The Importance of Romanticism in Literature
In Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much With Us” can be seen all the classic signs of the Romantic movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century well embodied, complete with a near-worship of nature (“Little we see in Nature that is ours…for this, for everything, we are out of tune”) that was perhaps an understandable reaction to not only the classicism of the prior era, but the sociopolitical realities of the day (such as the French Revolution), a sort of intellectualized version of the hippie movement of 1960s America. Clearly, Wordsworth here is taking a typically Romantic view of the social order and what remained acceptable norms even in religious view (“I’d rather be a Pagan…so might I…have glimpses that would make me less forlorn…”), and a kind of individual, internal, take on the acquisition of truth that echoed the ultra-romanticism of Wordsworth’s fellow Briton, William Blake, in his insistence that he create his own “systems” lest he “be ruled by another man’s.” Much of these ideas would appeal, at least in their simplest forms, to much of modern consciousness, rebelling as it does not only against conformity and convention, but the apparent subjugation of the individual by the increasingly dizzying swirl of corporate culture and technological globalization.
It is interesting to read Emily Dickinson’s take, as it were, on Romanticism from some five decades after Wordsworth. Dickinson wrote in the wake of the industrial revolution (or at least its initial stages) and fell only somewhat short of Thoreau’s radical view of the railroad as emblematic of technology devouring the human person (“We do not ride upon the railroad,” Thoreau famously asserted, “but the railroad rides upon us.”). Is Dickinson’s blending of the Romantic appreciation of nature with an observance of the strange habits of trains meant to be an ironic attack upon the iron beasts (with their “horrid – hooting stanza”), or merely a quaint observation, as Dickinson was, after all, writing for no apparent audience but herself? Regardless, her poem shows signs of the residue of Romanticism as well as the potential beginnings of weariness with industrialism (certainly the Romantics would have abhorred the most inhuman manifestations of industrialism’s witty offspring, modernism).
Bishop’s “The Fish” reflects a certain tinge of the Romantic ideal, one could argue, in the poem’s climactic reversal of nature-worship via nature-conqueror in favor of a conscious movement towards reevaluation of nature not as a...