For Your Pleasure: Examples of Romantic Poetry

Posted: January 10, 2019 in Uncategorized

In semesters past I have assigned these materials. I will not do so now. But I do want to make key selections of English Romantic verse available for curious and motivated students. Please feel free to read and discuss these poems, if you like; but, technically, they are not on the syllabus.

If you find you loathe this stuff, please note that these pieces contrast markedly with almost everything else we will be reading this semester.

p.s. Look for the print button on the upper-right corner of the web pages hosting each poem. This may make your life easier. Also, notice that the Wordsworth poems are the longest and (by our standards) most ponderous. Things will get much briefer and lighter as you move on to the other Romantic poets.

Comments
  1. Abby Citterman says:

    I read Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality and am puzzled by how this poem exemplifies the beliefs he shared in the intro to Lyrical Ballads. In this poem, he seemed to be mourning the innocence and imagination lost in the maturation of a child. There wasn’t a sense of reminiscing so much as one of bitterness, almost, a longing for that glorious, “celestial” stage of life. I feel as though he is romanticizing the veiled view a child has in this poem, but in the intro to Lyrical Ballads, he seems to be opposed to such perspectives. He wants society to persist onward, beyond the mystical, be open to newness and change, yet he laments for waning youth in this poem, for the beauty of the past. The only hope he offers in the poem, as I read it, is in the reminiscing of one’s own childhood, insinuating that no fulfilling happiness is to come from growing up and stepping out from behind the veil of blissful ignorance of youth. It will not get better and it will never be as beautiful as it had been, but at least you’ll still have memories of what it once was. The parallels between the stages of life within a society and of an individual are apparent, and I feel that these viewpoints are somewhat opposing.

    • You are correct to point out Wordsworth’s interest in the opposition between finitude and the Infinite. Also, it’s impressive that you would take a moment actually to read a poem. I suspect you are one of the very few to have done that.

      I can’t say I see Wordsworth as the champion of Progress you mention. Wordsworth was highly moved and impressed by the French Revolution as a young man, though as I suggested in class, he took a miss dimmer view of the Industrial Revolution. Most of the change Wordsworth say in his own day he would have considered change for the worse, leading to further human alienation and degradation. Consequently, he feels keen nostalgia for the past. Notice, for instance, how often he talks about the importance of memory. Nevertheless, we cannot remain children forever. Each of us is doomed to a loss of innocence. The best we can hope to do is retain a memory of our innocence, and cherish it that when we see it in others. The prospecot of Immortality does beckon to us. But I would suggest that Wordsworth sees this as more of a ‘regulative idea’, a thought which inspires us, though we will never be able to attain it. If nothing else, the thought of immortality and higher purpose reminds us that we are something more than mere human resources to be consumed and excreted by the wheels of industry and capitalism.

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