in the company of other young friends. The ringing sounds of their moving skates would be echoed by the leafless trees and the surrounding hills and Wordsworth
     ………………wheeled about
      Proud and exulting like an untired horse
      That cares not for his home.

He would even stand aloof watching the earth and rocks turning round and round when they stopped their playful whirling movements on the smooth surface of the ice.

2.   Troubled Pleasure

By the word ‘fear’ Wordsworth implies fear associated with a feeling of wonder. The bird-nesting episode nicely illustrates the experience of such pleasure of fear mixed with astonishment. Wordsworth and his companions used to move about just like robbers in quest of high places to snatch away the nests and eggs of birds. Sometimes he hung alone above the nest of a raven at a high altitude in a very precarious position and then his delight and excitement was much tempered by a sense of great amount of peril.

                   While on the perilous ridge I hung alone
                        With what strange utterance did the loud dry wind
                        Bow through my ears

3.   Pure Fear

In the bird snaring episode Wordsworth has nicely described his first experience of pure fear. During their night wanderings sometimes he would catch hold of a bird that happened to be trapped in the snare of some other boy and then came Nature’s severer intervention:
          And when the deed was done
            I heard among the solitary hills
            Low breathing coming after me, and sounds
            Of undistinguishable motion, steps
            Almost as silent as the turf they trod.

Wordsworth’s boyhood is dominated by beauty and fear of Nature. While snaring birds or robbing nests the boy experiences exultation as well as terror. Here his feeling of joy and guilt are inseparable. These experiences remain in the boy’s mind, transforming the world for him and haunting his dreams. It is from such experiences that Wordsworth’s poetic imagination is formed.

Then the time comes when Wordsworth is chastened by Nature so that the meanest flower that blows gives him thoughts that do often live too deep for tears. Humanity and humility stand now gifted to him. Realizing the power of Nature to teach, elevate and soothe, his mission is to spread his philosophy of love and joy through his poetry.

So, we can say that he traces the details of the mind with extreme care. He holds a microscope over the small, almost invisible links that build up into principles, morals and characters. He makes an attempt to show that he and his poetry are made of, and they are not made only of great events and emotions, but of small things that a less observant mind would have forgotten—of boating expeditions, of dreams, of the noise of the wind in the mountains, of the sight of the ash tree outside his bedroom window. These small apparently disconnected incidents are to Wordsworth neither small nor disconnected. In the poem we see him tracing the links, joining them together, and working out their meanings.