The nineteenth century romantic movement promoted nature as an element of inspiration and ideological freedom. From William Wordsworth to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to Lord Byron, to John Keats, the romantics envisioned a new form of poetic expression that deviated from older standards. Wordsworth and Coleridge, in particular, shared a desire to explore poetic expression that elevated both nature and the magical human insight. They were distinguished by their agreement in which Wordsworth accepted to write about nature that gave “the charm of novelty to things of every day”, while Coleridge compromised to emphasize the supernatural “in a way that was believable”. The events and people depicted, portrayals of natural sights and sounds, and attitudes expressed in their poems, altogether, celebrate the magic of nature, the realism of the supernatural, and the power of the mind.
William Wordsworth used simple language to exalt everyday life and natural phenomena. For example, in ‘I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud’, Wordsworth described the scenery of daffodils beside a lake. He depicted these flowers as “dancing in the breeze” and “tossing their heads in a sprightly dance”. The title suggests the speaker feels solitary and disconnected from the rest of nature, like a cloud looking down on humanity separate from the earth. However, Wordsworth praised the joy and majesty of the life around him to establish a clear connection between humanity and nature. Wordsworth also focused on contemplating day-to-day moments. Wordsworth used phrases like “bright and glittering” and “splendor” to describe his view of London and River Thames. Near the end of the poem, he thanked God for such glorious scenery and added that he “never felt, a calm so deep!” . The speaker found peace in nature and established a communion with his surroundings. Such notions were fundamental to uncovering the magic and wonders of nature that romantics highly treasured.
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Samuel Taylor Coleridge, on the other hand, used imagination and compelling language to realistically illustrate supernatural experiences. The literary ballad ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ reflects such emphasis. Coleridge’s tale traced the story of an old sailor troubled with spiritual punishment after killing an innocent albatross. In part three, the sailor caught a glimpse of an approaching vessel that moved “without a breeze, without a tide”. Coleridge balanced this mysterious occurrence by personifying the characters aboard the ship. He described “Nightmare” as a “Life-in-Death” female with red lips, locks yellow as gold, and white skin. The lifelike tributes assigned to this spiritual entity along with the extensive details essentially transform the otherworldly into a vivid adventure. “Kubla Khan” further reinforces the realism of supernatural wonders, like those in dreams, through magnified sensations and imagery. For instance, the speaker refers to a ceaseless geyser, nearby a green hill, as a fountain with “huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail” . The final stanza proceeds to warn readers that the speaker has fed on honeydew, possibly meaning that the poem itself is an allegory to the power of dreams and imagination. Ultimately, Coleridge used believable descriptions to immerse readers in the exploration of the unknown.
Both romantics, despite their contrastive approaches, highlighted the worth of the individual and the power of the mind. For example, in Wordsworth’s ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey’ the speaker contemplates “thoughtless youth” and learns to appreciate the “unremembered pleasure” of “tranquil restoration”. His earlier memories of the surrounding landscape became ever-lasting, developing the speaker’s intellectual awareness. Wordsworth essentially believed that the mind was enlightened upon understanding the life of things. Coleridge parallels a similar realization when the sailor in the story watches the water-snakes and blesses them in his heart. The scene highlights a transformation, even though the curse broke temporarily. The sailor learns his lesson and, therefore, rids himself of his agony by telling others his story so they become wiser. Overall, Wordsworth and Coleridge used their interests to highlight the value of the individual fundamental to the romantic movement.
In conclusion, Wordsworth and Coleridge represented two faces of romanticism that connected the magical world to the physical one. Wordsworth captured memories of nature and common experiences to “excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural”, and Coleridge unexplored imaginativeness to “procure… that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment.” In their search for pure truth, these romantics defined an evolved romantic movement, one that clearly glorified the link between nature and spiritual meditation.