How much is Romantic poetry focused on nature and how much on the poet who writes about nature?  How much is Romantic poetry focused on nature and how much on the poet who writes about nature?

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jrbyron's profile pic

jrbyron | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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This is a difficult question to respond to, given the manner in which Romantic poets - especially English Romantic poets - focused on both natural scenes and events and on the internal processes of the poet him or herself.  If you take a poem such as Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey," which is considered one of the definitive English Romantic nature poems, the focus is not as much on the natural scene presented before Wordsworth's narrator as it is upon the psychological processess the narrator is undergoing over the course of the poem.  Nature, in this poem, is used to provide insight into the psychology of the narrator.  The same is true for a number of English and American Romantic writers in terms of their nature poems. 

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I'm not all that sure about Keats, but there is an interesting quote in "The Rhyme of the Ancient Marnier" that you are probably familiar with:

He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Again, worship and prayer is not an idealized concept, or the pleading/entreating that has been a great deal of prayer over time, is replaced by a love of all things in nature, the things great and the things small.

This has always been one my favorite Coleridge quotes.

If I come up with anything on Keats, I'll write.

 

 

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I'm not all that sure about Keats, but there is the interesting quote from "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" that may help.

"He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all."

timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

[Sorry about the quotes.  This post got mangled, so I just put the quotes in italics.]

I'm not sure that theses two thing can be separated.  The Romantics wrote about nature and their relationship to it, and these two things seem inexorably intwined.  If you take the Wordsworth's classic "Tinturn Abbey," he speaks of:

FIVE years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.--Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.


He speaks of the himself first, stating that it has been five
years since he has been at this scene, and reenforces that
with his "I hear" --- and then immediately lists the things
in nature that bring him the peace that he can feel only in
her presence --- the steep cliffs, the wild scene which bring
on thoughts of more deep seclusion (about him again). More
this symbiotic relationship follows:

These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:--feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:--that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,--
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:

In some mystical way, nature and man are one --- nature
and the city, on the other hand, are not the same.

You can see much the same relationship in the American
Romantic poet Walt Whitman, although he tends to be more
inclusive than Wordsworth in his "Tinturn Abbey." For Whitman, all seems to be part of one glorious whole, and the appearance of separation is the illusion that we must overcome. His vision, strangely expressed though it might be, is almost mystical:


I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

So if I had to answer your questons, I'd call it a tie since these two are so inexorably joined.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that he was a "transparent eyeball," the importance of Nature as seen and felt by the individual began.  Romanticism emphasized the dream, or inner world, of the individual.  The use of visionary, or fantastic imagery was prevalent, with the individual's reaction to Nature stressed.

While some writers felt that man is in harmony with Nature others perceived Nature as an inscrutable force, sometimes malevolent, or even one that was, at times, indifferent.  At any rate, the reaction of the individual to Nature is greatly stressed in the writings of the Romanticists.  In addition, the individual's dignity and freedom was emphasized as was the rebellion against restrictions, and the importance of emotion and intuition over intellect.

With all of these very individualistic elements in Romanticism, the emphasis clearly appears to be upon the writer.  Such novels as "The Scarlet Letter" which express a rebellion against the hypocritical and stultifying Puritanism as well as the dignity of the individual heart are testimony to this individual expression.  Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote his classic novel in response to his guilt over being related to one of the judges in the Salem Witchcraft Trials as well as his urge to stress that their is dignity in each individual; this he portrays in the character of Hester who, though condemned by the sanctimonious members of her Puritan community, continued to do good deeds and be a productive individual all of her life.

epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

After reading Romantic Poetry for years, I would have to say it is 70/30, 70% focused on nature, and 30% focused on the poet. This would seem to make sense intuitively as the Romantic Period was a reaction to the Enlightenment, and as Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote in 1914, One Posey in Art, that "[romanticism is]...the mediatress, reconciler of nature with man."

To reconcile nature, notice that he did not say between, is to explicate nature in relation to man, and man's reaction is found to be from a description of the characterization of Nature followed by man's reaction. Nature is greatly characterized in Wordsworth's The Prelude, while the poet's responses are kept to a basic emotional level.  Nature in that poem is greatly expansive while his reactions to Nature are overshadowed.

http://www.enotes.com/nineteenth-century-criticism/romantic-literary-criticism

http://www.enotes.com/nineteenth-century-criticism/lyrical-ballads-william-wordsworth-samuel-taylor

http://www.enotes.com/samuel-taylor-coleridge-salem/samuel-taylor-coleridge

 

anon's profile pic

anon | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Have you read Keats Autumn?  It presents a different view of Nature.. I think he is showing how Nature is best absorbed in the moment and not as a memory to be recalled during bleak times, as with Wordworth.

Would anyone agree with that?

anon's profile pic

anon | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thank you for your reply timbrady, it is much appreciated.

Throulgh my studies I have noticed that for Wordsworth Nature seems to present not only a way of healing but also that it is his teacher, in a world so full of chaos.  It is his comfort during bleak moments. However, is this the case for Keats too?

How is Nature different in Keats or Coleridge than in Wordsworth?  And also, are there any particular poems that would be useful in order to analyse Nature and Self in Coleridge and Keats?

 

Thanks

anon's profile pic

anon | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thanks for the response mwestwood, but the key point in this question is about the Romantic poets, as opposed to novels, so is there any particular poems from the great romantics that you feel would provide adequate basis for an analysis of this question?

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