The English Romantic movement developed in the late eighteenth century. In contrast to the rest of Western Europe, England's version of Romanticism developed sooner and was marked by a striking local colour and distinctiveness. William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, Thomas Moore, George Gordon Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Walter Scott, John Keats, and others were among its most prominent representatives; they all left a lasting legacy in English literature and helped shape global literature.
In the literature, Romanticism is viewed not just as a formal literary trend, but as a specific philosophy, and it is through this philosophy that we attempt to describe Romanticism, which is one of the most divisive literary movements in European history.
Magnificent lyric poetry, especially lyric poetry, was a hallmark of English Romanticism. Lyric poets' unique personalities shone through in every line they penned. The great English poets presented their ideas and insights in the form of parables, bizarre visions, and cosmic symbols. They didn't think of the sublime as something rare, but rather as something that might be found even in the most ordinary of experiences.
In contrast to sentimental writing, Romantics were not interested in a generic man but rather "the extraordinary man in the exceptional circumstances," which is one of the defining features of romantic literature. The romantic hero suffers from intense feelings, seeks perfection, and envisions an ideal world. The Middle Ages and "pristine nature," which the romantic hero often idealises, are potent symbols in which the hero recognises a reflection of his own complex and sometimes conflicted feelings.
The desire toward the ideal, human instincts and sentiments, and the notion that not logic and knowledge but intuition and imagination might explain all the secrets of existence are all crucial characteristics to consider when describing the relationship of romantic authors and poets to the world. However, the rejection of regular life that falls short of an ideal causes ambition to that ideal in the first place.
As a result, the romantic heroes suffered from a "interior dualism," caught between the ideal and the actual, and occasionally coming to oppose not only the bone of reality but also the divine world order. Here we have the everyday man taking seriously the "romantic irony" of a man's position in respect to an accepted reality. The notion is frequently coupled with sarcasm, a trait unique to English writing throughout its history.
The English Romantics were concerned primarily with social issues; in contrast to current bourgeois society, they praised nature and the purity of our innate emotions while rejecting the bourgeois establishment. Byron is a shining example of English Romanticism, yet his detractors have said that he is "clothed in a dull hopeless romanticism and selfishness." The triumph of freedom and individuality is juxtaposed with the anguish of struggle in his writings, which he uses to oppose the modern society.
Understanding of nature as a whole shifted in the late XVIII and early XIX centuries. First, it was linked to the romantics' shift in worldview and ethos, which allowed them to provide an explanation for all occurrences that was distinct from the mediaeval and Enlightenment eras. Romantics see the world spirit as a basic principle of nature, as "weak, vacillating, the least understandable and most enigmatic component of nature," and this perspective has implications for the romantic landscape ideal. This viewpoint on nature resulted in a picture of nature and landscape that included both the natural world and the spirit that "ruled" it. In contrast to other interpretations of nature, romanticism "tried to carry balance of the realm of pure ideas with the world of actual and visible objects, removing their conflict," as one critic puts it. According to research (Abrams, 1975),
These are vital problems because romantic poetry, by its very nature, has preserved not only the aesthetic worth of creative representation of its philosophy, but also a profoundly profound concepts and experiences, enormous human emotions.
It cannot be overstated how crucial the Romantics believed it to be to underline that all aspects of nature, not just the big picture, reflected aspects of the human spirit. To be fair, this problematization of man's place in the universe as reflected in romantic literature's tendency to humanise its characters and portray nature as subservient to the "world spirit" is a distinctive feature worth noting.
Therefore, the term "nature" had an altogether different connotation in the XVIII and XIX centuries. So, what is it that sets apart a romantic perspective on nature from its underlying assumptions? The scientific literature highlights the following features of romantic works' ideas and attitudes towards nature:
the deep romanticism subjectivity, the subjectivity of nature, precise, individual attitude to the subjects of nature;
projection of mood of the writer on nature and vice versa;
the identification of the sensitive subject with nature;
the animation of nature by subjective emotions of the poet;
passionate relationship of man to nature. (Moore J, 2010)
When compared to the organic view of nature held by Romantics, the notion of nature's subjectivity is more inclusive, since it brings together a diverse group of romantic poets. The English and German literary traditions are particularly good at expressing the idea of a subjective relationship with nature.
The subjective link with nature is a highly essential component of Romanticism, as seen by the words of Byron, who often emphasised his love of nature.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
(Byron G.G., “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”)
The "subjectivity" of nature, or the poet's emotional resonance with the natural world, is central to the romantic worldview. Examples of the subjective interpretation of nature utilised by Romantic poets include a wide range of moral epithets, strong emotions, and the frequent linking of inanimate objects to human experiences. "Nature understands, loves, suffers, and dreams, like a man, and together with the man," said poet Robert Frost. (Moore, 2010)
Thus, Romanticism is defined by a sense of oneness between man and nature, however this isn't necessarily represented in the pantheistic forms and may be linked to diverse ideological stances. Moreover, this oneness can manifest as a dualistic divide when the peaceful and harmonious qualities of nature stand in contrast to the pain and discord that characterise human relationships. Although different romantic poets may present it in different ways, all romantics have an innate passion for the experience of the hero's interaction with nature. The authors' pursuit of beauty and gorgeous imagery is reflected, on the one hand, in the predominance of landscape imagery in their works. On the other hand, they focus more on the inner workings of the human mind and emotions; the poet shifts gears from describing nature to describing emotions to illustrate the connection between the two. So, it is typical for romantic poets to make a statement on how nature relates to the inner world of man. "(Perkins, 1994)
It is the hour when from the boughs
The nightingale’s high note is heard;
It is the hour when lovers’ vows
Seem sweet in every whispered word;
And gentle winds, and waters near,
Make music to the lonely ear.
Each flower the dews have lightly wet,
And in the sky the stars are met,
And on the wave is deeper blue,
And on the leaf a browner hue,
And in the heaven that clear obscure,
So softly dark, and darkly pure.
Which follows the decline of day,
As twilight melts beneath the moon away.
(Byron G., “Parisina” (st. 1)
Nature, for romantic poets, was a reflection of the soul or the perfect existence that was the target of their fantasies. Nature, rather than words, thus, carries the greater weight of significance in their works.
Poets often used the idea of bringing nature to life, or humanising our understanding or interpretation of it, as a motif. Nature comes to life, full of the spiritual vitality of people, in contrast to the lifeless civilization that murders a live soul in search of riches, career, and power. In this context, people's minds often wander to unspoiled wilderness in search of tranquilly. Sometimes the contrast between human civilization and the natural world was expressed as the dichotomy between city and country, with "nature" denoting a bucolic countryside that stands in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of urban centres. Everything in nature, in contrast to the artificial and empty society, is pure, simple, and in harmony with itself.
John Keats, a lyric poet who focused on themes of love, beauty, and the arts, composed poems that evoked the natural world with a chanting quality. Keats totally abandoned mythical imagery in his poem "Fall" (1820), which paints a picture of autumn as a time of melancholy reflection on the passing of another year and preparation for the coming of winter. The poem's setting conjures up a picture of a humble guy, a peasant doomed to a life of endless labour.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core
(Keats J. “To Autumn”, in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 2005)
Keats, as a romantic poet, presented this dissonance between the dream and reality as an asymmetry between the ideal of beauty and bourgeois language. Though Keats admired beauty, he did not use it as an escape from the world or the challenges it presented. The beauty of existence, masked by its uglier aspects, was revealed to the reader in his poetry, revealing the truth of life and the essence of reality.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
(Keats J. , “Ode on Melancholy”, The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 2005 )
Lord George Gordon Byron was another major figure in English Romantic literature. Despite being a romantic poet, Byron was dedicated to the classical aesthetic and educational objectives. In his paintings, he depicted dismal scenes while also injecting a healthy dose of sarcasm, combining a nod to classical rigour and clarity with an image of conflicted emotions.
The moon is up, and yet it is not night;
Sunset divides the sky with her; a sea
Of glory streams along the Alpine height
Of blue Friuli’s mountains; Heaven is free
From clouds, but of all colours seems to be.
(Byron G. “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, A Romaunt, Canto IV, XXVII)
The intense desire to depict vivid and stark contrasts, especially in the depiction of nature, is evident in the love poetry. A storm, for Byron, represented the enormous, but ultimately destructive passions, and the Romantics often strove to show a violent nature.
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin-his control
Stops with the shore;-upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
(Byron G. “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, Canto II, CLXXIX)
The lovely poetry of Percy Shelley contain aspiration to an ideal and adoration of the absolute beauty of nature. Shelley's philosophical opinions, grounded in his understanding of the history of philosophy from ancient times, inform the character of his nature paintings in a way that is both natural and profound.
Shelley occasionally imbues nature with life, giving it the intelligence and perfection befitting the finest creation; he even dedicates a hymn to the "Spirit of Nature," proclaiming the cosmos to be its sacred dwelling place. When it comes to Shelley's intellectual development, the concepts of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance were the ones that had the most significant impact from the materialist perspective.
The West Wind represents rebirth and regeneration in "Ode to the West Wind" (1819) because it sweeps away the old and makes way for the new. The heroic champion of song is at one with the powerful West Wind.
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic redâ€¦
â€¦ Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!
(Shelley P.B., “Ode To The West Wind”, I)
Shelley uses potent natural metaphors to illustrate his beliefs about the power and immense influence of nature, such as the wind's role as "destroyer and preserver," which he describes with magical precision.
This demonstrates how the Romantic poets portrayed the natural world as one that is apart from and superior to the human. In this way, the sea, with its vastness and majesty, the wind, with its freedom and force, and the mountains, with their majesty and exquisite beauty, were often depicted by romantic poets. The freedom and power of nature are metaphorically linked to the freedom and might of the human spirit.
It is the romantic ideal that man and nature are one, and this ideal is central to the romantic movement. Therefore, "subjectivity," or the poet's emotional state as it relates to nature, is the most crucial component of romantic interpretations of the natural world. The subject's romantic view of nature reflects more than just his or her feelings about the universe at large; it also reflects how the subject feels about the social context in which he or she finds themselves. The individual's connection to the larger world and the significance of life is reflected in how they view and evaluate the natural world.
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