It is considered that the beginning of romanticism was in 1798 by publishing the lyric ballads and it ended in 1832 after the death of Walter Scott. England is still the leading power in Europe. The whole first half of the 19th century it was characterized by the war of England against Napoleon until 1815 and later on. All different kinds of blockades appear, and massive revolt inside the country, and new form of reactionary parties. Landed gentry has two parties in the Hanoverian dynasty: Workers (the working class) and Gentlemen (higher layers) decent members of society, possessed money and therefore the education was available to them, hence merchants, officials and intellectuals.
Characteristics of romanticism in literature reflects through literature genres, from which the most developed one was poetry – epic poetry is being reckoned and romanticism later on evolves in post romanticism. Everyone in the age of romanticism believed that poetry is the language of imagination and passion and literature novels were the product of the moment, or more specifically the moment of some special emotional condition of imagination (inspiration).
Wordsworth says that imagination is the source of inspiration and spontaneous overflow of feelings. Love towards the nature and naturalness is different from the leading of them. They are being thrilled by the wild, untouched nature that is some kind of religion, the big source of knowledge about the human and the world, or as Shelly says “the teacher of life”.
Romanticism is also characterized by the so called escape from reality, and revolutionary ideas are starting. Folklore was a very common element in romanticism poetry, it became literary pattern and affected the waking of national consciousness, especially to Irish people. Afterwards, love for children, childhood that was considered as the humans most nature condition; feelings are the purest and the most intensive element in poetry. Romanticism in literature exposes insurgence and indignation, escape from reality, melancholy, and the division of these feelings is distinctly showed in Byron’s irony and cynicism. The period of English romanticism has to generations of romanticists: older one (Wordsworth, Coleridge) and younger one (Byron, Shelley, Keats).
William Wordsworth (1770 – 1832) the oldest one, but outlived all the romanticist. His father was a lawyer, but he lost his parents in his early childhood, and was left with his sister to live in the so called Lake part and had his tutors. He studied at Cambridge, but he didn’t finish it. He started traveling (Alps, Italy, France). Because of love affair he had he goes back to England. By that time he already started writing poems, two little collections, with not much of artistic value “An evening walk” and “Descriptive lines”.
His most important work was written together with Coleridge “Lyrical Ballads”. They contained “Poems and Excursion”. His poem Prelude was published after the romanticism ended, in 1850. In the second edition of the “Lyrical Ballads” in 1800 it is Wordsworth’s very important preface about theoretical attitudes, from which the most important ones are: That poetry is a spontaneous expression of strong feelings; that one good poem can only be written by above average sentimental human, who has to think long and deep; that the poem is yield of emotions that a person remembers in the moment of calmness. Explanation of these elements is adequate to rustic element, and so their language purely expresses human’s feelings, especially in the moment of inspiration. Most of the poems in “Lyrical Ballads” are his, but he and Coleridge had tasks according to their ability; Wordsworth wrote about unusual topics in usual way and Coleridge wrote about usual topics in unusual way.
Wordsworth’s poems are divided in two parts, the ones in which he wrote about people and everyday things in his village; lyric poems about nature, and so called Lucy poems dedicated to the girl called Lucy.
In his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” contains about 200 verses of unequal length, that are divided in 11 stanzas of also unequal length, and in them the rhymes are differently placed. This ode marks the poets’ state of unhappiness because of the loss of his vision from the world of childhood and he thinks about what caused it. Questions about humans’ soul are also being asked, and the poet as an explanation uses platonic theory of the soul’s existence before the birth, which is the ability to see the world through visions. Every person while growing up loses that ability.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was Wordsworth’s close friend. His first poems were published in 1793 and he meets Wordsworth two years later and dedicates to writing in 1795. They even lived together, but after his problem with opiates Wordsworth in 1810 ends their friendship. Coleridge was since then under doctors’ surveillance in London, but he continued writing prose in which he talks about his theoretical and philosophical ideas that weren’t very significant. He wrote two poems and a long narrative ballad Christabel.
His first novel “Kubla Khan” contains 54 verses. Many big books of comments and critics about that poem were written. Coleridge left his notes on the origin of that poem, it appeared in one of his opium dreams. He dreamt of falling asleep in a garden, the place where the Kubla Khan, Mongolian emperor had a castle in 15th century. In that dream he made a long poem. After waking up he writes it all down, but after having a conversation with someone he forgets more than a half of the poem.
“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is his best poem. It has seven stanzas, and was published in “Lyric Ballads”. In the beginning, transcendental element, the old sailor meets three people who headed to a wedding. He hypnotizes one of them and listens to his story. In this poem we have the motive of vision, and fantastic elements that are something normal and natural for Coleridge. This is a story of fantastically creepy adventured, symbolic confession of the sailors’ sin (killing the albatross), atonement (pestilence of sailors), repentance and redemption (the compassion for the sea snakes) as phases till the final salvation of his soul.
George Gordon Byron (1788-1824) comes from Scottish noble family, his father passed away very young. He was born in London, but spent his childhood in Aberdeen, he had a halting leg, but still gallant man. In 1812 he published his two poems. During the time he spent in Italy he worked an editor of the magazine “The Liberal” with Lee Hunt. Byron’s work is divided in two parts: romantic Byron and humoristic-satirical.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is Byron’s extensive epic poem that contains 1500 verses. At first he is very objective, but in the last part he speaks for himself. It has four parts. It describes the fight between Turkish and Greek people. His message in this poem is that the war itself is a nonsense. In the beginning of the 4th part Byron shows his sadness because he had to leave his daughter.
The Prisoner of Chillon is the best story in verses and was written regarding Byron’s visit of the Chillon castle. It is the description of captivity of the Swiss fighter for freedom in 15th century. He is captured with his brothers, watched them die and when he is released in the end he shows no will of getting into the world again. The topic of this work are fight and suffering for freedom.
Manfred is in some way the imitation of Faustus. It has 3 parts. The place where it all happens is in the Alps. Manfred is the superior character, loner, exceptional knowledge, the master of ghosts. In his youth he made a sin by killing Astarte, the woman he loved and tried to kill himself too but was saved by the local chamois hunter. He tries to reach Astarte from the dead and ask for forgiveness but she announces him death.
Cain is serious poem and Byron considered it a mystery. It has three parts. According to the poet himself, Cain was a hero, revolt against the evilness and autocracy of the biblical God, and ask a question “Why is there in life much more sadness than happiness, when the God is almighty?” He asks the same question Lucifer who convinces him in his doubts and encourages him for revolt. Lucifer here is the carrier of knowledge, mindset and critics. He leads Cain to a travel through space, which carries another message, human is nothing and his only good is the mind that can rise him above nothingness.
Byron said “This day I am 36 years old” three months before his death, it sounds like a spontaneous and honest, like a confession of a man before his death.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in the province of Sussex in rich large estate family. Since he was a boy he took the role of protecting his sisters from his father’s tyranny and that helps him later on. He studied at Oxford. In 1811 he falls in love with a sixteen year old girl, and won her with his revolutionary ideas, and they leave together to Scotland where they got married.
In 1813 he illegally publishes his poem called Queen Mab. He tried to get divorced from Harriet but she didn’t accept it, son since 1814 he lives unmarried with Mary Godwin in Switzerland. In December 1816 Harriet commits a suicide. Mary lived till 1851 and wrote the science fiction novel “Frankenstein”.
Shelley till the end of his life remains consistent to his beliefs, enemy of the English reactionary power and aliens in Europe, enemy of Christianity and every religion, fake moral and tyranny; he obliged for liberation moves and believed in social progress. He was familiar with natural sciences and believed in their power. In his work idealistic elements can be found, statements in letters. In his poetry definite honesty can be found. He was also called “Mad Shelley”.
In his work “Queen Mab” he speaks about a girl that fell asleep and in her dreams she sees the fairy Queen Mab, who leads her soul on a space trip and shows her the occurrence of the world and the history of the mankind that is full of bad and evil, and all that bad was made by priests, kings, religions and human moneygrubbing. In the end, little girl’s soul gets back to her body.
He starts The Revolt of Islam by reminding people of the French defeat of the revolution. Islam is the imaginary country in which that revolution happens, heroes of it are Laon and Cythna who, who in the beginning of the story, are in heaven and talk about their earth history, born in tyranny, Laon with his poems brings the spirit to the poor people and Cythna is his student. Tyrant king ends with no army, but Laon doesn’t allow him to be killed. In the end they both end dead, burnt on the bonfire. This shows us that Shelley was peaceful man.