Romanticism: a Period of Imagination, Nature, and Symbolism The Romantic Period began in the mid-eighteenth century and extended into the nineteenth century. Romanticism was about creative thinking, "thinking outside the box", completely contradicting Neoclassicism, which was about straight forward thinking, "thinking inside the box". It was a philosophical movement that redefined the fundamental ways of what people thought about themselves and the world around them. The Romantic period overlapped with the "age of revolution", which included the American (1776) and the French (1789) revolutions. This was a time of change, where new skeptical ideas were "in" and old traditional ones were "out". In romanticism poetry came new concepts, like the use of imagination, nature, and symbolism.
These new concepts soon became very popular with most of the poets. With these new concepts came new poets like John Keats, William Blake, and William Wordsworth, who soon became leading poets of the romanticism movement. Although using the same concepts: imagination, nature, and symbolism, Keats's, Blake's, and Wordsworth's works are distinguishably different due to their distinct use of poetic devices. The style of writing is a characteristic of the poet.
Each poet uses the concepts in various ways to present their ideas. The concept of opening a reader's imagination is used widely with several poetic devices. A great physicist by the name of Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited.
Imagination encircles the world". Albert Einstein was one of the most intellectual human beings to have lived on Earth. His statement shows the importance of imagination. What he is trying to say is that though a person may be very knowledgeable there will always be a limit to what they know, for they can not know everything, and knowing everything is a limit in itself for then the person can not learn anything new. A person's imagination on the other hand is limitless, since it is so vast, new ideas are always "popping" into their heads. Opening a reader's horizons became a key purpose in romanticism poetry.
Poets started using more descriptive language so that the reader would be able to have a vivid picture in their head and be able to relate better to the images and events presented in the poem. In John Keats's poem, "Ode to Autumn", his use of language creates images only seen in autumn, that put the reader in a sense of awe, making them appreciate autumn for what it really is, rather than the season that comes before winter and after summer. In the first stanza he uses a wide range of imagery to create a visual image of an autumn landscape:" Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, / Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; / Conspiring with him how to load and bless / With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; / To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, / And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; / To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells / With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, / And still more, later flowers for the bees, / Until they think warm days will never cease, / For Summer has o'er-brim m'd their clammy cells", (line 1-11). William Blake's writing style in the poem, "The Lamb", creates a mood that allows the reader when reading poem to picture a little fluffy white lamb playing in a green meadow. In the lines, "Give thee such a tender voice, / Making all the vales rejoice?" (line 7-8), Blake puts the reader in a sort of melancholy mood as if they could actually hear the lamb's beautiful voice.
The poem, "Daffodils", by William Wordsworth creates mental images for the reader through his use of similes and personification. In the first line, "I wandered lonely as a cloud", Wordsworth presents a simile comparing himself to a cloud. This gives the reader an image of a man walking around aimlessly. The lines, "Continuous as the stars that shine / And twinkle on the milky way", (line 7-8) present another simile. Wordsworth compares the vast amount of daffodils to the billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. This allows the reader to visualize a field of thousands of daffodils that look like they go on forever.
Through using the reader's imagination, poets are able to create beautiful images of nature as if they were painting on a canvas. Nature is all around us. Yet, it was only during the Romantic Period that poets in fact started to express themselves through nature and its wondrous beauty. In "Ode to Autumn", Keats uses an Ode style poem to communicate his feelings towards the season of Autumn. In an Ode, the poet praises a topic, and though it may seem small or insignificant, the poet shows the reader that everything has a purpose.
By using imagery to portray the sounds of autumn, he shows the reader some of the beauty that most people don't notice: "And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly born; / Hedge crickets sing; and now with treble soft / The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft; / And gathering swallows twitter in the skies". (line 30-33). In "Ah, Sunflower", Blake uses the sunflower, a symbol of nature, and relates it to a person's life. When a sunflower grows, it grows towards the sun, as if its goal is to reach the sun. This is the same for a person in the means that their goal is to reach the heavens or paradise in the sky at the end of their life. This is shown in lines one to three, "Who contests the steps of the sun; / Seeking after that sweet golden clime / Where the traveler's journey is done"; This poem expresses the similarities between nature and human life. Wordsworth uses the daffodils in the poem, "Daffodils", to show the kind impact nature can have on a person's well being.
"And then my heart with pleasure fills / And dances with the daffodils". (line 23-24) shows that by seeing something so simple, in this case a field of daffodils, a person's heart can be overcome by a feeling of immense joy. Most often poets would use things or events in nature to symbolize human life. Symbolism became a very popular concept in romanticism because it allowed the poets to write something that could have multiple meanings depending on the interpretation of the poem. This opens the doors for the poets to write to a wide variety of people.