British Literature Essay
Literature is one of the most effective ways to protest against the society, iniquities in this society. From early times writers and poets used rhythms and stories for ridiculing the upper class of a society.
Why do poets use poems to tell about social injustices? The answer is simple. This way a poet can catch and hold the reader’s attention, his emotions. Usually poets in their works present facts in order to capture attention of many people. These are not new facts that are presented to an audience. From early times poets used the words effectively to make people think about the situation and make want them to act in order to change the present state of things. Poets and writers know the exact words and phrases that can influence people’s attitude to this or that situation so that they start acting.
Poems are always aimed to reach feelings of people and thus, to pull strings. Literature of every state shows all the complexity of every epoch. When the situation is the same at several countries, it has a worldwide significance.
Before talking about poetry, we should answer the question: What is poetry?
Poetry is a special way of describing situations, things, ideas, feelings. Poets present their ideas in short phrases. They use rhythm to emphasize their feelings and ideas. Besides, a poet can appeal to reader’s emotions via poems. That is why a poem is easily remembered. A poem can be compared to a photograph as it reflects real life, real situations and feelings. In a poem a poet captures the exact moment and represents it the way he/she has seen it. When you read a poem you see the poet’s subjective evaluation of facts, situations and the epoch in general.
Poets of Romantic Movement wrote their poems to share their feelings. They wrote to help people understand their time from the poet’s point of view.
This paper is about Romantic Movement in Great Britain. It is devoted to William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, William Blake, Robert Burns, Mary Wollstonecraft and Joanna Baillie who became a radical group in British literature of their epoch. In the paper special attention is paid to the use of lyric poetry (ballads) and blank verse in poetry of the nineteenth century.
- British poetry.
“The poem on the page is only a shadow of the poem
in the mind. And the poem in the mind is only a shadow
of the poetry and the mystery of the things of this word.”
– Stanley Kunitz
Before analyzing the British poetry of the nineteenth century it is necessary to mention the changes in political, industrial, scientific and cultural spheres of life of that time and caused the changes in British literature having challenged the standards of form and structure in poetry.
From 1776 the American and French Revolutions and later the Industrial Revolution astounded Great Britain and Europe and caused disturbances among people. In the second half of the century Charles Darwin published Origins of Species and The Descent of Man that caused the revolution in scientific thought. This was an unrest period and people were forced to evaluate their values and beliefs again. There is no wonder that the British poets changed their world outlook.
The first stage of Romanticism in English literature began in 1790s. William Blake was the first major poet who reacted to these changes. His poems were far from standard patterns. The poetry of Blake is characterized by long, unrhymed lines, a steady interplay of opposites (Damrosch 458).
A metaphor can be found in titles of Blake’s works. For instance, his series of poems: Songs of Innocence in 1789 and Songs of Experience in 1794; The Marriage of Heaven and Hell etc. Blake believed that opposites are integral parts of life. He wrote about things that we too often forget making the reader look at events from another point of view. Blake tried to use the joy of words. He used figurative language to describe things in an unusual, in a completely new way breaking down the traditions in poetry of his time.
Blake’s beginnings were supported by the efforts of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. They have written a collection of poems, anonymously authored, famous for its poems and its preface, entitled Lyrical Ballads in 1798.
In the preface a poet deems that poems must regard ‘situations from life’ in ‘the everyday language’. Wordsworth describes poetry as ‘the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’. This expression was the manifesto of the Romantic Movement in poetry presenting revolutionary idea for that time. Moreover, the poet emphasizes on the avoidance of artificial poetic style. He believes language must be understandable and enjoyable for ordinary people.
Lyrical Ballads is one of the most significant books which became a major change in the history of English poetry (Damrosch 462).
Poems from the collection are written in simple, everyday language. They are concentrated on the appreciation of the power of nature, examination of human personality, inner feelings, emotions and thought with an emphasis on imagination.
Lyrical Ballads starts from Coleridge’s long poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner and continues with poems manifesting the nature appreciation, the superiority of emotions and feelings over reason. The romance emphasizes individuality, beauty of nature contrasting to formality and artificiality of the standards in poetry of that epoch. A collection contains Tintern Abbey, The Idiot Boy and other controversial poems of Wordsworth written in everyday language. Poets used an every day language before, thus, they did not use it so that they broke down the rules and standards.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is famous for marvelous The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the ‘conversation poems’, for example, Frost at Midnight and This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, as well as for his unfinished works Christabel and Kubla Khan, which is like an obsession that haunts your mind (Damrosch 466).
Dorothy Wordsworth, William’s sister, is an English prose writer. Her famous Alfoxden Journal and invaluable Gramere Journals were published in 1897. Her works are full of imagination while describing nature and personalities of unusual qualities. Dorothy’s prose is sudden, clear and natural. You may disagree with her ideas or conclusions. However, the writer could possibly say that it is enough that a reader reflects on her ideas.
William Wordsworth wrote many short poems which were aimed at breaking down neoclassical verse. He included new poems in the second edition of the collection – The Brothers and Michael. In his works the author tries to speak about life truthfully sharing his feelings with a reader. Sometimes they share ideas, sometimes – a question. These poems and marvelous lyrics were written in his great decade.
Thus, the most famous poem of William Wordsworth is his autobiographical philosophical poem The Prelude. This is a spiritual autography in which the author puts questions of philosophical value, about the purpose of his existence, of his value as a poet. In this work William Wordsworth is the major hero. The author places imagination on the first place among human talents. This work is better to call an epic as it consists of 8000 lines and is separated into 14 books (Damrosch 471).
It is necessary to mention Joanna Baillie, a poet and dramatist. She wrote plays in verse which were highly appreciated. However, she is famous largely for her first published work, a collection of lyrics Fugitive Verses in 1790.
Another talented English writer is Mary Wollstonecraft. She is famous for her works about equality of women concerning education and social life. Mary Wollstonecraft was a member of a radical group together with William Blake and later William Wordsworth. All her life Mary Wollstonecraft remained a passionate defender of women rights. In her works she was bringing up a fulmination against social inequality of women. She wrote Thoughts on the Education of Daughters in 1787 and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which contains a fulmination and a plea concerning equality for women, in 1792.
The second stage of Romanticism began in 1805 and was marked by appreciation of history value, attention to origins, to works of Renaissance time. One of the most noted poets of the second stage is George Gordon, Lord Byron. He put the poet in the central place and spoke about imagination in his works (Damrosch 458).
Romantic Movement reached its high point of art in the works of Byron. In his poems he emphasizes the individual feelings, emotions of a person, not of several ones; expression of feeling opposes to morality and value of nature to a state. The works of Byron are unique and brilliant, his poetry is an outstanding event connected with the Epoch of Romanticism.
When an artist puts paint on canvas, he/she attentively traces shapes and colours for attaining a needful effect. The same Byron does when he writes a poem – he arranges words so that a poem is simple and comprehensible. Byron uses language in unusual way: he chooses words for sound and meaning. He carefully selects and arranges each word to achieve the desirable sound and effect. His major hero is a romantic person who is out of the society. In his poems the author raises the question of immortality. Besides, his works are notable for their flippancy.
In 1820s there was a third stage of Romanticism that spread romantic ideas in literature worldwide (Damrosch 458).
Summarizing, the Romantic Movement in Britain has three stages; every of stages is famous for poets and their works. At this time poets broke with tradition and tried the relaxed rhythms, everyday language and imagination in their poems.
The paper briefly analyzes the three stages of Romantic Movement in Great Britain in general and poets who contributed greatly to the poetry of their country in a more detailed way. Besides, the paper analyzes the peculiarities of literature of that epoch. Having examined the works of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, William Blake, Robert Burns, Mary Wollstonecraft and Joanna Baillie, it is clear it was a new generation of poets in the British literature.
Damrosch D., Wolfson S. J., Manning P. J. (2005). The Longman Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2A: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries, Longman, 3rd Edition, 1120pp.