The Era of Romanticism: Coleridge, Wordsworth & Blake
Romanticism was the era that depicted expression from a deep sense of thought, as with spirituality. Following the Age of Reason, it took upon itself methods to explore true meanings of things absent logic, as with finding true beauty in nature. With the increase of population, and tools to aid in the growth of literacy and education, there came this era with severe thought seeking truths, stimulation of one's imagination and individualistic freedom of expression. The Romantic period was all over the shop, so to speak, with the desire to be attuned with nature, to explore through experience and then to be returned to some dim room somewhere for the recollection of thought with pen and paper. It was also about individualism and self-expression; an era with a loud voice and urgency, denouncing that logic explains everything. The era was a resurgence of thought being influenced by major changes involving social issues, the role of the economy with industrialization and the political aftermath of the French Revolution. What was to evolve was a symphony of language, a language with passion--a language on fire.
In Samuel Taylor Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, he wrote:
"The best part of human language, properly so called, is derived from reflection on the acts of the mind itself. It is formed by a voluntary appropriation of fixed symbols to internal acts, to thought processes and results of imagination, the greater part of which have no place in the consciousness of uneducated man; ..." (emphasis added.)
Coleridge held the belief that a man who was uneducated and unsophisticated would have had a limited source of language to unfold from his thought process which was not as developed as one who was educated or experienced in a "civilized society."
In Coleridge's Frost at Midnight, his sharp mind was lured with imagination linked with nature as he observed the effects of the season while his child was sleeping. He wanted his child to experience nature in ways he was not otherwise afforded.
"My babe so beautiful! It thrills my heart
With tender gladness, thud to look at thee,
And think that tough shalt learn far other lore
And in far other scenes! For I was reared
In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim,
And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars.
But thou, my babe! Shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores,"
Coleridge is saying that he was not so surrounded with nature, as he might have otherwise desired, but that his child would not be without that experience.
William Wordsworth had a different approach to the "rustic life." Wordsworth wanted to produce language that the ordinary mind would be able to understand. He wanted his readers to have the ability to relate to what he was saying. Coleridge did not agree with what Wordsworth endorsed by way of being attuned to the rustic or common life.
Wordsworth, however, grew up with nature. In Wordworth's It is a beauteous evening, he writes:
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Listen! The mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder - everlastingly.
Wordsworth described this event as being so serene, so uninterrupted with unwanted noise, and yet all the sounds of nature therein made it a religious experience. He was so moved by the event that he could memorialize it so effectively into his own language. He knew nature, whereas Coleridge, perhaps, had to take his awareness of nature one step further by way of imagination. Nature and experiencing nature was a major ingredient to the era of Romanticism.
William Blake was a spiritualist and lover of nature and was one who was all about "seeing" versus one who was not. This "seeing" or raising one's level of awareness as well as experiencing were additional ingredients to the Romanticism era. Blake's Songs of Innocence presented us with language representative of sight through the eyes of a child. His Songs of Experience, then, represented his view that one must experience to see and that experience, too, can corrupt people, thus taking away the child's innocence. Blake clearly had a vivid imagination, noteworthy of this era. Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience depict a popular polarization, as did his piece of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell , a firm collection of thought. Blake wrote:
'Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.
From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing form Energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."
The above expressed language helps to simplify Blake's contrastive views on innocence versus experience, and why the innocence poems should not be scrutinized without the experience poems. Blake subscribed to his own writing method, dispensing with the conventional methods of the previous Age of Reason. He utilized his own individualistic view with the use of his own design, which involved his creative abilities of thought and imagination . He deployed his spiritual beliefs and love of nature in his works. He was interested in the ways people used their respective thought processes as well as the manner in which they acted. With the above cited text, he is proposing that where there is love, there must be hate and because there is hate, there is love. The same holds true with attraction and repulsion.
The Romanticism era was where the writers were more attuned with feeling and communicating those feelings through various methods of language. It was a period of time in which the richest forms of language were born. The poems expressed the writers' minds at work and all such works became important vehicles to deliver such expression. some of the poems are quite philosophical in nature as well as bineg a presentation of images, metaphor, simile and symbols, seeing a circumstance through the writer's tone, nothing the structure, and experiencing its sound and rhythm.
Finally, with Romanticism, it cannot be stressed enough how thought processes were so deep and delivering lines so profound, Thinking began to weave creativity and imagination within the writers and poets as they refused to dispense everything in its entirety towards reason, alone. Taking it a step further, levels of awareness became increased because writers became more in touch with nature and more focused on experience as opposed to staring at an object, alone, and then writing about it. Being more enriched with deeper thought with individual quests for truths and a richer meaning of existence, or at least with the sincere attempt to define it, seemed to be the main drive of the canonical minds.