Archive for the 'Romanticism' Category

Jane Austen

October 26, 2006


Spent short, secluded life away from the spotlight
One of eight children born to an Anglican clergyman and his wife
Spent most of her life in Hampshire, rural area of southern England
Turned down marriage proposal in 1802, intuiting how difficult it would be to combine authorship with life as a wife, mother and gentry hostess
Started writing at 12
The Austen name was never publicly associated with any of Jane’s novels
Through her heroines, exposes how harshly the hard facts of economic life bore down on gentlewomen during this period when a lady’s security depended on her making a good marriage
Unanswered question for Austen is whether such a marriage can be compatible with the independence of mind and moral integrity that, like Austen, her heroines cherish
Criticized the novel form, but also perfected it
Narrative voice shifts between a romantic point of view and an irony that reminds us of romance’s limits
Austen stated her novels were:

“pictures of domestic life in country villages.”

“Pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked”

“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”

“I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter.”

Sense and Sensibility 1811

First published novel
Explores relationship between two sisters: Elinore and Marianne Dashwood: Elinore representing ‘Sense’ and Marianne ‘Sensibility’
Family is left impoverished after the father’s death and enter into a search for a husband
Austen wrote the first draft when she was 19
Characters may be loosely based on Jane and her sister, Cassandra
Filled with subtle irony


“Nay, mamma, if he is not to be animated by Cowper! -but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and, therefore, she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broken my heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mamma, the more I know of the world the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward’s virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm.”

“It would be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl.”

“‘He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe, as ever lived,’ repreated Sir John. ‘I remember last Christmas, at a little hop at the Park, he danced from eight o’clock till four without once sitting down.’
‘Did he, indeed?’ cried Marrieanne, with sparkling eyes; ‘and with elegance, with spirit?’
‘Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert.’
‘That is what I like; that is what a young man ought to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue.'”

“Marianne would have thought herself ever inexcusable had she been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving pain ever moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!”

“‘What have wealth or grandeur to do with happiness?’
‘Grandeur has but little,’ said Elinor, ‘but wealth has much to do with it.’
‘Elinor, for shame!’ said Marianne; ‘money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it can afford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned.'”

“Whatever the truth of it might be, and far as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it, yet while she saw Marianne in spirits,, she could not be very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits; happy in the mildness of the weather, and still happier in her expectation of a frost.”

“When they had paid their tribute of politeness by courtesying to the lady of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the heat and inconvenience to which their arrival must necessarily add.”

“‘By all the world, rather than by his own heart. I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe his nature capable of such cruelty.'”

“‘I am sorry for that. At her time of life, any thing of an illness destroys the bloom for ever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl last September as any I ever saw, -and as likely to attract the men. There was something in her style of beauty to please them particularly. I remember Fanny used to say, that she would marry sooner and better than you did; not but what she is exceedingly fond of you, but so it happened to strike her. She will be mistaken, however. I question whether Marianne, now, will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year at the utmost, and I am very much deceived if you do not do better.'”

“John Dashwood had not much to say for himself that was worth hearing, and his wife had still less. But there was no peculiar disgrace in this; for it was very much the case with the chief of their visitors, who almost all laboured under one or other of these disqualifications for being agreeable- want of sense, either natural or improved- want of elegance- want of spirits- or want of temper.”

“‘He is the most fearful of giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable of being selfish, or anybody I ever saw. Edward, it is so, and I will say it. What! are you never to hear yourself praised? -Then you must be no friend of mine; for those who will accept of my love and esteem must submit to my open commendation.'”


Percy Bysshe Shelley

September 12, 2006


Considered the most radical Romantic poet, in poetry and in politics
Very aristocratic
He saw the petty tyranny of schoolmasters and schoolmates as representative of man’s general inhumanity to man
Dedicated his life to a war against injustice and oppression: called ‘mad Shelley’ by his schoolmates
Was expelled from Oxford with friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg for the publication of a pamphlet titled “The Necessity of Atheism”
Attributed the evils of society to humanity’s own moral failures and grounded the possibilty of social reform in the redeeming power of love
Repeatedly charged with intellectual and emotional immaturity
Drowned in the Gulf of Lerici off the Italian coast when he was thirty years old
John Murray on Shelley:

“You are all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew.”


O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, / Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead / Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, / Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou, / Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed
The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, / Each like a corpse within its grave, until / Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow
Her Clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill / (Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air) / With living hues and odours plain and hill:
Wild Spirit, which art moving everrywhere; / Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! / And, by the incantation of this verse,
Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth / Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! / Be through my lips to unawakened Earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, / If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

-Ode to the West Wind

Apostrophe to the wind
Wind as a representation of poetry or poetic inspiration
The wind may speak only through the poet

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert- / That from Heaven, or near it, / Pourest thy full heart / In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher / From the earth thou springest / Like a cloud of fire; / The blue deep thou wingest, / And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Like a Poet Hidden / In the light of thought, / Singing hymns unbidden, / Till the world is wrought / To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:

We look before and after, / And pine for what is not- / Our sincerest laughter / With some pain is fraught- / Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Yet if we could scorn / Hate and pride and fear; / If we were things born / Not to shed a tear, / I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.

Teach me half the gladness / That thy brain must know, / Such harmonious madness / From my lips would flow / The world should listen then- as I am listening now.

-To a Sky-Lark

The European skylark is a small bird that sings only in flight, often when it is too high to be visible
The poet is most like the sky-lark: the poet’s job is to reveal uncommon emotions to the reader
Humans can only feel intense emotion through comparison, unlike the sky-lark
The poem ends with the speaker looking to the bird, not the poet

“According to one mode of regarding those two classes of mental action, which are called reason and imagination, the former may be considered as mind contemplating the relations borne by one thought to another, however produced; and the latter, as mind acting upon those thoughts so as to colour them with its own light, and composing from them, as from elements, other thoughts, each containing within itself the principle of its own integrity.”

“But there is a principle within the human being, and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and producs not melody, alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them.”

“In the infancy of society every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which exists in the relation, subsisting, first between existence and perception, and secondly between perception and expression.”

“But Poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecure and statuary and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society and the inventors of the arts of life and the teachers, who draw into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion.”

“Poets, according to the circumstances of the age and nation in which hey appeared, were called in the earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets: a poet essentially comprises and unites both these characters. For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, ,and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of the latest time.”

“A Poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.”

“A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth.”

“Time, which destroys the beauty and the use of the story of particular facts, stript of the poetry which should invest them, augments that of Poetry, and for ever develops new and wonderful applications of the eternal truth which it contains.”

“Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”

“Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure: all spirits on which it falls, open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight.”

“A Poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they aremoved and softened, yet know not whence or why.”

“A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many other; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. Poetry enlarges the circumference of the imagination…”

“A Poet therefore would do ill to embody his own conceptions of right and wrong, which are usually those of his place and time, in his poetial creations, which participate in neither.”

“All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.’ But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions… It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.”

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.”

-A Defense of Poetry

Response to friend’s (Peacock) satirical critique on Romantic Poetry
All imaginitive thought is poetry
Parallels with Plato’s interest in truths not available through the senses: Shelley’s Poet is Plato’s Philosopher

John Keats

September 12, 2006


The Romantic poet of sensuous imagery
Born in London
Son of a stable keeper
Parents died before he was fifteen
Apprenticed to a surgeon for five years
Brutal attacks were made upon his verse by critics
Fell in love with Fannie Brawne b ut could not marry her because of his poverty and illness
Accused of sentimentalism and melodrama in poetry
Lover of beauty in its ideal form
Died at 26
Wrote for 4 years

“I am certain of nothing but… the truth of the imagination.”


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget / What thou among the leaves hast never known, / The weariness, the fever, and the fret / Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; / Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, / Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; / Where but to think is to be full of sorrow / And leaden-eyed despairs, / Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, / Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

I cannot see what flowers are at my fee, / Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, / But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet / Wherewith the seasonable month endows / The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; / White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; / Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves; / And mid-May’s eldest child, / The coming must-rose, full of dewy wine, / The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkline I listen; and, for many a time / I have been half in love with easeful Death, / Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, / To take into the air my quiet breath; / Now more than ever seems it rich to die, / To cease upon the midnight with no pain, / While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad / In such an ecstasy! / Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain- / To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! / No hungry generations tread thee down; / The voice I hear this passing night was heard / In ancient days by emperor and clown: / Perhaps the self-same song that found a path / Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, / She stood in tears a mid the alien corn; / The same that oft-time hath / Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam / Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? / Fled is that music:- Do I wake or sleep?

-Ode to a Nightingale

Connection to Shelley’s “To a Sky-Lark”
The bird effortlessly produces poetry, the poet struggles
Form: 10 line stanzas ABAB/CDECDE
Poet is portrayed with a sense of heaviness and blankness
The bird is described in lightness and plenitude
Nightingale is heard, not seen (like Shelley’s Sky-Lark)
Sight is excluded: the mind’s eye is the eye of imagination
Human world is subject to time: everything is described in its relation to time

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard / Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; / Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, / Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: / Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave / Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; / Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss, / Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve; / She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, / For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede / Of marble men and maidens overwrought, / With forest branches and the trodden weed; / Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought / As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! / When old age shall this generation waste, / Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe / Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, / ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ -that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

-Ode on a Grecian Urn

“on” establishes distance between speaker and subject
Comparison of human world with an artifact
Urn tells a story without speaking
Sight is the only sense evoked (in contrast with “Ode to a Nightingale)
Urn depicts static world: movement and emotion frozen in time
Speaker compares the desirability of the two
3 scenes: men chasing women (rape), two lovers, communal ritual

William Wordsworth

August 24, 2006


Major English Romantic Poet
Both parents died before he was fourteen
Spent boyhood life close to nature
Attended Cambridge University, after graduation spent two years in continental travel
Helped launch the Romantic Age (with Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Part of the big 6 male Romantic poets
Consciously made a radical break from conventional poetry: made his work an example of ‘plain living and high thinking’
England’s National poet


“It was published, as an experiment, which, I hoped, might be of some use to ascertain, how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of real language of men in a state of vivid sensation…”“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings…”“What is a poet? To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.”

-Preface to Lyrical Ballads

-A simple Child, / That lightly draws its breath, / And feels its life in every limb, / What should it know of death?

‘How many are you, then,’ said I, / ‘If they two are in heaven?’ / Quick was the little Maid’s reply, / ‘O Master! we are seven.’
‘But they are dead; those two are dead! / Their spirits are in heaven!’ / ‘Twas throwing words away; for still / The little Maid would have her will, / And said, ‘Nay, we are seven!’

-We Are Seven

I gazed- and gazed- but little thought / What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie / In vacant of in pensive mood, / They flash upon that inward eye / Which is the bliss of solitude; / And then my heart with pleasure fills, / And dances with the daffodils.

-I wandered lonely as a cloud

Creates relation between man & nature
Creates emotion in tranquility through recollection

I saw her singing at her work, / And o’er the sicle bending;- / I listenend, motionless and still; / And, as I mounted up the hill, / The music in my heart I ore, / Long after it was heard no more.

-The Solitary Reaper

Stress on solitude
Creates a figure of the girl through the ‘peeping Tom’ view of the speaker
The song of humanity is more powerful than that of nature

Now free, / Free as a bird to settle where I will. / What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale / Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove / Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream / Shall with its murmur lull me into rest? / The earth is all before me: with a heart / Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty, / I look about; and should the chosen guide / Be nothing better than a wandering cloud, / I cannot miss my way.

Much wanting, so much wanting, in myself / That I recoil and droop, and seek repose / In listlessness from vain perlexity; / Unprofitably travelling toward the grave, / Like a false Steward who hath much received, / And renders nothing back.

Dust as we are, the immortal Spirit grows / Like harmony in music; there is a dark / Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles / discordant elements, makes them cling together / In one society. How strange that all / The terrors, pains, and early miseries, / Regrets, vexations, lassitudes, interfused / Within my mind, should e’er have borne a part, / And that a needful part, in making up / The calm existence that is mine when I / Am worth of myself! Praise to the end!

Ye presences of Nature, in the sky, / And on the earth! Ye visions of the hills! / And Souls of lonely places! can I think / A vulgar hope was yours when ye emloyed / Such ministry, when ye, through many a year, / Haunting me thus among my boyish sports, / On caves and trees, upon the woods and hills, / Impressed upon all forms the characters / Of danger or desire; and thus did make / The surface of the universal earth / With triumph and delight, with hope and fear, / Work like a sea?

-The Prelude or Growth of a Poet’s Mind, Book First; Introduction, Childhood, and School-time