Romantic Poetry Analysis
Amber Lee Anardi Gabriel Decio ENG251-001 16 April 2013 The Dominating Themes of Nature and Nostalgia The Romantic Period began in the late 18th century and emphasized everything that the previous age had not. Romantic ideals that focused on the heart over the head and the natural man over the civilized man influenced the literary works of the Romantic Era. Themes of nostalgia and nature dominated the works of William Wordsworth, William Blake and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
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These two themes go hand in hand when interpreting romantic poetry, with the development of the hectic industrial cities many poets longed for the simplicity that nature had to offer. Poems such as Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence”, Coleridge’s “The Dungeon” and Shelley’s “To Night” embody the themes of nature and reminiscence. William Wordsworth is said to be one of the most influential poets of the Romantic Era. Wordsworth’s religion of nature was influenced by his childhood, growing up in the Lake District of northwestern England and through his travels to foreign countries. Resolution and Independence” was written in 1802, roughly four years into the Romantic Period. The poem is about a man walking through the countryside after a night of rain, he reflects on the livelihood of the creatures that surround him and initially share their joy until his mind wanders to the dejection he feels for what man has become. He comes across an old man, who he envies because his job is to collect leeches for medical purposes. The traveller envies the old man because he gets to work in nature.
The theme of nature is prevails in this poem as well as the theme of nostalgia. Wordsworth writes “The birds are singing in the distant woods; over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods; the Jay makes answer as the Magpie chatters; and all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters. ” Wordsworth describes the sounds of nature that the traveler hears, clearly showing his appreciation of nature when he describes the birds singing as “pleasant noise”.
As the poem continues the traveler demeanor embodies the same joy that the creatures of nature are feeling, yet his jubilation diminishes when he reflects on what man has become. “The pleasant season did my heart employ: my old remembrances went from me wholly; and all the ways of men, so vain and melancholy. ” The traveler is displeasured with what man has become, describing him as “vain and melancholy”, such displeasure can be interpreted as the theme of nostalgia. William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence” embodies the dominating themes of nostalgia and nature in romanticism.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is better known for his influence on literary criticism rather than his poetry. Between 1797 and 1803 Coleridge’s best poetry is said to be produced. “The Dungeon” was written in 1797 and is about a dungeon in which criminals are forced to reside in. The first verse of “The Dungeon” is dreary and very critical of using dungeons to punish criminals. The emphasis on industrialized cities and the insignificance of rural areas and the upset it causes romantic poets can be seen in this poem. “Is this the only cure?
Merciful God! Each pore and natural outlet shrivell’d up by Ignorance and parching Poverty, his energies roll back upon his heart, and stagnate and corrupt; till chang’d to poison, they break out on him, like a loathsome plague-spot;” Coleridge’s text is trying to convey that when man is separated from his natural environment he might turn to crime. The theme of nostalgia can be seen in “The Dungeon” through Coleridge’s emphasis on nature over civilization, because industrialism is a new concept for romantics.
Essentially Coleridge believes that nature betters a man and believes that sending a criminal to a dungeon only turns them into savages rather than letting them find harmony in the natural world. “With other ministrations thou, O Nature! Healest thy wandering and distemper’d child: Thou pourest on him thy soft influences, the sunny hues, fair forms, and breathing sweets, thy melodies of woods, and winds, and waters,” This quote can be interpreted as Coleridge’s way of expressing how nature can heal man.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge exemplifies the themes of nostalgia and nature in his poem “The Dungeon” through his message of nature having the power to better man. Percy Bysshe Shelley is categorized as the perfect romantic poet due to his quest for truth and justice. Shelley’s poetry peaked in 1816 until he died in 1822. The poem “To Night” is about Shelley’s longing for the day to end and night to come. Shelley wants to escape the day and find refuge in the night, although he never explains why in his poem.
In the third stanza Shelley writes “When I arose and saw the dawn, I sighed for thee; when light rode high, and the dew was gone, and noon lay heavy on flower and tree, and the weary Day turned to his rest, lingering like and unloved guest, I sighed for thee. ” When Shelley writes “and the dew was gone” it shows that he is fond of the nature that occurs at night such as the dew on the grass when the night ends. In the second stanza Shelley anticipates night’s arrival “Wrap thy form in mantle gray, star-inwrought! ” Shelley describes another aspect of nature at night; the sky changing colors and the emerging stars.
Themes of nostalgia can also be detected in “To Night” but are interpreted differently in comparison to other poems. “Sleep will come when thou art fled; of neither would I ask the boon I ask of thee, beloved Night – swift be thine approaching flight, come soon, soon! ” Shelley longs for the night on a daily basis; the difference of nostalgia in this poem is that his melancholy demeanor is relieved when night begins unlike other poems that reminisce on the old ways of life. “To Night” exemplifies a different interpretation of the romantic themes such as nature and nostalgia.
Themes of the Romantic Era dictated the literary works during the 18th and 19th centuries. The most influential theme was nature and poets developed this theme through their works. Nostalgia was also a common theme in romantic literature, as industrialization grew in popularity, many romantics opposed the new way of life and longed for the way things used to be. William Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Dungeon”, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “To Night” all exemplify the themes of nature and nostalgia through their poetry.