The Rime Of The Ancient Romantics Analysis English Literature Essay

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Contrary to the deistic misconception, social movements do not behave as systematic pendulums that swing strictly from one place to another. Rather, social movements move much more like the organic waves of the ocean for as one wave advances over a receding one, elements from the two mix together (Brians). In view of such, Romanticism, occurring broadly between the period between 1770 and 1870, became a culmination of previous movements and likewise produced a serious of interconnected movements.

Chronologically, it is quite appropriate for Romanticism to have occurred after the Enlightenment, for most of such qualities were in response to those of the Enlightenment. Whereas in the Enlightenment, complexity and elaborateness had been the norm, Romanticism "favored simplicity and naturalness; and these were thought to flow most clearly and abundantly from the 'spontaneous' outpourings of the untutored common people (Brians). Accordingly, Romanticism rejects rationality and subsequently embraced sensitivity and irrational emotions, such as horror. Likewise, whereas the Enlightenment and Neoclassicism had used allusions from the classics, Romanticism favored biblical or religious imagery. Additionally, while perspectives with regards to nature varied, nature was nonetheless viewed as "'organic' rather than, as in the scientific or rationalist view, as a system of 'mechanical' laws, for Romanticism displaced the rationalist view of the universe as a machine ("Romanticism"). Another noteworthy characteristic of Romanticism was imagination, as it contrasts "distinctly with the traditional arguments for the supremacy of reason" ("Romanticism").

In accordance to the history of the realm of thought, Romanticism was both indirectly and directly influenced by its surrounding social and political occurrences. Such can be analytically seen through each of Romanticism's sub movements. In the first, protest, is manifestly the result of revolutions occurring within both hemispheres. The first, the American Revolution, was largely the result of the colonies adopting Enlightenment philosophy and the British perspective on the colonies civil rights. The success of the American Revolution had international influence, however, as the French Revolution (1789-1799) rapidly proceeded. "Unlike the American Revolution," however, "which was primarily political, the French Revolution aspired to give birth to a new society, purged of the evils of the past" (Fettner). Accordingly, the French Revolution led many "to look at their societies as temporary and unnatural" (Fettner). This, of course, led people to seek the more simplistic and natural qualities in life.

In adjunction to the spirit of revolution, another critical figure that became one of the most influential and exemplary figures for individualism for the 19th century was the worldwide cultural icon, Napoleon Bonaparte (Brians). While he was left with a myriad of admirers and critics, Napoleon's military and political genius is undisputable. Accordingly, Napoleon stimulated authors much after his death such as "Dostoyevsky, who saw in him the ultimate corrosive force which celebrated individual striving and freedom at the expense of responsibility and tradition" (Brians). Moreover, Napoleon's legacy established Bonapartism. On a more analytic sense, Bonapartism advocates the idea of a strong and centralized state based on popular support, thus upholding the romantic idea that "government exists to serve the individuals who have created it" (Brians).

In addition to the more obvious political acts of independence, the eighteenth century furthermore fostered independence in a myriad of aspects within life. Within such, one of the most influential was the economic concept of laissez-faire, which largely stressed liberalism and individualism. From such came the ardent rejection of mercantilism and the adoption of capitalism. Prior to the Eighteenth Century, people were complacent of the place they had been born into: nobles, peasants, or merchants (Brians). Capitalism became increasingly influential, as it not only changed the economy and individualism, but also created a new availability of money that had previously only been attainable by nobles. Such, had a notable impact on creating "the free market in the arts in which entrepreneurial painters, composers, and writers could seeks out sympathetic audiences to pay them for their works" (Brians). Such was imperative for individualism within the arts, as it allowed artists to no longer rely on the Church's sponsorship nor on that of the aristocrat (Brians). Accordingly, unlike in past centuries, artists could now pursue and afford to establish their own individual and often idiosyncratic style.

Capitalism itself was also largely the result of the Industrial Revolution, which furthermore affected Romanticism. This is so, as the Industrial Revolution created unrest within poets, philosophers and social critics. Such can be seen in William Blake's writing, through which in works such as "London" and "The Chimney Sweeper" Blake juxtaposes the Church and the "suffering of abused working children," in order to force one to regard reality and to portray a more emotional outlook on society, rather than a rational one (Fettner).

Romantic literature's influence originated from one of the greatest individualistic literary figures throughout history, William Shakespeare. Contrary to common belief, "academic critics at first scorned [Shakespeare's] indiscipline, [and] his rejection of their concepts of drama which were derived in part from ancient Roman and Greek patterns" (Brians). Accordingly, Shakespeare's indifference towards the classics and their confining rules inspired English romantics to pursue spontaneity, creativity and individualism within their writing. "To the Romantics, [Shakespeare] was the essence of folk poetry, the ultimate vindication of their faith in spontaneous creativity" (Brians).

Although romantic elements originated as early as Shakespeare, "many critics now date English literary romanticism from the publication of [William] Wordsworth and [Samuel Taylor] Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads (1798)" (Landay). Some key aspects of Romanticism in English romanticism are "sensibility, privitism, love of nature, sympathetic interest in the past, especially in the medieval, mysticism, individualism, romanticism criticism, and a reaction against whatever characterized neoclassicism" (Holman).

Wordsworth and Coleridge are quite exemplary of England's Romanticism although while they collaborated on the writing of several poems, the two withheld differing views. Wordsworth particularly "pressed for the use of natural everyday diction in literary works" whereas Coleridge "emphasized the importance of the poet's imagination and discounted adherence to arbitrary literary rules" (Landay). As seen in "The World is Too Much With Us," "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways," "My Heart Leaps Up," and "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth's style can be characterized by having: "images from nature to show connections between humans and the natural world, direct statements of emotion, philosophical statements of personal beliefs, ordinary experiences, objects, and people transformed by the imagination and presented in an unusual way, and simple diction, or word choice, to express complicated feelings and abstract concepts" (Applebee 739). By comparison, Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a literary ballad has the characteristics of a folk ballad in that it: "is a brief narrative intended to be set to music, opens abruptly, recounts a single dramatic…episode, contains supernatural elements, [and] implies more than it actually tells" (Applebee 766).

Four other noteworthy English poets were Lord Byron, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Keats, all who all took a greater interest "on the individual self [and] on the poet's personal reaction to life" (Landay). As his "poems and paintings are radiant, imaginative, and heavily symbolic, [thus] indicating the spiritual reality underlying the physical reality," William Blake was "probably the most singular of the English romantics" (Landay). Blake's individualistic style is quite evident in "The Sick Rose," as Blake utilizes the natural and traditional sense of a rose to portray the themes of beauty and love. Additionally, "several key terms have sexual connotations: 'worm,' 'bed,' and 'crimson joy'" (Booth 962). Accordingly, the poem exemplifies Blake's personal reaction to the concept of love. Similarly, in Percy Shelley's "Ozymandias," one is presented with the themes of time and power encapsulated in a "colossal wreck" to portray Ozymandias' power being mocked by nature (Applebee 782). Keats' emphasis on the individual self can likewise be seen explicitly in "Ode on a Grecian Urn," as the urn is representative of human life and therefore their inability to control neither change nor time. In "Ode on a Grecian Urn," the speaker additionally emphasizes the beauty of imagination and the beauty of objects in "spirit" rather than through perception (Booth, 1099).

In addition to Shakespeare's influence on literature, Gothic Romance became another significant contribution to Romanticism. While in the classics heroes and heroines had been raised to nearly the status of an immortal, this did not become the case in Romanticism. Instead, "rejecting the Enlightenment ideal of balance and rationalism, readers eagerly sought out the hysterical, mystical, passionate adventures of terrified heroes and heroines in the clutches of frightening, mysterious forces" (Brians). Perhaps the most classic Gothic works are those of Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. Within Shelley's Frankenstein, one notes several of Romanticism's elements. From these, in addition to terror, one notes religious allusions, as seen by "I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel" (Shelley 89). Moreover, throughout the novel Shelley often utilizes passionate words such as "ardent" and "abhor" in order to invoke strong and quite often irrational emotions. Such is quite idiosyncratic to Gothic Romance for as where "Voltaire…abhorred 'enthusiasm' and strove to dispel the mists of superstitions; the Gothic writers evoked all manner of irrational scenes designed to horrify and amaze" (Brians).

Due to its European origin, Romanticism within America occurred later and roughly between the period of 1830 and 1865. Within the realm of literature, this period can be said to be "America's first great creative period, a full flowering of the romantic impulse on American soil" (Holman). Emerging, as quite influential and exemplary literary figures, were Henry Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson for "in the United States, romanticism had philosophic expression in transcendentalism" (Landay). In accordance with the period consumed with westward expansion and troubled with the institution of slavery, "moral qualities were significantly present" throughout their writing (Holman). Appropriately, poets such as Edgar Allan Poe produced works of mystery and "works in the romantic vein" (Landay). In response to the political events of that era, writers such as Walt Whitman, also "expressed pride in [their] individual self and the democratic spirit" (Landay).

With respect to the visual arts, "nineteenth-century romanticism was characterized by the avoidance of classical forms and rules, emphasis on the emotional and spiritual, representation of the unattainable ideal, nostalgia for the grace of the past ages, and a predilection for exotic themes" (Landay). Two key aspects in Romanticism were the belief of functioning "through feeling rather than through thinking," and the "shift in emphasis from reason to feeling, from calculation to intuition, and from objective nature to subjective emotion" (Kleiner 827). Within visual art, Romanticism flourished from the period between 1800 and 1840. Like in literature, visual art also explored the outer edges of consciousness through the depiction of the concept of the nightmare, which ideally portrayed moods of "horror in dark fantasies-in the demonic, in the macabre, and often in the sadistic" (Kleiner 828). This can explicitly be seen within Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare in which Fuseli combined "Baroque dynamism with naturalistic details" (Kleiner 828). In contrast to Romantic literature, Romantic painting did at times incorporate elements of Neoclassicism. Such can be seen through works by William Blake, for while he "admired ancient Greek art" he nevertheless "did not align himself with prominent Enlightenment figures" (Kleiner 829). Moreover, he accordingly portrayed and emphasis on the emotional and spiritual, as seen in his Ancient of Days. Other prominent artists, such as Eugène Delacroix, portrayed grand drama. Not surprisingly, Delacroix focused his subjects on Romantic literary works. Such can be seen in his Death of Sardanapalus, of which "was inspired by Lord Byron's 1821 narrative poem Sardanapalus" (Kleiner 834). Like several artists, Delacroix also turned to current events, with particular interest in tragic ones. One instance of such, is in his painting Liberty Leading the People which was "based on the Parisian uprising against the rule of Charles X" (Kleiner 834). Like in literature, it was quite allegorical and portrayed a balance and contrast through the dying bodies lying around the figure of Liberty. As in literature, Romanticism in art spread globally, as seen by the Hudson River School, located in the United States which focused on landscape paintings but was nonetheless influenced by Romanticism. Appropriately, within sculpture, one can additionally note the desire to portray nature at its rawest, as seen by Antoine-Louis Barye's Jaguar Devouring a Hare. In such work, one can note the "Romantic obsession with strong emotion and untamed nature" (Kleiner 837).

Accurately following in the footsteps of Romantic literature and visual art, Romanticism in music was characterized by "an emphasis on emotion and great freedom of form" (Landay). It is indisputable that "Beethoven is the most important composer of the nineteenth century, for all his successors were influenced or even intimidated by his works" (Longyear 13). Nevertheless, critics affirm that Romanticism in music "reached its zenith in the works of Berlioz, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Wagner" (Landay). Even so, "not a single major composer of this period could wholly escape [Beethoven's] influence" (Longyear 13). One significant aspect of Romanticism in music was that most romantic composers "worked in small forms that are flexible in structure, e.g., prelude, intermezzo, nocturne, ballad, and capriccio, especially in solo music for the piano" (Landay). A perhaps even grader contribution was that of the art song for voice and piano, in which "combining music and literature, created the symphonic poem" (Landay). Precisely, these composers believed that "music had the power to express the unspeakable and to communicate the subtlest and most powerful human emotions" (Kleiner 835).

It is with the words of Jean-Jacques Rousseau "Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains" and his book Social Contract that Romanticism quintessentially arose. While originating greatly during a period of revolution, Romanticism evolved and developed across the world and ultimately across decades as that "the most popular orchestral music in the world is that of the romantic era" (Brians). Remarkably, and appropriately, Romanticism was essentially the reaction to its revolving and preceding movements and subsequently produced led to the philosophical and historical following movements in the nineteenth century.