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Home » » What is Romanticism? Discuss the salient features of Romanticism with special reference to William Wordsworth and John Keats.

Romanticism :William Wordsworth and John Keats.

The Romantic Period (1798-1832) holds a very significant place in the history of English literature. It is basically a movement started with the publication of Lyrical ballads in 1798. In collaboration with Samuel Taylor coleridge , William Wordsworth published this book. The tends of Romanticism revived with this notable publication. So the period is also known as the Revival of Romanticism lord Byron, P. B. Shelley and John Keats followed the style of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The poetry of the Romantic revival is a revolt against the poetry of the Classical Age of pope. This literary doctrine had its origin in the Elizabethan Age.
salient features of Romanticism

What is Romanticism?

Romanticism is a term which cannot be defined accurately. Because many critics have defined it in various ways, in various angles. An English critic. F.L. Lucas has counted 11,396 definitions of Romanticism. C.H. Herford has defined it as "Romanticism is the extra-ordinary development of imaginative sensibility". Walter Pater says, "Romanticism is the addition of strangeness to beauty." Whereas Watts Dunton says, "Romanticism is the renaissance of wonder." But the most convincing definition of Romanticism is given by an eminent critic. It is "One poet is romantic because he falls in love; another romantic because he sees a ghost; another romantic because he hears a cuckoo; another romantic because he is reconciled to the church." However,

Salient Features of Romanticism 

Romanticism is a doctrine which holds that art and literature should be free from classical and neo-classical rules and constraints . There are many salient characteristics or features of Romanticism. They are high imagination, love for nature primitivism or spontaneity, interest in the remote or love for the past, simplicity in expression, revolutionary zeal. individualism, supernaturalism, subjectivity, medievalism, love for freedom and liberty and predominance of lyricism. Romantic poetry is fanciful and introspective. It is often marked  by extravagance. The romantics are highly imaginative. They do not think that the writers should be earth-bound,  realistic and factual. They seek an ideal condition for human beings in their high-soaring and unlimited imagination .The poetry of Wordsworth and Keats is full of imagination. In Tintern Abbey" Wordsworth imagines that a hermit alone in the forest is cooking something. Whereas he only discerns the smoke coming from it recoiling. Keats flies to the fanciful world of the nightingale in his most beautiful poem, "Ode to a Nightingale". Moreover, both the poets are the great lover of nature. Wordsworth is the high priest of nature, worshipper of nature. He is a mystic and a pantheist in his treatment of nature. Nature is the nurse, guide, guardian and the moral being of heart and soul. But Keats is very sensuous in treating nature. Romantic poetry is spontaneous overflow of powerful passions. The romantic poet is gifted with a strong "organic sensibility". He feels more than there is to feel. He sees more than there is to see. Even ordinary objects and incidents excite his imagination and set up in him powerful passions. So he does not care for the perfection of form or clarity of expression. The result is much vagueness and obscurity. Substance is more important for him than the form. The philosophical tone of Wordsworth seems to be beyond understanding. His pantheism and mysticism are almost inscrutable.

All romantic literature is subjective. It is an expression of the inner urges of the artist.  The poet does not care for rules and regulation. But he gives free expression to his emotion. Emphasis is laid on inspiration and institution rather than on the observance of set rules. The poet writes according to his own fancy. He is often guilty of wild excesses. Hence it has been criticized as irregular and wild. Wordsworth's poetry is top to bottom subjective. He expresses his own philosophy of nature and childhood in "Tintern Abbey", "Immortality Ode" and "Michael". In "Immortality Ode", he has said that a child is a mighty prophet and philosopher. But Keats is objective in his famous odes, "Ode on a Grecian Urn", "Ode to Autumn "or " Ode to a Nightingale"

Romantic poetry is often pessimistic in tone. A romantic may revolt against the existing conditions. He may have a special love the medieval world or the Middle Ages.    His fascination for the remote and distant is unmistakable in his poetry. He wants to be delighted for colour , pomp and magic of the past. He would like to escape from the sordid realities the present. He may try to escape into an imaginative world of his own creation. Often he escapes into the past. Keats is a glaring example of it. He is often charged with his escapism. He wants to avoid the harsh realities of the real world and would like to fly to the fanciful world of the nightingale. The  din and bustle of towns and cities also irritates Wordsworth. So he wants to take shelter in the lap of nature.

Romanticism is a revolt against all artificiality. It stands for simplicity in theme and treatment. The romantics treat the common man and language for their purpose. They discard the poetic style of 18th century poets, Dryden, Pope and others. They do not accept Heroic Couplet as the weapon of their poetry. They use the Spenserian Stanza, ballad metre and blank verse. They abundantly write lyric, ode and sonnet. They follow the style of Chaucer, Spenser, Milton who suffer an eclipse during the 18th century. Soon they attain wide popularity. Thus Wordsworth raised his voice against the inane and artificial diction of the 18th century classic. He advocated the use of the language of the common man for composing poetry. He expressed his poetic theory in "preface to the  Lyrical Ballads" which is regarded as the manifesto of Romanticism.

At last, we can say that Romanticism in English poetry has become a new sensation. Wordsworth, Coleridge, Lord Byron, P.B. Shelley and John Keats are the heroes of that sensation and thrill. Their poetry enjoys almost all the salient features of Romanticism. Wordsworth makes natural objects supernatural and Coleridge makes supernatural objects natural. Byron and Shelley are two great revolutionaries. Keats is the last romantic poet in the Romantic Movement. His poetry begins with sensuousness but ends in thought. He is a successful writer of ode. He does, not try to make believable unbelievable or unbelievable believable. But Wordsworth has represented believable objects unbelievable.


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