How Romantic Was William Blake? Essay

2181 words - 9 pages

The time period typically associated with the Romantic Poets and writers was one of the most turbulent to hit Europe ever. With the French Revolution sweeping the fields of Alsace, Lorraine and beyond, most monarchs, including those in England were wary of the new notions that were becoming common place among the commoners. Not since the Reformation of the 16th century was the continent in more turmoil. Yet with this build up of angst came a fertile bed for a new style of writing to grow in. This new style embraced many things that were ignored for one reason or another in the previous period of writing among the Augustans. To generalize, but not trying to be an idiot, one would have to attribute a heightened sense of nature to the Romantics (from this point on the Romantic writers will be simply called the Romantics.) This was done in an attempt to portray the "intimate self-revelation of the poet" (Perkins 9). In addition, there was an attempt to try and minimize the seemingly prepackaged and symmetrical lyrics of the previous age. The attempt to create poetry as a "'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings'" was the goal of many of the main poets (Perkins 9). This was exemplified by the poet Keats when he said, "'if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all'" (Perkins 13).

These are some of the broad ideals of the writers, though not all embraced these ideals themselves. Yet inside of these standards was the content which was altered greatly from that of the Augustans. Some of the things stressed by the Romantics were synaesthesia, intuition, and "e`talage du moi" or the "display of the self" (Perkins 9). These were all used to create the feeling in poetry that the poem was as Wordsworth said, "man speaking to men" (Perkins 13). Therefore the goal changed from the poet as a sort of deity forming poetry as a "maker", in which the poetry should be revered, to the poet as a "speaker", in which the common man could read and benefit from the work (Perkins 13).

The aforementioned characteristics are what are generally associated with Romantic. However, there must be more than a simple synopsis in an attempt to define what the Romantics were all about. The official definition as seen in the Oxford English Dictionary is, "Of a fabulous or fictitious character; having no foundation in fact" (OED def 2). Now if in keeping with this definition, are we to assume that the Romantic writers were writing works that had no basis in real life and fact and only on "fuzzy-minded ideals?" This does not seem to be the case at all. Actually the opposite is probably the case. The Romantics used what they saw in life and nature to symbolize what they felt themselves. In this way, they could create elaborate metaphors and link seemingly incongruent things to each other. As Perkins states in the General Introduction, "[t]he illusion was that in lyrics one heard not a fictional, but a real person...

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