In the publication of Lyrical Ballads ,a joint work by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798, is marked the beginning of a new phase of poetry in the history of English literature namely Romanticism. The new poetry has some special characteristics such as emphasis on imagination, spontaneity of feeling, love for nature, dealing with supernatural elements, and love for beauty.
The first characteristic which differentiates the English Romantics from the poets of the eighteenth century is the emphasis which they attach to imagination. In the 18th century imagination was not a cardinal point in poetical theory. But for the Romantics imagination is fundamental, because they think that without it poetry is also the powerful and artistic expression of the spontaneous feeling in man. Interest in humanity –man in his native impulse is the very basis of romantic poetry. The love of nature is another aspect of Romantic Movement. Nature is drawn nearer to shown to be in a very close affinity with the working of man’s mind and moral. Again, love for beauty rings all through romantic poetry.
Among the romantic poets, the chief name is William Wordsworth, whose Lyrical Ballads, a joint product with Coleridge, started the Romantic Movement. Wordsworth, whose Lyrical Ballads, a joint is his love for nature. He is deemed as a complete innovator with a new look for every visible object. He is basically a poet of nature. Inspired with the humanism of the French Revolution and thoroughly disillusioned with its excesses, he is found drawn to Nature as the only repose for the woes and worries of human life. To him Nature is a mighty, majestic living force__ a teacher ___, and exercises a highly conducive effect on the mind of man “Nature did never betray the heart that truly loved her”.
Coleridge is the next name in romantic poetry. His chief importance lies as a poet of the supernatural. Along with Wordsworth in its mystical note, Coleridge’s poetry remains the fine example of romantic imagination as well as mysticism. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Christabel and Kubla Khan bear out this sufficiently. Coleridge’s earlier poetical works mark his love for liberty. He has also to his credit some other poems on love and human relationship. These poems have delicate and subtle psychological touches.
Byron and Shelley
Byron and Shelley are the democratic poets of Europe. They are the poets of men, whose poetry may be termed as the poetry of revolution. In vigour and passion, Byron stands prominent, with a gift of satire. Shelley is essentially a Lyricist with a prominent zeal for the lofty idealism of life. Both of them died young, with immense possibilities.
The youngest of the romantic poets is Keats, who stands on a level different from other romantic poets, He is a poet of beauty, whose fundamental creed is expressed in his dictum __ ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’. Sensuousness, imaginative splendour and verbal felicity are the other gifts of Keats’s poetry. Keats’s Odes are the specific contribution to romantic poetry.
Robert Southey is included among the Lake poets. His nature poems are hardly interesting. His epical poetry on orientalism is found quite interesting, though this is not sufficiently alive with imaginative wholeness.
There are several other poets, belonging to the age, though they are deemed as minor poets. These poets include W.S. Landor, Thomas Moore, Thomas Campbell, John Clare, Robert Bloomfield, and so on.
The greatness of the great romantic poets remains undisputed even today. Many years have passed since their death. But their poetry is not lost in the heaps of the past. People still turn to them and find in their ‘Daffodils’ and ‘Skylarks’ and ‘Nightingales’ joy and consolation infinite.