(1785 – 1830) Poetry of the 18th c./classicism Romantic poetry • Based on reason Modern, civilized life • Motifs from urban life Senses, feelings, intuition • General human values • Earthly reality life/nature/pastoral Personal moods Visions of mysterious, ideal, eternal Spontaneous, personal, original, free expression • Deliberate traditionalists • Strict observance of form, orderly, polished Medieval/primitive life Themes from rural • The key year for English Romanticism was 1798 which saw • • • • the publication of Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge – manifesto of romantic poetry. They laid down the principles on which they thought the composition of poetry should be founded: the language of ordinary men and women, unspoiled in the speech of rural people; against the ‘poetic diction’. Against the rationalist content of the Augustan poets – a turn to imagination, legend, human heart The poet was a prophet, the initiator of truth The poet had the key to the hidden mysteries of heart; the poet gave life a meaning. • Love of nature; ordinary things seem wonderful • Wordsworth’s attitude to nature: the Nature is the great teacher of morals and the prime bringer of happiness; in Nature resides God – in contact with mountains, lakes, trees, woods we can feel the divine presence. • The worship of Nature leads Wordsworth to venerate the simple folk who live ‘in the eye of Nature’: they are purer and wiser than town populace and their language is less corrupt. • Ultimately, Wordsworth is to regard children – unspoiled as yet by education, uncorrupted by the world – as the real repositories of virtue and even wisdom: In his great ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood the Child is addressed as: Thou, whose exterior doth belie Thy soul’s immensity; Thou best philosopher, who yet dost keep Thy heritage, thou eye among the blind… The basis of faith and wisdom is in childhood, before the business of the world has shut off the view of heaven: Shades of the prison-house begin to close Upon the growing boy, But he beholds the light, and whence it flows, He sees it in his joy. Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The soul that rises with us, our life’s star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home. • Mysterious events acceptable to the reader • Introduced the magical and mysterious, supernatural into romantic poetry – the source of disagreement with Wordsworth, who wanted poetry to stay on the ground; Coleridge wanted poetry to fly into the regions of the marvelous that, though fantastic, should be accepted through ‘willing suspension of disbelief). • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – the mariner kills an albatross and is forthwith tormented with the most frightening visions and visitations, presented in the style and meter of the old ballads. • Kubla Khan – unfinished – goes to the fabulous ancient Orient for its theme, contains the quintessence of Coleridge’s magic. Composed under the influence of opium, it is a fantastic invocation of a ‘sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice’, with sinister images of a ‘woman wailing for her demon-lover’ and ‘ancestral voices prophesying war’. • Christabel – influenced by Gothic genre; Christabel finds the beautiful lady Geraldine in the woods and brings her home; it turns out she is an evil spirit. SIGNIFICANCE OF OLDER GENERATION: introduced new poetic themes and style into English poetry; strongly influenced later poets and spawned many imitators; influenced non-literary taste as well – love of nature, mysteries, rural life, spontaneity and originality; often brought to extremes – pathetic and melodramatic. (e.g. Walter Scott) • GEORGE GORDON, LORD BYRON (1788-1824) • a handsome cynic, strongly built, fought with professional boxers, the great lover, hedonist and atheist, had an aristocratic title from an early age; the hero who eventually lost his life dying for the cause of Greek independence. • Although a romantic figure, his poetry is much more influenced by Classicism: strict form, satyrical, critical of English high society • His poetry is essentially self-centered as seen in his semiautobiographical Childe Harold’s Pilgirmage – description of the journeys of young Harold in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Albania. Byron’s own life, more than his works, was interesting to his contemporaries, as well as to later generations. His personality has even been typefied into a stock character/archetype called the Byronic hero: The Byronic hero is an idealised but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterised by his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb (who said it before becoming Byron's lover) as being "mad, bad, and dangerous to know". The Byronic hero first appears in Byron's semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage • • • • • • • • • • • conflicting emotions, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness a distaste for social institutions and social norms being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw has "dark" attributes not normally associated with heroes Nevertheless charismatic and sexually attractive struggle with sexual identity (homosexual, sleeps with many women, etc.) a lack of respect for rank and privilege a troubled past being cynical, demanding, and/or arrogant often self-destructive loner, often rejected from society The stock character has been often featured in many literary genres since, either as a genuine anti-hero or a parody, from: Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice Heatcliff in Wuthering Heights Rochester in Jane Eyre Dorian Grey in The Picture of Dorian Grey …to: Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary Mr Big in Sex and the City Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga • Byron left England because of the scandal surrounding his private life (incestuous relationship with his halfsister Augusta) in his late days he became a great sneerer at the laws and conventions of his country, and the spirit of satire came out strongly in his masterpiece, satirical epic Don Juan (laughter, social criticism, portrayal of contemporary human character). A Spanish youth going from one love affair into another, from one adventure into another – result: criticism of men and women. • Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) – revolt against existing laws, customs, religion. Saw goodness in nature, wanted all men to be free. Lived an unconventional life, left England for Italy to be rid of strict social rules. Died very young (30), a tragic death. • Ode to the West Wind, Adonais. John Keats (1795-1821) – sensuous gift, flood of rich language; might have become the greatest of them had he not died at 26. Themes: beauty in art and nature; the wish to die; happy and unhappy love; most of all – pleasure of the senses: wine, love and sights and sounds of nature. Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on Melancholy, Ode to a Grecian Urn. Poetry rich in detail: La Belle Dame Sans Merci SIGNIFICANCE OF SECOND GENERATION: brought the style and themes of Romanticism to their height; popularized poetry; lived their lives in the Romantic fashion as well • MARY SHELLEY • Frankenstein – published anonymously in 1818. The story: a scientist who managed to create in his laboratory a humanlike monster. Disgusted by what he created he banished the monster, who becomes embittered and wants to destroy everyone the scientist loves. The scientist decides to destroy the monster and the pursuit begins. They meet in the Alps – we hear the monster’s side of the story – he is unhappy because of his loneliness, and that’s why he turned evil. They even reach the North Pole, the scientist dies, and the monster kills himself – he cannot live without his creator and enemy. • The theme of horror is taken from the popular gothic novel, but she also introduced a new theme – forerunner of science fiction. • Mary Shelley created one of the most familiar characters of the horror genre – the man-made monster • SIGNIFICANCE: creation of a new genre – science fiction; ethical question of using living beings for scientific purposes; creation of a unique character • JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817) • The first important woman novelist. Novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion • Though she wrote her novels in the turbulent years that include the French revolution and Napoleonic wars England also fought, there is no trace of it all in her works. • She brought the novel of family life to perfection; untouched by the ugliness of the outside world; the plot and events are always familiar to her. • Excellent plot and scenes, extraordinary characters • She attempts no more than to show a small corner of English society as it was in her day – the sedate little world of the moderately well-to-do country families. Her interest is in people; meticulously exact presentation of human situations; the delineation of characters with faults and virtues (as opposed to types). Humour; comic portraits, e.g. Mrs. Bennet. • Mr Darcy – pride; Elizabeth Bennet – prejudice. • SIGNIFICANCE: renewed interest in novel; new themes- everyday life; depiction of an era and country life of ordinary people; focus is on characters, not on plot; characters true-to-life, not typical.