THE ROMANTIC PERIOD (1798 – 1832)
During the 18
century Rationalism practically dominated the scene, especially in the opening years, but
there was also the inevitable reaction against it, which broke through a various ways and at various points:
sentimentalism, Spenserian revival, the feeling for nature, medievalism, orientalism, the cult of the ballad.
A last, in the final years of the century this reaction swells into a conscious movement of opposition, which
goes by the name of Romanticism.
The English Romanticism is not a homogenous movement. It falls into two distinct periods:
generation – the Lake poets
: Wordsworth, Coleridge – closely associated, they have many
important views in common.
Byron, Shelley, Keats – differed in their views on poetry, though they had much
In poetry at least, Romanticism did not end with the Romantic era, but continued throughout the
Victorian age (Tennyson, Morris, Swinburne, Browning) down to the neo-Georgian symbolism.
The concept of Romanticism: due to this diversity among the romantic poets it is best to be regarded as a
combination of elements, but no romanticist would combine all the elements in himself:
the romantic poets are preoccupied with their personal emotions, as opposed to the
general extroversion of the preceding age;
Belief that poetry above all is
, and writes itself. As Wordsworth puts it: “
poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.”
If poetry comes not as naturally
as the leaves to the tree, it had better not come at all.”
of all rules and canons, all theories of imitation or of genres
the poet was absolutely
free to evolve his own form;
No sense of form
- typical for most of the romantics. They just meander on as the spirit moves
no Romanticism in architecture;)
“Flight from reality” –
this is not an escape, but rather a routine, search for beauty. Still, this is not
a very happy term. The terms “romantic” and “realistic” are not necessarily mutually exclusive, e.g.
Wordsworth treated his pictures of nature and of village with complete fidelity to “realism”. What
the romantics actually did was to avoid the brutality of everyday life, to reveal “
the charm of
novelty to things of everyday”-
Wordsworth’s programme. The romantics were seeking to enrich
experience not to escape from it like the later decadents, and to preserve values that were important.
It was not so much a flight from reality as rather a passionate search for beauty. All of them were
inspired by an ideal of beauty of some kind – everyone had his vision, heterogeneity due to
introversion. The romantics rejected reality, like the writers at any other time, but the form of their
rejection was romantic. Their avoidance of the themes of everyday was a protest against this reality.