Romanticism, particularly, gives the essence of aestheticism, highly subjective approach, emotional intensity and dreamlike or visionary quality. It was the “greatest single shift in the consciousness of the West” (Berlin). The poets belonging to that era maintained this quintessence and their poetry depicted the same qualities and ideals. The beautiful, creative and imaginative words written in the praise of the beauty of art heightened the romantic effect of their poetry.
This contemporary literary essay will highlight the depiction of art by some of the famous poets of Romantic Age like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Shelley. By deeply looking into their poetry this essay will portray a comparative study of the above mentioned poets.
In the Eighteenth century, Britain saw a great tilt of interest among people towards landscape. This urged the Romantic poets to get influenced by landscape and their admiration towards it in their poetry. Wordsworth “was influenced by picturesque, he read books regarding aesthetic principle of various guide books”(Nicola). Wordsworth is continuously, “from the green fields, from yon azure sky” (4) appreciating landscape along with the recollection of ideas in his most personal and localized poem, The Prelude. Similarly, in Tintern Abbey ,the poet’s eyes are strolling and gazing to the enchanting landscape ofOrder now
“plots of cottage –ground, these orchard-tufts
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
Mid groves and copses” (11-14).
Coleridge, Keats and Shelley were close observers of landscape like Wordsworth. Walter Pater appreciates Coleridge’s love for landscape by saying that he had a “highly sensitive apprehension of the external aspects of nature.” The landscape in Kubla Khan is visualized and delineated with great firmness:
“And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery” (6-10)
Keats, similarly describes the mesmerizing landscape by describing flowers like “hawthorn”, “eglantine”, “violets” and “musk-roses” in his poem “Ode to Nightingale”. Likewise, Shelley’s love for landscape can been seen in “Ode to the West Wind”;
“The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean” (39-40).
Medievalism also held a great importance for Romantic Poets. Romanticism was quite impressed by the glamour of Middle Ages. The lure for the past and especially Medievalism can be seen in the poetry of all Romantic poets. The name of Wordsworth’s poem, Tintern Abbey, shows his love for architecture. Abbeys and Cathedrals could easily be counted into medieval architecture.
Coleridge gave a supernatural touch to his poetry by inducing a medieval tinge. The word ‘ancient’ (1) in the opening line of the The Rime of Ancient Mariner not only refers to the old age of the Mariner but also to the old times. Similarly, the opening lines of the poem Kubla Khan takes us to the distant times, mostly middle ages, to the remote and unknown place “Xanadu”(1). Keats was also a great lover of Medievalism. His poem Ode on a Grecian Urn shows a kind of ‘courtly love for the Grecian Urn’ (Lang) which was one very famous aspect of Medieval Ages.
Portrayal of imagery was the most significant and pivotal thing for all of the Romantic Poets. Their love for the images and art glorified their poetry. Wordsworth had a great love for sensuous and pastoral imagery as already mentioned above. By using this kind of imagery, he not showed his love for the nature but he also recollected thoughts of his childhood in which he praised the nature in The Prelude;
“The orange sky of evening died away,
Not seldom from the uproar I retired
Into a silent bay” (446-448).
Coleridge had a great interest in colourful and luminar imagery. In The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he used words like “ice as green as emerald”, “fog-smoke white”, “yellow locks” and“white as leprosy”. Keats was inspired by the charm of Greek Art sculptures. The Ode on Grecian Urn contains a series of sensuous pictures of passionate men and gods chasing recultant maidens, the flute players playing ecstatic music, the fair youth trying to kiss his beloved and the ecstasy of the passion of love and youth is beautifully depicted;
“More happy love! More happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young.” (27-29)
In Ode to Nightingale, Keats expresses his passionate desire for some Provencal wine from the fountain of the Muses;
“O, for a draught of vintage! That hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene” (11-16).
Equally, Shelley in his Ode to the West Wind, drew clear and vivid imagery like ‘dead leaves’, ‘yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red’ and‘The Aeolian Harp’, ‘The West Wind’ etc. By using such imagery, he shows his desire for the revival of the Golden Age, his radical thoughts, “his rhapsodic and declamatory tendencies” according to Mary Shelley.
Musicality and Lyricism was another aspect that defined Romanticism. Wordsworth’s Prelude and Tintern Abbey showed a specific kind of melancholic music which is “still, sad music of humanity” (Byron). H.D. Trill regards Coleridge “as a singer”. He shares a deep love for music. The second part of Kubla Khan described a damsel playing on a dulcimer which is itself a piece of exquisite music. This depiction shows that Coleridge was in favour of loud and long music. In Ode to Nightingale, Keats’s love for music can be seen because his heart aches and his body is benumbed as he hears the song of nightingale.
By the above mentioned deep and thorough analysis of poetry of the famous Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Shelley shows that their phenomenon and tilt regarding landscape, architecture, imagery and musicality illustrates the spirit of Romanticism and also their love for art.