The Pros(e) of Romantic Poetry

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?”

-Percy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind

Romanticism: a movement in the arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual.  I have typically always referred to myself as a realist, that is, until I realized I was a romantic.  I fell in love with Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and so many others in such different ways that I cannot imagine the poetry we read today, without them.  The first poet I came across was Wordsworth.  Him and his friend Coleridge (side note- how amazing is it that they were best friends?) walked together writing poetry with Wordsworth’s younger sister, not realizing they were creating the path to one of the most famous literary movements in history.  While I do believe all of the two’s poetry should be read over and over again, I picked “The World Is Too Much With Us” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as the two to discuss.

“The World Is Too Much With Us” –

“The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” –

“The World Is Too Much With Us” is Wordsworth’s critique on society.  He states how people are too absorbed in the material and working world and there has become a great gap of disconnect between humans and the earth we inhabit.  It is not a somber poem but a more reflecting one.  He discusses nature better than any other poet I have read and every single word is so purposeful and emphasized, it’s hard not to appreciate every poem he writes.  “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is quite different.  I first came across this poem in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  The poem is about a sailor and his adventures out at sea.  It is such a long poem that at times you might forget you are reading an actual poem, instead believing you were tricked into reading a story instead.  The poem is BRILLIANT however in the way that the reader can actually feel every word being said.  One of the most prominent examples of this, and arguably one of the most famous lines in the poem being, “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink”.  The poem was the first in Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s combined collection of works first published in 1798.

Lastly I want to speak of a poet I recently became acquainted with, that being Percy Shelley.  My knowledge on Shelley was scarce besides the obvious marriage between him and the brilliant Mary Shelley.  After learning more about his life and beliefs, I was quite intrigued and altogether surprised that he was considered a Romantic poet, that was until I read his poetry.  Shelley was a devout Atheist and makes it quite apparent in his writings that his beliefs, or lack there of a belief, he wanted showcased.  I looked past his religious beliefs and thoughts and instead looked at his overall wonder and interest in the world and thus realized he is one of my new favorite poets.  I believe some of the lines in various poems are of the utmost brilliancy and couldn’t pick only one poem to share, but instead I chose numerous different lines from a few favorites.

The last stanza in Shelley’s poem, “To a Skylark”

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Again, the last stanza in Shelley’s “Mont Blanc”

Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind’s imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?

A Part of Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call’d on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek’d, and clasp’d my hands in ecstasy!

These are just three poets classified in the century of Romanticism.  There are so many more and so many I have yet to read.  The beauty (literally) about the Romantics and the movement is the focus on the individual and nature, two things that can lack when we look back at some of the other movements that came before and after.  There is something to be said to the poets who could look out at the world in front of them and see everything so clearly and write about it all so effortlessly.  I do believe there has yet to be a movement with as much intention and charisma since.

To conclude I also wanted to share two of my favorite Romantic literature.  If anyone is interested I would love to make a post all about the Romantic novels and authors I have come to appreciate and enjoy.  For now, here are my top two: (Please note- I have yet to read even close to the amount of novels categorized as “romantic novels” but I am slowly and surely getting there!)

Wuthering Heights

By: Emily Brontë


By: Mary Shelley


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