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Romanticism Through Whittier's Eyes Essay

1241 words - 5 pages

Most people agree that abolishing slavery has always been a struggle throughout the history of America. Great writers and thinkers openly expressed their disapproval, especially during the Romantic era. During this time period, strict laws were replaced by artistic freedom, experimentation, and critical thinking. Ideas of political liberty were also seriously considered by Romantics. Through a close examination of the poem “Ichabod,” John Greenleaf Whittier is definitely considered a Romantic poet because he strongly presents his political opposition to slavery, criticizes and questions the moral qualities of man, and expresses religious ideas through a metaphorical comparison to the Bible.
Poets are, no doubt, recognized first for their poetry. Despite the fact that Whittier took on many roles politically, he was first and foremost a poet. His writing pertained to the abolitionist movement and had been composed for purely political reasons. Not only was this pet a Quaker, but he was also a significant politician and moral force in the fight to abolish slavery. Lewis Leary confirms the purpose of “Ichabod” within the book John Greenleaf Whittier:
This piece, the famous “Ichabod,” came more directly, out of his political commitment than any previous work. “This poem,” Whittier wrote years later, “was the outcome of the surprise and grief and forecast of evil consequences which I felt on reading the Seventh of March Speech by Daniel Webster....” (105)
The 1850s decade began abruptly when on the seventh of March; Daniel Webster affirmed his support of compromise with the Southern slave power. Von Frank describes Whittier as so "shocked and saddened by this unexpected defection” that it led to the powerful protest “Ichabod.” This poem was the result of Whittier's anger at Webster after reading Webster's "Seventh of March" (1850) speech, which supported The Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Law. Webster knew that his speech would cost him many supporters. In the end he was proved right, considering that he was denounced by many New Englanders (including Emerson, Holmes, W.L. Garrison, and Wendell Phillips). However, "Ichabod" is one of the most powerful poems of denunciation ever written. This high level of denunciation had not been ever reached before nor ever attempted again. The intense lines of "Ichabod" were read throughout the North, and certainly troubled Webster. Even Whittier was bothered by their own severity so much, that thirty years later he wrote a second Webster poem which he set beside "Ichabod" in a collection of his works (Waggoner 69).The idea of "Ichabod" is more complex than it may seem on the surface, mainly because the lines are deeply engraved with Whittier's dark, opposing words. Whittier is a true poet because he expresses himself through his love for poetry. His purpose and burning passion within his soul is what makes "Ichabod" a poem of "strengthened and lyrical expression" (509).
"Ichabod" is one of...

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