A Brief Guide to Romantic Poetry - The Romantics


The Romantic Movement

The Romantic Movement is a movement that corresponds to the French Revolution which began in 1789. The Lyrical Ballads written jointly by William Words worth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were published in 1798. The publication of the Lyrical Ballads marks the break with the past, with the neo-classical age in the poetry of which Alexander Pope represented the high water mark. The neo-classical poets valued symmetry, clarity, order and decorum. The Romantic poets, on the other hand, valued inspiration, originality and naturalness. Rousseau, on the continent, had said that man was born free but he was everywhere in chains. The Romantic poets tried to free human imagination from the shackles of conventions.

Romantic Poetry - The Romantics

Romantic poetry is the poetry of the Romantic era that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century. The best known Romantic poets were Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron. With them, the emphasis shifts altogether to the sphere of feeling and imagination. These poets look at the world with the eye of imagination, which is honed and trained to penetrate beyond its surface reality and to perceive the essential reality beneath it -  what Wordsworth defines as "the Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe". 

To Wordsworth "poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings". Shelley defines poetry as "the expression of the imagination", while Keats says "I describe what I imagine". The romantic poets thus seek to portray the Infinite within the finite world, the ideal within the actual. The 19C Romantic poets move away from the rational way of looking at the world towards intuitive and individual insights. Thus the single characteristic which distinguishes Romantic poetry is the importance it attaches to the power of imagination.

The women poets of the late 18th and early 19th centuries made a significant contribution to Romanticism. Notable female poets include Felicia Dorothea Hemans, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, Hannah More, and Joanna Baillie.

A list of the major romantic poets

William Blake

       William Blake (1757 - 1827)

William Wordsworth

       William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)


          Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834)

   Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)

  Charlotte Turner Smith (1749 - 1806)

   Joanna Baillie (1762 - 1851)
Lord Byron

       Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)


      Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822)

John Keats

      John Keats (1795 - 1821)

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