Please write a short note on the background of the Romantic Age and the important features of Romantic poetry.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the many characteristics and features of Romantic Poetry, I would say that the stress on subjectivity and reverence of nature are two of the most dominant traits in Romantic age writings.  Thinkers like Wordsworth and Keats felt that the true notion of the individual could not be gained in an increasingly material and conformist world.  Rather, the individual must embark on a true quest for individuality and do so in the untainted world of the natural. This is why in so many Romantic writings one sees the individual being able to find meaning set apart from the collective herd of social life and rather engage in a subjective quest for understanding and true notions of self in a world immersed in nature.

lit24 | Student

Literary critics consider 1798, the year when Wordsworth and Coleridge published their "Lyrical Ballads," to mark the beginning of the English Romantic Movement. However, its actual beginnings date back to the poetry of Gray, Collins, Blake and Burns who are regaded as 'Transition Poets' who lived and wrote at the end of the Neo-Classical Age. Critical opinion is divided as to when the Romantic Movement actually came to an end; infact, some critics consider the Victorian age to be a continuation of the Romantic Age and that the English Romantic Age extended till the beginning of the Modern Age in the twentieth century. The characteristic features of English Romantic poetry are:

1. Love and worship of Nature and dislike for the urban life. I quote from Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey":

and this prayer I make, 
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead 
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress<
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts.

2. Love for the Medieval Age. Keats' "La Belle de sans Merci" clearly illustrates the fondness Keats had for the medieval form ballad and the medieval age.

3. Love for the supernatural and the mystical. Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner" is completely pervaded by a supernatural atmosphere.

4. Poetry came to be regarded as the spontaneous expression of the poet's own subjective feelings and did not conform to the poetic conventions of classical doctrines. Wordsworth's famous definition of poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" is echoed in Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale" in which the nightingale  "singest of summer in full-throated ease."

5.Completely abandoned the 'Heroic  Couplet' and substituted it with simpler verse forms like the ballads which belonged to the English rural Folk. In fact the 'Ballad Revival' is said to have sparked off the English Romantic Movememnt.

6. The 'poetic diction' of the Neo-Classical Age was completely  done away with and the language of the ordinary people became the language of Romantic poetry. Wordsworth remarks that the language of the ordinary rustic people was the most appropriate language for a poet to express his feelings because,

"such a language, arising out of the repeated experience and regular feelings is a more permanent, and a far more philosophical language, than that which is frequently substituted for it by Poets."

7. The subjects of Romantic poetry were often ordinary people for instance Wordsworth's "The Idiot Boy."