The rediscovery of the art and popular traditions of the Middle Ages manifested itself in the so-called 'Gothic vogue', which was the interest in what was wild, irrational, supernatural, horrific
Rousseau's theories influenced the 'cult of the exotic', that which is far away both in space and in time. Danger and disaster, adventure and the inexplicable became symbols.
RomanticPoetry: English romanticism saw the prevalence of poetry, which best suited the need to give expression to emotional experience and individuai feelings. With the Romantics imagination gain a primary role in the process of poetic composition. The eye of the imagination allowed the Romantic poets to see beyond surface reality and apprehend a truth beyond the powers of reason. It is an almost divine faculty. The poet became a visionary prophet', whose as to mediate between man and nature, to give voice to the ideals of beauty, truth, and freedom. Tbe Romantic poets seen the natural world as a reflection of the poet's mood and feelings.
-The presentation of Nature 'as a livingforce' and, in a pantheistic vein,as the expression of God in the universe.
- The use of the language of sense impressions
- The freedom from models and rules
- The search far a new,individual style
- The return to past forms such as the ballad,the sonnet and the lyric poems
- The use of symbols and images as vehicles of the visionary perception
William Wordsworth was born in the English Lake District,which was to become his main source of inspiration. He had democratic ideals which he hoped could lead to a new and just social order. The disappointment about the French Revolution caused him a nervous breakdown. He were healed by his contact with nature, which he rediscovered in Dorset where he went to live with his sister Dorothy, his most faithful friend. Wordsworth and Coleridge together produced a collection of poems called Lyrical Ballads which contained the Wordsworth's famous Preface, which became the Manifesto of English Romanticism.
Wordsworth belonged to the first generation of Romantic poets who were characterised by the attempt to theorise about poetry. Wordsworth writes on the beauty of nature and ordinary things with the aim of making them interesting for the reader. Poetry should deal with everyday situations or incidents and with ordinary people, especially humble, rural people, which are nearer to his own purer passions. Coleridge, instead, deals with visionary topics, the supernatural, and mystery. Even the language should be simple, the objects mentioned homely and called by their ordinary names.
One of the most important concepts in Wordsworth is the idea that man and nature are inseparable; man exists not outside the natural world but as an active participant in it. Nature comforts man in sorrow, it is a source of pleasure and joy, it teaches man to love and to act in a moralway.
Nature means also the world of sense and perceptions. Memory is a force in the process of growth of the poet’s mind and moral character. All genuine poetry takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity. Through the power of memory, the emotion is reproduced and purified in poetic form, generating a second emotion.
The poet, though a common man, has greater sensibility and the ability to penetrate the heart of things. The power of imagination enables him to communicate his knowledge, so that he becomes a teacher who shows men how to understand their feelings and improve their moral being.
A CERTAIN COLOURING OF IMAGINATION= Wordsworth expresses a new concept of poetry, which emphasises the authenticity of a rustic life, the use of a simple language and the importance of emotions and imagination.
THE SOLITARY REAPER = The setting is the English Lake district, where the poet is looking at a young girl reaper who is singing a melancholy strain. He doesn’t know the song the girl is singing, but he thinks perhaps it is a song for old and unhappy things or battles long ago, or a humble lay about a familiar matter or about some natural sorrow. The addressee is the reading public: we can notice that the poet uses the verbs “behold” and “listen” as if he is talking with someone. The scene described is quite emotional and cheerless. The poet emphasises feelings of pleasure and loneliness.
MY HEART LEAPS UP = This poem, moved from the sight of a rainbow, contains a reflection on how childhood experiences influence adult life. The child is able to establish a perfect communion with nature, but it fades away when he becomes an adult. The moments of childhood can be evoked through the man’s feelings when he is admiring a naturale element. The famous paradox “ The Child is father of the Man” summarizes this concept and state a universal truth, though departing from an individual experience.
DAFFODILS = In this poem, which records the experience of a walk the poet went for with his sister Dorothy in the Lake District, Wordsworth’s conveys his lover for nature.
Coleridge was heavily influenced by French revolutionary ideals, which made him an enthusiastic republican. In contrast to Wordsworth's preoccupation with subjects from ordinary life, his own task was to write about extraordinary events in a credible way.
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER, his masterpiece, is the first poem of the collection LyricalBallads, that became, along with the Preface to its second edition, the Manifesto of the English Romantic movement.
In the first part the ancient Mariner stops a wedding guest to tell him his dreadful tale. He narrates of how he and his fellow mariners reached the equator and the polar regions after a violent storm. After several days an albatross appeared through the fog and was killed by the Mariner. The shooting of a bird may seem a matter of little importance, but Coleridge makes it significant in two ways. First of all, he does not say why the Mariner kills the albatross and what matters is precisely the uncertainty of the mariner’s motives which suggests the essential irrationality of the crime. Secondly, this action is against nature and breaks a secret laws of life.
In the second part, the Mariner begins to suffer punishment for what he has done, and Coleridge transfers to the physical world the corruption and the helplessness which are the common attributes of guilt. The world which faces the Mariner after his crime is dead and terrible ; the ship has ceased to move and the sailors are tortured by thirst and the only moving things are slimy creatures and the death fire in the sea at night.
The third part shows how the Mariner’s guilty soul becomes conscious of what he has done and of his isolation in the world. A phantom ship comes closer to the doomed crew and is identified as a skeleton ship. On board the death and life in death seem as ghost cast dice; the former wins the Mariner’s fellows, who all die, and the latter wins the mariner’s life
In the fourth part this sense of solitude is stressed. Then the Mariner, unaware, blesses the watersnakes and beins to reestablish a relationship with the world of nature. The fifth part continues the process of the soul’s revival. The ship begins to move and celestial spirits stand by the corpses of the dead men.
In the sixth part the process of healing seems to be impeded.
In the last stanzas of the seventh part the Mariner gains the wedding guest‘s sympathy. Coleridge does not tell the end of the story, but lets the reader supporse that the Mariner’s sense of guilt will end only with his death.
THE KILLING OF THE ALBATROSS => The mariner doesn’t give any rational reason for have killed the albatross, who is a divine creature that symbolizes the imagination.
The ideal in the real: Unlike Wordsworth, Coleridge did not view nature as a moral guide or a source of consolation and happiness. His contemplation of nature was always accompanied by awareness of the presence of the ideal in the real. His strong Christian faith did not allow him to identify nature with the divine, in that form of pantheism which Wordsworth adopted. He rather saw nature and the material world as the reflection of the perfect world of 'ideas'. Coleridge believed that natural images carried abstract meanings and he used them in his most visionary poems.
Atmosphere and characters: The atmosphere of the whole poem is charged with imystery because of the combination of the supernatural and the commonplace, dream-like elements and astonishing visual realism. The Mariner and his comrades are hardly characters in any dramatic sense. They are more types than human beings and their agonies are simply universally human. The Mariner is passive in guilt and remorse. Coleridge makes him spectator as well as actor in the drama, so that he can recount even bis worst terrors with the calm of lucid retrospection.
The Rime and traditional ballads: This poem contains many of the features traditionally associated with balIads, that is: the combination of dialogue and narration; the four-line stanza; the archaic Ianguage, rich in alliterations, repetitions and onomatopoeias; the theme of travel and wandering and supernaturai elements. But the presence of a moral at the end makes Tbe Rime of the Ancient Mariner a romantic ballad.
KUBLAKHAN, again unfinished, is supposedly composed under the influence of opium, Coleridge described this dream-like poem as a psychological curiosity. It was written after he woke up, after a dream, but a visitor interrupted him and the text is fragmented. Modern critics have seen the poem as a symbolic representation of the poetic creative process: Coleridge considered the poem as a holy product. The first part is about the river, the palace; the second part contains the wildness. There are a lot of SYMBOLS:
- The sea is hidden and sunless= it symbolizes the oscurity of the creation process, unknown for the man
- The fountain= the first stage of the poetic creation process that is ispiration. It is abrupt, sudden.
- The river Alph= it is not a random name because Alph is the first letter of the alphabet. This means the stage of creation of the poem.
- The lifeless ocean is the end.
Kubla Khan ordered the building of a majestic pleasure dome in Xanadu, near the spot where the sacred river, Alph, ran through deeo caverns into a sunless sea. So ten square miles of fertile ground were surrounded by walls and towers. Inside these walls, there were gardens with beautiful streams and wonderfully perfumed flowering trees and there were ancient forests with sunny clearings. But there was also a deep chasm, which ran down across the hill covered with cedars. It was a savage place, as holy and enchanted as any ever haunted by a woman crying for her demon-lover! The sacred river rose in this chasm. It was forced up out of the earth in a great fountain, whose intermittent bursts made it seem as though the earth itself were breathing out fast, thick pants. The fountain threw up huge rocks, so powerfully that they seemed like hailstones or grains of wheat being threshed. The river then meandered slowly for five miles, through woods and valleys, and then it fell into a lifeless ocean. And in the midst of the noise of the waterfall, kubla heard the distant voices of his ancestors, who prophesied war. The reflection of the pleasure-dome could be seen in the middle of the ocean and the noise of the water from the fountain and the caves sounded like music. The dome was miraculously beautiful and wonderfully built. It was made from ice and was full of sunlight. I once had a vision of a young Abyssinian girl who was playing a dulcimer and singing of Mount Abora. If I could remember her song, it would give me such deep delight that with my music, I too would build the pleasure-dome in air, with its sunlight and its caves of ice. And everyone who heard my song would see them and would cry “beware of him, with his flashing eyes and floating hair. Make a circle round him three times and close your eyes in holy fear, because he has fed on honey-dew and drunk the milk of Paradise!”