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Romanticism as Literary Period - Essay Example

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The Lyrical Ballads, as can be gleaned from William Wordsworth's Preface c. 1800 was a self-conscious or deliberate attempt to align the Romantic literary movement with the elevation of the inner lives of ordinary individuals as primary subject of poetry. Wordsworth's main contention was that rustic life, being close to nature or to the natural world, gives rise to the pure, unadulterated feelings and emotions which are what romantic poetry wishes to capture…
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Romanticism as Literary Period
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Download file to see previous pages Even Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, a confessional account of how nature is more than a memory of youth ("And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with joy / Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime / Of something far more deeply interfused, ) was coming from a man whose social and intellectual moorings reflected not just rustic roots. More particularly, the poem renders philosophical and meditative aspects of the sophisticated thinker often found in cultural and urban centers, which consequently finds ways to go back to the original sources of inspiration, mystery and awe, peeling the layers of stale customs and traditions to reveal the workings of nature or even the supernatural, (as portrayed by Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner). The Lyrical Ballads, objectively speaking could be said to a political statement asserting the primacy of the individual's feelings and imagination, and it has done so, moreso in intent. Execution-wise it was a bit too grandstanding, as other writers of other periods could also be called "romantic". The way that Wordworth's self-consciously and literally chose ordinary individuals and the rustic life as the worthwhile romantic subjects was an attempt to further drive down the point that poetry should be democratic (an offshoot of the influences of the French Revolution) and that it is the individual that matters, not custom and traditions.

In the last two lines of A Defence of Poetry, Shelley sums up the power of poets to change society and awaken the masses: "Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." The poets, according to Shelley, belong to those classes of men in which the excitability of passions is strongest, and which the impressions or going-ons of nature and society work their magic - the apprehensions of the formerly "unapprehended", and consequently, this is communicated by the poets to society which is responsible for the continuity of language, and thus of society. Furthermore, according to Shelley, "the great instrument of moral good is the imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting upon the cause." It is not that poetry directs or points out the rights and the wrongs, but in as much it moves mankind to the pursuit of what are sublime and beautiful and the eternal, and these have been the common goal of poetry since the ancient times.
Shelley's poetry in awe-inspired tones invokes this spirit of poetry as a mover of mankind and society, primarily in they way that this spirit moves them, the poets. In Mutability, the endurance of human beings, rooted in nature's unchanging mutability, day in and day out is upheld. In Mont Blanc, Shelley regards the mountain as containing the "secret Strength of things / Which governs thought. More emphatically, Shelley in Ode to the West Wind, pleads for this ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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