What are significant similarities between Victorian and Romantic poetry?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While there are significantly unique qualities to Romantic and Victorian period English poetry, there are also similarities. Part of the reason for this is the overlap between the two periods due to Wordsworth's longevity as Poet Laureate. He was Laureate until 1850 while Victoria's reign began in 1837 (he was followed by Tennyson). While Romanticism began as a reaction against the rigidity of the neoclassicism of the prior poetic era and was an attempt to reclaim some of the sensibility (emotion, intuition, form, inspiration) that neoclassicism repressed, Victorianism extended Romanticism's beginning, though with modifications such as an emphasis on Medieval themes and subjects.

Romanticism re-enlivened the importance of intuition and imagination, providing in-depth philosophical definitions of each, especially from Wordsworth and Coleridge. For Romantics, the source of inspiration was nature (spelled with capitalization as Nature). This is opposed to previous periods as far back as Aristotle in which inspiration was divine and provided the poet with universal truths to convey to common people who longed for these truths. The new Romantic definition of inspiration carried through the Victorian period under Woodsworth's influence but was, over time, transformed to the precursor of the Modernist idea of poetic inspiration, which was that inspiration came from within the poet directly with no external impetus. The progress of inspiration was that is was believed to come from sources that began with then changed from gods to God to Nature to Man.

Both Romanticism and Victorianism focused on the supernatural (e.g., Coleridge and Christina Rossetti) and on the mysterious (e.g., Wordsworth and Browning). Both accepted the verdicts of the new fields of science that cast doubt upon the inerrancy of the Bible, though Romantics had a more emotion centered response while the Victorians had more science to rely upon. As a result, Victorian skepticism was more solidly committed. While Christina Rossetti and Hopkins are Victorian poets who are religiously devotional, others like Elizabeth Barret Browning and Emily Brontë are more mystical.

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