The publication of the first edition of the Lyrical Ballad marks the beginning of the romantic period in English literature. It was combined work produced together by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Poetry was defined in a new light in this work. Much emphasis was given on simple language, imagination, originality and poetic freedom. Nature was thought to be a proper subject matter for poetry. It was a work of great change and experimentation in terms of poetry. Its publication gave a shock to the traditional poets and critics of the eighteenth century. They considered the language too simple.
Wordsworth is regarded as a forerunner of the romantic period. He brought a completely new approach to the writing of poetry. He had a great love for nature. Nature was God for him because it was a source of his poetic inspiration. Because of his poetic ability and imagination Wordsworth could paint ordinary things with beauty, poetic ability and imagination. Wordsworth could paint ordinary things with beauty and charm. His main purpose was to make ordinary things seem wonderful in his poetry. Though “Wordsworth argued that the language of poetry should be very simple, he could not truly apply it to his all poetry.
Wordsworth wrote many poems and sonnets. In his poem Tintern Abbey the poet remembers his childhood days and describes the lovely view of the nature Westminster Bridge and London are among his best sonnets. The Prelude is his greatest long and autobiographical poem. It contains the own experience of French Revolution. The poet also describes the gradual growth of his poetic genius in this poem. The Excursion is his great philosophical work which he planned but never completed.
Coleridge is also an important leading figure of the Romantic age. He is both a great critic and poet. He is also a literary partner of Wordsworth. Both of them worked together to publish the Lyrical Ballad. Coleridge could make mysterious events acceptable to a reader’s mind.
Coleridge’s famous poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was published in the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads. In this poem, an old sailor describes some mysterious events which occurred during the voyages. The wind failed, the water supply ended and all other sailors died of thirst. All these strange misfortunes happened because the old sailor had shot a great bird. Finally the curse is lifted and he is able to return home.
Another good poem of Coleridge is Christabel. It is also magical and mysterious. Christabel finds a beautiful lady Geraldine alone in the forest and brings her home. But later on it is known that she is an evil spirit in the form of Geraldine.
Kubla Khan is one of the most famous poems of Coleridge. The poem is a poetic vision which he saw in his dream and recorded it as a poem, later on. But he couldn’t remember the whole dream because of some interference while recording. The poem contains the descriptions of the buildings which were built among the caves, woods and rivers. The poet seems successful in producing a strange and magical picture.
Though Bryon was a romantic figure, the classics had a great influence upon his poetry. His poetry is powerful but it lacks the poetical qualities of Wordsworth and Coleridge. His carelessly written poetry is often strong and beautiful. Byron’s poem Childe Harold is written in the Spenserian stanza. It tells the story of a man who goes off to travel far and wide because he is disgusted with life’s foolish pleasures. Don Juan a long poem of astonishing adventure is also a satire which attacks some of Byron’s enemies. It starts with a shipwreck and continues with its later results. But the main story is often left and the poet puts forward ideas on various subjects. Byron also wrote a number of short poems which are popular.
P. B. Shelley
Shelley was a great romantic poet who belonged to the second generation of romantic poets. He was a very revolutionary and uncompromising figure, but his popularity as a lyric poet is undoubtedly very great. He struggled against the causes of human misery and against accepted religions. His first important poem Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude is written in blank verse and shows the Wordsworth’s influence. It expresses joy in the universe and sorrow for the violent feelings of men. His fine poem Adonis is an elegy on the death of Keats. He wrote many beautiful lyrics in fine language. One of his finest sonnets, Ozymandias, expresses the uselessness and the shortness of all earthly power. Some of his best lyrics include The Cloud, To a Skylark and Ode to the West Wind. These poems express his free spirit, forceful imagination and desire to change the world.
Keats blossomed early and died young. He was inspired by reading Spenser. He developed self- discipline both in feeling and skill which Shelley never attained. For Keats sensation was a path to the knowledge and it was the poet’s duty to express it in words. His early poem Endymion is based on old ideas of religion so it was criticized. Keats wrote many beautiful poems in rich detail and accused Shelly of using thin language. He is also famous for his great odes and sonnets. The Ode to a Nightingale is his greatly admired poem. His To Autumn is a poem of scenes season and a mood. On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer is one the best sonnets of Keats. He also wrote a good ballad entitled La Belle Dame Sans Merci in which, a Knight dreams of his lady but later on he finds himself alone.
The Lake Poets
The lake poets are the romantic poets who liked the Lake District in the north-west England and lived in it. These poets are William Wordsworth, Samuel Tailor Coleridge, and Robert Southey. William Wordsworth was a poet of nature and had the ability to make even an ordinary thing charming. He is said to have democratized poetry and made poetry available for the farmers and shepherd. In the preface to the later edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1802) he said that the language of poetry should be the language of the common man. According to him poetry was a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions recollected in tranquility. His well known short poems are The Daffodils, The Solitary Reaper and Lucy. In Lines Written above Tintern Abbey, the poet returns to a scene of his boyhood. His best sonnets are Westminster Bridge, an emotional view of London asleep, and London, which is a cry for help in the troubles of the world. The Prelude, in fourteen books, describes the poet’s own progress in poetry and thought. It has an autobiographical element.
S. T. Coleridge had the ability to make mysterious events acceptable to a reader’s mind. His poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner appeared in the first edition of the Lyrical Ballads. In this, an old sailor describes some strange misfortunes that happened to his ship when he killed an albatross. The mysterious surroundings of the silent ship are described in magic words. Two other important poems are Christabel and Kubla Khan. The first one tells about Christabel and Geraldine, and the second describes Kubla Khan’s great palace in Xanadu. It contains both mysterious and supernatural elements in the description of the palace, set among gardens, rivers, forests and caves of ice.
Robert Southey was less important of the lake poets. He wrote a great amount of prose and poetry. His poems often told a story and were set in far-away lands. The Inchcape Rock and The Battle of Blenheim are two of his shorter poems.