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The Romantic Age (PowerPoint)


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									The Romantic Age
 Introduction
 The Romantic Period
 by Harley Henry
 http://www.nexuslearning.net/book
                The Beginning
   The divine arts of imagination: imagination, the
    real & eternal world of which this vegetable
    universe is but a faint shadow.
                   —William Blake

    The publication of a collection of poems
    called Lyrical Ballads, a collaboration
    between William Wordsworth and Samuel
    Taylor Coleridge, began the Romantic
    period in England.
   During the spring of 1798, two young
    English poets, aged 27 and 25, sold some
    of their poems to raise money for a trip to
    Germany. Each had published books of
    poetry, but a new joint work was to be
    anonymous. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
    the younger of the pair, told the printer:
    ―Wordsworth’s name is nothing . . . mine
   Soon after they left England, their book,
    Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems,
    appeared. Among the ―few other poems‖
    was Coleridge’s long narrative The Rime
    of the Ancient Mariner (Collection 8) and a
    last-minute addition, Wordsworth’s ―Lines
    Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern
    Abbey‖ (Collection 8). Both of these works
    are now among the most important poems
    in English literature.
   So began what is now called the
    ―Romantic period‖ in England. Literary
    historians have found other momentous
    events to mark its beginning and end, but
    we should remember the casual, modest
    appearance of Lyrical Ballads as we
    consider the Romantic period and the
    writers associated with it.
   Romanticism
   is a complex artistic, literary, and intellectual movement
    that originated in the second half of the 18th century in
    Western Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the
    Industrial Revolution.[1] In part, it was a revolt against
    aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of
    Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific
    rationalization of nature,[2] and was embodied most
    strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but can
    be detected even in changed attitudes towards children
    and education.
     Important Historical Events
   Political upheaval in France and the
    United States touched England as
    well. Conservative economic and
    political measures and a lengthy war
    against Napoleon consolidated the
    power of the rich.
   Turbulent Times, Bitter Realities
   We think about this era in terms of some
    important historical events. Beginning in America
    in 1776, an age of revolution swept across
    western Europe, releasing political, economic,
    and social forces that produced, during the next
    century, some of the most radical changes ever
    experienced in human life. Another way to date
    the Romantic period is to say that it started with
    the French Revolution in 1789 and ended with
    the Parliamentary reforms of 1832 that laid the
    political foundations for modern Britain.
   The era was dominated by six poets: Three (William
    Blake, William Wordsworth, and Samuel Taylor
    Coleridge) were born before the period began and lived
    through most or all of it, while three others (the ―second
    generation‖ of Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and
    George Gordon, Lord Byron) began their short careers in
    the second decade of the new century but died before
    1825. It was a turbulent, revolutionary age, one in which
    England changed from an agricultural society to an
    industrial nation with a large and restless working class
    concentrated in the teeming mill towns.
   The American Revolution had lost for England her
    thirteen colonies. This was a great economic loss, but it
    was also a loss of prestige and of confidence. The more
    radical revolution in France, which started with the
    storming of the prison called the Bastille on July 14,
    1789, had far more serious repercussions. For the ruling
    classes in England, the French Revolution came to
    represent their worst fears: the overthrow of an
    anointed king by a democratic ―rabble.‖ To English
    conservatives, the French Revolution meant the triumph
    of radical principles, and they feared that the
    revolutionary fever would spread across the Channel.
   But democratic idealists and liberals like
    Wordsworth felt exhilarated by the events
    in France. During the revolution’s early
    years, they even made trips to France to
    view the ―new regime‖ at first hand, as if
    it were a tourist attraction like the
    Acropolis in Greece. Wordsworth later
    wrote, ―Bliss was it in that dawn to be
    alive, / But to be young was very heaven!‖
   Even Wordsworth became disillusioned,
    however, when in 1792 the ―September
    massacre‖ took place in France.
    Hundreds of French aristocrats—some
    with only the slightest ties to the regime
    of King Louis XVI—had their
    heads severed from their bodies by a
    grisly new invention, the guillotine.
   And that wasn’t the end of it. In the midst
    of the blood and turmoil and calls from
    France for worldwide revolution, control of
    the French government changed hands
    again. Napoleon Bonaparte, an officer in
    the French army, emerged first as dictator
    and then, in 1804, as emperor of France.
    In the end, Napoleon— whose very name
    today suggests a tyrant—became as
    ruthless as the executed king himself.
   All of these bewildering changes in western
    Europe made conservatives in England more
    rigid than ever. England instituted severe
    repressive measures: They outlawed collective
    bargaining and kept suspected spies or agitators
    in prison without a trial. In 1803, England began
    a long war against Napoleon. English guns first
    defeated Napoleon’s navy at the Battle of
    Trafalgar and, finally, in 1815, with the help of
    allies, sent his army packing at Waterloo,
   The conservatives in England felt they had
    saved their country from a tyrant and
    from chaos; the early supporters of the
    revolution, like Wordsworth, felt betrayed.
    For them, Waterloo was simply the defeat
    of one tyrant by another.
The Tyranny of Laissez Faire
   At the same time, the Industrial Revolution was bringing about
    other changes in English life. Previously, goods had been made by
    hand, at home. Now, production switched to factories, where
    machines worked many times faster than human beings could work
    by hand. Since factories were in cities, the city populations
    increased, causing desperate living conditions that would appall
    even the most hardened social worker today.
   In addition, the communal land once shared by small farmers was
    taken over by individual owners. Some of these rich owners
    transformed the fields into vast private parks, generously stocked
    with deer for their own Christmas hunts. Others divided the land
    neatly into privately held fields. Whatever happened to the land, it
    was no longer communally owned. This resulted in large numbers of
    landless people. Just as some unemployed and homeless do today,
    these landless people migrated to cities in search of work. Or they
    went on the dole, or welfare.
   The economic philosophy that kept all this misery going
    was a policy called laissez faire, ―let (people) do (as they
    please).‖ According to this policy, economic forces
    should be allowed to operate freely without government
    interference. The result of laissez faire was that the rich
    grew richer, and the poor suffered even more. The
    system, of course, had its most tragic effects on the
    helpless, especially the children. Small children of the
    poor were often used like beasts of burden. In the coal
    pits, for example, very small children were even
    harnessed to carts for dragging coal, just as if they had
    been small donkeys.
   Frustrated by England’s resistance to political and social change that
    would improve conditions, the Romantic
    poets turned from the formal, public verse of the eighteenth-century
    Augustans to a more private, spontaneous, lyric poetry. These lyrics
    expressed the Romantics’ belief that imagination, rather than mere
    reason, was the best response to the forces of change. Wordsworth
    spoke of imagination this way:
       . . . spiritual love acts not nor can exist
       Without imagination, which, in truth,
       Is but another name for absolute power
       And clearest insight, amplitude of mind,
       And Reason in her most exalted mood.
                            —from The Prelude
   The poets of the Romantic period
    responded to social and economic
    changes caused by rapid
    industrialization and to governmental
    policies that ignored the problems of
    the poor.
    What Does “Romantic” Mean?

   The word romantic comes from the term romance, one
    of the most popular genres of medieval literature. (See
    ―from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,‖ Elements of
    Literature in Collection 2.) Later, Romantic writers self-
    consciously used the elements of romance in an attempt
    to go back beyond the refinements of neoclassical
    literature to older types of writing that they saw as more
    ―genuine.‖ The romance genre also allowed writers to
    explore new, more psychological and mysterious aspects
    of human experience.
   Today, the word romantic is often a
    negative label used to describe
    sentimental writing, particularly those
    best-selling paperback ―romances‖ about
    love—a subject that many people
    mistakenly think the Romantic poets
    popularized. As a historical term, however,
    romantic has at least three useful
    meanings, all of them relevant to
    the Romantic poets.
   First, the term romantic signifies a fascination with youth and
    innocence, with ―growing up‖ by exploring and learning to trust our
    emotions and our sense of will and identity. Second, the term
    romantic is applied to a stage in the cyclical development of
    societies: This is the stage when people need to question tradition
    and authority in order to imagine better—that is, happier, fairer, and
    healthier—ways to live. Romantic in this sense is associated with
    idealism. (The 1966–1975 period in the United States might be
    called a romantic era.) And third, in the so-called Romantic period of
    the first half of the nineteenth century (up to the Civil War in
    America), Western societies reached the conditions necessary for
    industrialization. This demanded that people acquire a stronger and
    stronger awareness of change and that they try to find ways to
    adapt to it. In this sense, we still live with the legacy of the
    Romantic period.
   The term romantic signifies a
    fascination with youth and
    innocence, a questioning of authority
    and tradition for idealistic purposes,
    and an adaptation to change.
    Romanticism is characterized by
       these general features:

   • Romanticism turned away from the eighteenth-century
    emphasis on reason and artifice. Instead, the Romantics
    embraced imagination and naturalness.
   • Romantic-era poets rejected the public, formal, and
    witty works of the previous century. They preferred
    poetry that spoke of personal experiences and emotions,
    often in simple, unadorned language.
   • The Romantics each used the lyric as the form best
    suited to expressions of feeling, self-revelation, and the
   • Wordsworth urged poets to adopt a democratic
    attitude toward their audiences; though endowed with a
    special sensibility, the poet was always ―a man speaking
    to men.‖
   • Many Romantics turned to a past or an inner dream
    world that they felt was more picturesque and magical
    than the ugly industrial age they lived in.
   • Most Romantics believed in individual liberty and
    sympathized with those who rebelled against tyranny.
   • The Romantics thought of nature as transformative;
    they were fascinated by the ways nature and the human
    mind ―mirrored‖ the other’s creative properties.
          Poetry, Nature, and the
   Lyrical Ballads did not remain unnoticed or anonymous for long. In 1800,
    with Coleridge looking over his shoulder, Wordsworth composed a Preface
    for the expanded collection. In it he declared that he was writing a new
    kind of poetry that he hoped would be ―well adapted to interest mankind
    permanently....‖ The subject matter would be different from that of earlier
    giants of poetry—like Dryden and Pope—who used poetry to satirize, or to
    persuade the reader with argumentative techniques. For Wordsworth, good
    poetry was ―the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.‖ And such
    poetry should use simple, unadorned language to deal with commonplace
    for a particular purpose. The form is often a lyric that lends itself to
    spontaneity, immediacy, a quick burst of emotion, and self-revelation.
    Furthermore, Wordsworth focused on rural life instead of city life, because
    in the
    country ―the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and
    permanent forms of Nature.‖ Wordsworth
    found hope in ―certain inherent and indestructible qualities of the human
    mind, and likewise . . . certain powers in the great and permanent objects
    that act upon it, which are equally inherent and indestructible.‖ In other
    words, there is nature, and there are human beings to experience nature.
   The Romantics are often called nature poets. This
    description is misleading if it suggests that their poetry is
    full of charming scenes of forests, mountains, and
    streams—like the scenic overlooks on highways or the
    pictures on travel brochures.
   The Romantics prized experiences of the beauty and
    majesty of nature. They did not think of nature
    as hostile, but they had a strong sense of its mysterious
    forces, and they were intrigued by the ways that nature
    and the human mind act upon each other. In the
    Preface, Wordsworth says that the poet ―considers man
    and nature as essentially adapted to each other, and the
    mind of man as naturally a mirror of the fairest and most
    interesting properties of nature.‖
   Each of the Romantic poets had his own special view of
    the creative power of the imagination and of the ways in
    which the human mind is adapted to nature. You will
    notice that the poems usually present imaginative
    experiences as very powerful or moving. This suggests
    that, in addition to being a special faculty of the mind,
    the imagination is also a kind of desire, a motive that
    drives the mind to learn and to know things it cannot
    learn by rational and logical thinking. So, although the
    mind is naturally a ―mirror‖ of nature, as Wordsworth
    thought, the imagination actually moves the mind in
    mysterious ways to imitate (without being sacrilegious)
    the powers of its Maker. The purpose of this imitation is
    to create new realities in the mind and (as a result) in
   In the Romantic period, poetry was
    no longer used to make complex
    arguments in a witty, polished style.
    Romantic poets used unadorned
    language to explore the significance
    of commonplace subjects, the beauty
    of nature, and the power of the
    human imagination.
         The Idea of the Poet

   In 1802, in order to clarify his remarks about poetry,
    Wordsworth added to his Preface a long section on the
    question, What is a poet? His answer began: ―He is a
    man speaking to men.‖
   If this seems strange, consider what happens in a good
    many of the poems in the following collections. There is
    a person in the poem—we will call him the ―speaker‖ to
    distinguish him from the poet—who is ―speaking to‖
    someone or something else: a young Highland girl, a
    baby asleep in a cottage, a skylark, even a Greek vase or
    a season of the year.
   Each poem of this type not only asks us to imagine (pretend) that
    the ―speaking‖ is taking place, but also makes us consider what kind
    of speaking is taking place. Is the speaker praising or confessing or
    complaining or worshipping or expressing envy? That is, what is the
    speaker doing by ―speaking‖?
   The speaking in lyric poetry is not the Augustan reasoning in verse.
    It is a more emotional, passionate speaking from the heart. It has
    been said that we do not hear lyric poetry so much as overhear it—
    as if (using our imagination again) we are eavesdropping on a
    private conversation or on someone talking to himself or herself out
    loud. The Romantic lyric, then, speaks in what has been called the
    true voice of feeling or the language of the heart. In writing this
    way, the Romantics created a kind of poetry that poets today
    continue to use.
   Wordsworth’s deceptively simple definition of the poet as ―a man
    speaking to men‖ was thus a revolutionary
    concept in a number of ways. If we think of the speaker (not the
    poet) as an ordinary person, then it is a very
    democratic definition. Poetry is to be about human experience,
    about the fundamental relationship between the mind (including the
    heart and the imagination) and other people and other things. The
    speaking should be convincing so that it can seem a genuine and
    sincere account of that experience, no matter how special or
    extravagant the experience may appear to be.
   The speakers in Romantic poetry speak in the language of
    feelings, or of the heart. This exploration of the emotional
    experiences of ordinary people was revolutionary.
          The Romantic Poet
In saying that the poet is ―a man speaking to men,‖
   Wordsworth did not mean that the poet is just a man. In
   the Preface, it is clear that the poet is a special person,
   ―endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm
   and tenderness . . . a greater knowledge of human
   nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are
   supposed to be common among mankind.‖ Though the
   word supposed (meaning thought) may suggest that
   Wordsworth thought his fellow citizens had too low an
   estimate of much of humankind, all of the Romantic
   poets described the poet in such lofty terms.
   For William Blake, for example, the poet was the bard,
    an inspired revealer and teacher. The poet, wrote
    Coleridge, ―brings the whole soul of man into activity‖ by
    employing ―that synthetic and magical power . . . the
    imagination.‖ Shelley called poets ―the unacknowledged
    legislators of the world.‖ Keats wrote that a poet is a
    ―physician‖ to all humanity and ―pours out a balm upon
    the world.‖ Nothing, wrote Wordsworth in The Recluse,
            . . . can breed such fear and awe
             As fall upon us often when we look
             Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man—
             My haunt, and the main region of my song.
   The poet, in sum, is someone human
    beings cannot do without.
   The Romantic poets found a way
    through the imagination to fulfill the
    poet’s traditional role as “prophet,
    priest, and king” in a time of change.

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