Romanticism is a movement in art and literature in the eighteenth and nineteenth century in revolt against the neo-classicism of the previous centuries. It is the direct outcome of French Revolution. The French Revolution directly inspired by Rousseauism, had its influence on the Romantic Poets, both in its revolutionary ideals and in its excess of terror. This imaginative literature of the early nineteenth century found its creative impulse in the sociological ideal.
Romanticism is a contrary to the neo-classicism. Neo-classicism can be characterized by emotional resistant, order and logic while romanticism gives emphasis over imagination. The romantics write what they get from their imagination. The romantics tried to see life with new sensibilities and fresh visions. They are deeply aware of their social obligations, but the burden of an exception vision of life drives them into being almost fugitives from their fellow-men. The romantic poets lead the readers to the strange areas of human experience, but seldom welcome him in the language of ordinary conversations, or even with currency of normality.
Romanticism started its journey in English Literature wit the publication of Lyrical Ballads, a joint work of Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798. Its communion with nature, interest in simple human life, profound impulsiveness, imaginative propensity and lyrical subjectivity etc. are its salient features.
Romantic age is essentially an age of verse. The spirit of romanticism is found primarily struck in poetry in the liberation of poetic inspiration and impulses. This dominant of poetry is found echoed in words worth’s famous saying, “Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge.
Romantic poets had a strong power of imagination. All the poets of this period possess this imaginative power which made their works different from their predecessors. We see the use of this imagination in “Kubla Khan” and “The Ancient Mariner” of Coleridge.
The imaginative power of the romantic poets leads them to mysticism. The poets of romantic age found interested in the mysticism. The poets of romantic age found interested in the mysterious unknown world that lives on the other side of life. Wordsworth viewed nature from a mystic angle, Coleridge’s mysticism found in his fascinating treatment of the supernatural world in his poems, Keats, Shelly and other poets also deal with mysticism.
Love for beauty and nature is another feature of romanticism. All the romantic poets had a deep interest in nature not as a center of beautiful science but as an informing and spiritual influence on life. The common elements of nature i.e. the rising sun, the blooming flower and deep blue sky are like living soul-mighty and gigantic to the romantic poets. The romantic poets also found everything lovely and beautiful in nature and man. “Beauty is truth and truth beauty” is the poetic philosophy of the age of romanticism.
The romantic poets are found to deal with human life in its essential traits, in liberty, simplicity and purity, childhood and primitive simplicity are idealized by Wordsworth whereas Byron and Shelly remain the assertive poets of humanity. Other poets and prose writers also deal with humanity.
Hellenism is finely incorporated and echoed in the poetry of romantic age, mainly in the poems of Shelley and Keats. The romantic poets looked upon Greek Literature. They did not borrow the elements but the content of Greek Literature and shaped it with their own genius as like as Shelley did in “Prometheus Unbound”
The romantic poets gave emphasis upon content rather than form and structure. The content of a literary work is the measure by which the romantics measured a literary work. The romantic poets deny the notion that poetry has its own exceptional word stock. They used simple diction rather than elevated diction. They used the word of rustic and daily life in their poetry. Wordsworth, in the later editions of Lyrical Ballads said that the Language of poetry ought to be the same as the language of a simple farm-worker.
Every literary period is sharply inspired by the social and political condition of its own time. But romanticism is free from this kind of inspiration. It criticizes the growth of industry and town though it took birth in the golden period of industrious revolution. The romantic poets turning to nature for protection also criticize the traditional religious belief of the time.
The romantic literature was marked, and is always marked, by a strange reaction and protest against the bondage of rule and custom in science and theology, as well as literature, generally tent to fetter the free human spirit. Romantic poets are essentially subjective self-revelation a creed with them. In their poetry may be found much of their mind and spirit. They seem to take their readers into confidence and pour into their ears all their passions and pains, all their dreams and desires. It’s a cardinal element in all romantic poets. As in the prelude’s words worth made an epic of personal experience based on his own life.
In general, these are the features of romanticism. Of course, romantic poetry is no sudden phenomenon in the literature of England. It is rather an inevitable reaction of the artificial and critical poetry of the eighteenth century with all the features mentioned above.