The Romantic Period encompassed poetic characteristics and visions completely different that anything seen before, rebelling and breaking away from the conservative style of Neoclassicism that preceded it. The first generation of Romantic poets mainly consisted of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Blake. Characteristics of the period such as mysticism are seen and expressed in their poems.
It isn’t possible to place a definite date on the start and end of the Romantic Period as there are several conflicting opinions. Generally, it is regarded that the period began in 1798 with the publication of “Lyrical Ballads” by the forefathers of Romanticism; Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Some scholars argue that it began as early as 1789 with “Songs of Innocence” by William Blake. In terms of its ending, some believe it ended with the start of the Victorian Era in 1837, although some say it died off by 1830. For the purpose of this essay, the consensus is that the period began in 1798 and ended in 1830.
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With a timeframe established, it is critical to look at historical events of the time as they played a major role in influencing the thoughts and styles of the Romantic poets. The Romantics were on the brink of the Industrial Revolution which was seen as a negative, horrendous thing. The poets emphasized on the importance of nature in life and society, seeing big, smoke expelling factories as monstrous and completely unnatural. They feared that society would become corrupted and evil as it lost contact with nature and further integrated to an industrialized life. The other main influence they had was the French Revolution which helps explain where some of the new ideologies and feelings came from. There was little to no expression of free speech in France and poverty was widespread. Resources were not distributed appropriately as the nobles lived in great luxury while lower classes starved. Naturally, the romantics supported the revolution hoping for social and political change and improvement in France. Later on, with Napoleon’s rule and aggressive conquests they turned against the French movement but kept and embraced the spirit of revolution. The revolution and their fear of being invaded made them truly appreciate what they had. Nature was turned to to escape from the real world and its predicaments; it was a heavenly gateway to peace of mind. Nature then became one of the most commonly used and important themes, references and characteristics in romantic poetry as it came to symbolize God’s pure creation of grace.
The most important Romantic poets can be classified into two groups, the first generation and the second generation. The first generation of poets that created the basis for the later ones included were Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834), William Blake (1757-1827) and William Wordsworth (1770-1850) Charles Lamb (1775-1834), Jane Austen (17751817), and Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). Charles Lamb is most famous for his poem “The Old Familiar Faces” and his essay “Essays of Elia.” At one point he was mentally ill and spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. His sister went insane and stabbed their mother to death, greatly affecting his writing for a long time and forcing him to take care of her. Jane Austen is most commonly known for her novels “Sense and Sensibility” and “Pride and Prejudice.” Her novels were not accepted very well and didn’t bring her much fame while she was alive, but now she has been accepted as one of the best authors of the English language. “Northanger Abby” was published once she had passed away and sold excellently for a year. Sir Walter Scott is known for his poems like “The Lady of The Lake” and his ballads. He focused and showed an interest for Scottish history in his works. Scott was read all around the world during his time including readers in parts of Europe and North America.
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The most important second generation poets included Lord Byron (1788-1824), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), and John Keats (1795-1821). All three produced important literary works despite that they died so young at the ages of 36, 30 and 26, respectively. Keats was the most famous of the three, praised for his collection of odes including Ode to a Nightingale. Like Austen, Keats was not widely recognized during his lifetime and then his works picked up popularity after he passed away. Shelley was a master of poetry who wrote “Queen Mab” as well as the dramatic plays “The Cenci” and “Prometheus Unbound.” He married the writer Mary Shelley who wrote the extremely famous novel “Frankenstein” and also helped edit and revise his works. Among Lord Byron’s most popular poems are “She Walks in Beauty” and “Don Juan.” Lord Byron was somewhat of a wild man, getting involved in several romantic affairs and large debts. He fought for the Greeks in the Greek War of Independence which made him be seen as a national hero by them. Eventually he died from a terrible fever.
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