Romanticism


The word ‘Romanticism’ has many meanings to it. Most commonly, it refers to a major period of movement in literature and poetry. According to the Norton Anthology of English Literature, this period lasted from “1785 to 1830” (1). This new type of writing, Romanticism, became known in many European countries, as well as, the United States. Most scholars would associate Romanticism with British literature more than any other. Some of the major British writers of the Romanticism period are William Blake, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sir Walter Scott, and William Wordsworth.


According to the America Online Knowledge Database, some characteristics of the Romanticism movement are:


1) “An interest in nature and in the simple, uncivilized way of life. The natural way of life.


Eventually this would lead to the cult of the noble savage.


2) An interest in scenery, especially that which was wild and untamed.


3) An interest in the natural order of things, natural religion.


4) Human moods associated with nature. Nature that is interpreted in a subjective way.


5) A belief in the importance of spontaneity in thought and action. The child in the man.


6) A strong belief in the power of the imagination.


7) The importance of the individual over the group. Scorning of convention and an emphasis


on personal expression.”


Of all of the British poems we have studied so far this semester, the Romantic poet that I came to like the most is William Blake. William Blake is most famous for writing a book of poems called “Songs of Innocence and of Experience in 1794” (36). Blake is one of the poets, whom I think, used all of these characteristics of Romanticism in his poems.


In his Introduction to the Songs of Innocence, Blake makes use of many of the characteristics of a Romantic writer. The poem, from page 43 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, goes as follows:


Piping down the valleys wild


Piping songs of pleasant glee


On a cloud I saw a child,


And he laughing said to me,


“Pipe a song about a Lamb”;


So I piped with merry chear;


“Piper pipe that song again” –


So I piped, he wept to hear.


“Drop thy pipe thy happy pie


Sing thy songs of happy chear”;


So I sung the same again


While he wept with joy to hear.


“Piper sit thee down and write


In a book that all may read” –


So he vanish’d from my sight.


And I pluck’d a hollow reed,


And I made a rural pen,


And I stain’d the water clear,


And I wrote my happy songs


Every child may joy to hear.


One characteristic used in this poem is the interest in scenery. Blake used phrases like “valleys wild” (line 1). It presents a very peaceful scenery. Blake also uses the power of his imagination in this poem. The reader can see this because Blake is telling his story about how he met a child who was sitting on a cloud. This child could possibly be an angel or a cherub. Blake also tells of how the child all of a suddenly vanished from his sight in line 15. This poem also has some elements of the Pied Piper children’s story in it.


Another poem of William Blake that we have read is called The Lamb, which was written in 1789. The poem, from page 45 of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, goes as follows:


Little Lamb who made thee?


Dost thou know who made thee?


Gave thee life & bid thee feed,


By the stream & o\'er the mead;


Gave thee clothing of delight,


Softest clothing wooly bright;


Gave thee such a tender voice,


Making all the vales rejoice!


Little Lamb who made thee?


Dost thou know who made thee?


Little Lamb I\'ll tell thee,


Little Lamb I\'ll tell thee!


He is called by thy name,


For he calls himself a Lamb;


He is meek & he is mild,


He became a little child;


I a child & thou a lamb,


We are called by his name.


Little Lamb God bless thee.


Little Lamb God bless thee.


This is another peaceful and tender poem by Blake. A Romantic characteristic that Blake also uses in this poem is the interest or use of scenery. The reader can sense this by reading phrases like, “By the stream & o’er the mead” (line 4) and “Making all the vales rejoice” (line 8). Blake also has an interest in