Showing posts with label Romantic Poetry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romantic Poetry. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

W. B. Yeats as a Romantic Poet

W. B. Yeats, a major modern poet, penned poems that are marked with modern human anxieties and crises, many of which contain romantic elements such as subjectivity, high imagination, escapism, romantic melancholy, interest in myth and folklore, etc. Influenced by the romantic poets, Yeats wrote many of his poems, especially his early poems, following the style that the Romantic poets followed. The poet felt so much influenced by the romantic poets that he characterized himself as one of the last romantics. A careful study of his poems will show that his poems that are written in romantic mode are as perfect in romantic qualities as those of Keats or Shelley.

“The lake Isle of Innisfree” is one of Yeast’s most famous romantic poems, containing almost all the romantic elements in it. It is a highly subjective and imaginative poem since the isle is not a real place situated anywhere in Ireland, rather an ideal land of romance. The poet has not only created the isle out of his imagination he has also imagined the beauties, sounds and comforts of the place. The isle is so peaceful and comfortable that the poet, tired of the tension and anxieties of town life, wishes to go there to get rid of the weariness of city life and to live alone in the close contact of nature. The place appears so beautiful, comfortable and peaceful to the poet that he decides to build a cottage there with clay and wattles. He also wishes to harvest his food from the isle by planting nine bean-rows and keeping a bee-hive there.

The poet reaches the peak of his romantic imagination when he visualizes peace dropping slowly in the isle from “the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings” and where “midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow and evening is full of the linnet’s wings”.
The poet is so fascinated by the charms of the isle that he cannot keep him away from the place. Even when he is busy with his daily life or is standing on the roadway or on the pavements grey, he hears the lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore.
The poem thus contains the essential romantic elements like escapism, love for nature, imagination, subjectivity, dreaminess, romance of imaginary sounds and beauties, etc. Because of the presence of these qualities the poem puts the poet in the direct line of romantics with Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth.
“The Stolen Child” is another famous poem of Yeats containing romantic elements. The environment of Sleuth Wood in the lake is so dreamy that fantastic things happen here. There is a leafy island here where flapping herons wake and where the water-rats feel drowsy. The poet along with these herons and water rats walk in the lake all night dancing and mingling hands with the faeries. They leap to and fro in the lake water chasing “the frothy bubbles”. But the real world is not so beautiful and not so free from troubles and anxieties. “While the world is full of troubles/ And is anxious in its sleep”, the rocky highland of Sleuth Wood is full of delights and dreams. That is why the poet invites the peace seeking trouble stricken people to come to this place:
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

This poem reminds one of Wordsworth who often, tired of the cruelties of the harsh realities of time, liked to be lost in the lap of nature. Like Keats, Yeats in this poem wants to escape to a dreamy land where he thinks there are no troubles and human anxieties, and the fantasy that the poet creates in the poem out of his imagination places him next to S. T. Coleridge.

“The Wilde Swan at Coole” is another romantic poem of Yeats. The poet appears to be Wordsworthian in delineating the beauty of nature. The poet gives an impressive description of the lake at Coole Park. The poet finds fifty-nine swans perching on the stones of the lake in a beautiful, serene, calm and quiet atmosphere. This bewitching scene of the swans perched on the stones in the lake leads the poet to think of the high quality of life that the swans possess. The swans are beyond the harsh realities of human life while human life here is full of problems and troubles. The poet says of the swans:

Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will
Attend upon them still.

This contrast between the swans and the humans reminds one of the contrast made by Keats between nightingales and humans in his “Ode to Nightingale” where he says of the nightingale: “Thou are not born to death, immortal bird”. Like Keats’ nightingales, Yeats’ swans are not born to death. If an individual swan dies, the race remain and continue. Their hearts remain ever youthful and they can fly wherever they like. They are free and moved by the idea of passion and conquest. Unlike human beings, they are never touched by the onslaught of fever and fret and they do not have to face defeat and broken dream. In this way they become the symbol of immortality and fulfillment.

Like these early poems, some of his later poems also contain romantic elements. One such poem is “Sailing to Byzentium”. Like the lake isle of Innisfree, Byzentium is an ideal place. The poet completely frustrated and fed up by the decadence and degeneration of modern life escapes to the ideal world of Byzentium. This poem also reminds us of Keats’ “Ode to Nightingale”. Like Yeats, Keats frustrated and fed up by the harsh realities of life escape to the world of the nightingale.

Like the Romantics, Yeats had an intense interest in ancient myth and legend. He frequently uses the Greek, Medieval and Irish myths and legends in his poems which take the poet to the remote past. We also find in his poems the use of magic and Irish folkloric beliefs. For example, the use of numbers such as nine, nineteen, fifty-nine, has a magical overtone. In “The lake Isle of Innisfree” he wants to plant nine bean-rows; in “The Wilde Swans at the Coole” he sees fifty-nine swans. In Irish folklore the number nine is a lucky number.

The Romantic poems were subjective poems containing the poets’ personal views and ideas on different things. Many of Yeats’ poems reflect his own personal views and ideas on different things and many of his poems directly take the subject matter from his own personal life. “A Prayer for My Daughter” is one such poem in which the poet prays for some qualities to be possessed by his daughter. “Among the School Children” is another personal poem in which the poet becomes nostalgic wandering in his childhood days. Besides, his personal love with Maude Gonne and his frustration in love with her have been the themes of many of his poems. His bitter feelings about Maude Gonne’s attitude towards him also have romantic overtone.
In the light of the above discussion, we can say that W. B. Yeats is a poet of the romantic mode. His highly imaginative mind, tendency to escape to the ideal world to get rid of the cruel realities of time, love for nature, desire to pass time alone and to find comfort in the lap of nature, use of myth, legend, magic and Irish folkloric beliefs, expression of his personal views and ideas, incorporation of his personal sufferings and frustrated feelings—all these put the poet in the direct line with the Romantics.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

‘It’s a Beauteous Evening Calm and Free’ by Wordsworth as a Petrarchan Sonnet

Perfected by fourteenth century Italian poet Petrarch the Italian sonnet is essentially a lyric poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines. An Italian sonnet is divided into two parts: octave and sestet. The first eight lines of an Italian sonnet are collectively known as an octave, and the rest six lines are known as sestet. The rhyme of the octave is a b, b a, a b, b a. and rhyme of the sestet is c d e, c d e. This strongly established rhyme scheme gives the poem a clear overall structure. 

The two sections namely octave and sestet of a sonnet normally have different tones. One main idea is deposited or established in the octave and it is the task of the sestet to complement or develop it. The first known sonneteers in English Sir Thomas Wyatt and Earl of Surrey used this Italian scheme, as did the later English poets including John Milton, Thomas Gray, William Wordsworth and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

‘It is a Beauteous Evening Calm and Free’ by Wordsworth is a typical Petrarchan sonnet which is divided into two units: octave and sestet. The octave has been used to give the picture of a beautiful and tranquil sunset. It opens to elaborate the admiration the poet feels for the evening. The peaceful atmosphere of the evening is compared to the holy calmness of a nun’s praying to God with absolute concentration. The bright sun is sinking down in its tranquility and the calmness of heaven shades over the sea. And amidst all these- the peaceful evening, the sunset, and the roaring of waves of the sea, the poet feels the presence of an eternal Being, God. So here in the octave the poet establishes a close contact between the nature and God.

 IT is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun Breathless with adoration;
the broad sun Is sinking down in its tranquillity;
The gentleness of heaven broods o'er the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder--everlastingly.

Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worship'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.

The sestet opens with the poet’s address to a girl child walking with him. It seems to the poet that the child is untouched by the solemn atmosphere of the evening. But soon he realizes that this indifference to unearthly beauty does not minimize the divinity of the child. The child has a divine nature. She is close to divinity, just like the Holy priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus the sestet brings the whole theme , established in the octave, to a satisfactory end.

The glorification of the childhood is a common theme in Wordsworth’s poetry. Here, he is also doing the same thing. He finds a child quite different from an adult person. A child is truly close to God, but the adult persons can’t understand it. The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is a b, b a, a b, b a, c d e, c e d, which is a slight variation to the petrarchan rhyme.

The poem is also written in iambic pentameter, which is an absolute characteristic of a sonnet. Thus the sonnet ‘It Is…Free’ is an English adaptation of Petrarchan sonnet in which the personal experiences and interests of the poet are vividly expressed.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Ancient Mariner by Coleridge as a Ballad

The Ancient Mariner by S.T. Coleridge is a literary ballad. Ballad is one of the earliest forms of literature.The refrain of words, lines and sometimes stanza is a special feature of folk ballads. Coleridge makes use of refrain in a subtle way. He makes use of refrain for emphasis or for reminding us of the essence of a thing. In the following lines refrain is clearly meant for emphasis. In he following lines repetition is clearly meant for emphasis:

Water, water everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.”

Musical arrangement of words

Coleridge has shown great skill in arranging the words of his verses in a melodious manner. For the sake of musical arrangement of words he has frequently employed alliteration, assonance, and various rhythms. In the following passage he has employed the hissing sounds of “s” to convey the idea of movement in a musical manner.

Swiftly, swiftly flew the ship,
Yet she sailed softly too
Sweetly sweetly blew the breeze
On me alone it blew.

Supernatural Machinery and Mysticism:-

Supernatural element is an essential element of ballads of all description. Coleridge in this poem has built in a large supernatural machinery to draw and effective and purposeful contrast between things natural and things human. The supernatural world or life has logic of its own and comes into action to impose the due punishment. It even controls, influences, and takes advantages of natural elements like the wind, the stars, the rain, the fog and the mist. The Ancient Mariner is also packed with mystery of an awful nature. The Mariner’s ship is becalmed. The ocean begins to rot. Then the ship begins to sail without a tide. The Mariner tells nothing of who he is and little of what he does. In the poem we find him as a helpless soul passing through strange experiences.

Short ballad stanzas

The poem is written in short ballad stanzas. Many of them are four-line stanzas. But some are also five line, or six line stanzas. The verses are iambic tetrameters followed by iambic trimeters. The rhythms are various. The stanza is the same that occurs in Thoma’s Pery’s ballads. But Coleridge’s stanza is more polished and finished than Percy’s.


The Ancient Mariner has touches of modernity. The psychological effect in which the poem abounds is something modern and original. In old ballads entire emphasis is laid upon external events. In Ancient Mariner the poet describes not only the external events but also what happens in the mind of the ancient Mariner. Thus we are told that The Ancient Mariner felt extremely fear stricken when the ghost-ship disappeared all of a sudden on the sea.

Fear at my heart at a cup
My life blood seemed to sip.

In the light of the above discussion, I may be concluded that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is obviously a ballad in its form. The poem has everything- a vivid story, dramatic action, verbal music, a scenic setting, and mystery. It is a beautiful ballad possessing all the characteristics of a ballad in a more polished and finished form.