Emotion, Nature and Spirituality in the Romantic Era of the 1800's

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Romanticism: Emotion, Nature, and the Divine

The Romantic Era of the 1800's was and continues to be vastly influential to American literature. Down through the centuries, poets, essayists and novelists have been inspired by the masters before them. Authors such as Charles Baudelaire, Jules Verne and H. P. Lovecraft found inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe. Henry David Thoreau, himself a Romantic, found inspiration from Ralph Waldo Emerson. These three major authors--Poe, Thoreau, and Emerson--of American Romanticism have similarities found throughout their writings.

All of them wrote about nature, deep emotion, and the importance of spirituality. This was a complete rejection of the Enlightened ideals of Logic and Reason that came before.

In his own way of using academic language to convey ideals of nature and humanity in order to spite the Enlightened thinkers, Emerson wrote an extensive essay entitled Nature (Emerson). In this essay, Emerson argues that humans do not fully accept nature's beauty and all that it has to offer.

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According to Emerson, people are distracted by the world around them; nature gives to humans, but humans do not reciprocate. Emerson breaks his essay into eight sections Nature, Commodity, Beauty, Language, Discipline, Idealism, Spirit and Prospects— each of which sheds a different perspective on the relationship between humans and nature. In the section on Nature, Emerson states that all of humanity is at one with nature.

Emerson elevates a person who is in tune with nature to a level of divinity. "In the woods, we return to reason and faith.

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..I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God” (Emerson). By Emerson's logic, when a person fully understands the beauty and necessity of nature, they become God. This way of thinking is found throughout Romantic literature and is one of the major themes that ties together different Romantic authors.

Henry David Thoreau also wrote concerning the intricacies of Nature in his book Poems of Nature. In one poem, “Nature's Child”, Thoreau writes as if he was nature. In the poem the speaker identifies himself as “the autumnal sun” and laments over the passing of the autumn season. Thoreau searches for happiness in a season of depression by asking "When will the hazel put forth its flowers,/Or the grape ripen under my bowers?” (Thoreau). He waits for the changing of the season to lift his spirits. He also compares the rustling of withered leaves to his own grief.

Thoreau may have suffered from seasonal depression, a disorder that was not recognized until nearly a hundred years after his death. Through the imagery of a poem, Thoreau expresses the bleak way that he approached life, waiting for some form of happiness or joy. Despite the depressive tone of the poem, “Nature's Child” weaves together two of the major themes of Romanticism. The theme of nature is woven together beautifully with the theme of strong emotion. Regarding strong emotion, one of the most well-known authors of the time period was Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was known for dark, twisted imagery and macabre details in his writings.

He wrote gothic stories dealing with murder, arson, and revenge, but he also dabbled in love stories and comedies. Arguably Poe’s most famous work “The Raven” is a poem telling the story of a depressed man who finds a raven perched atop his door and begins to a one sided monologue with the bird, the raven's only reply being the mantra "nevermore". Throughout this poem, Poe uses vivid language full of emotion such as, “'Prophet!' said I, 'thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! /By that Heaven that bends above us- by that God we both adore-/Tell this soul with sorrow laden if...Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."” (Giordano). In this one passage we have anger as well admittance of a lost love and a mention of religion with use of “prophet” and “God”. Poe assumes that the Raven in his room is a messenger of the divine, either prophet or devil, good or evil, and asks the being for information on his lost love Lenore. Only when the Raven answers with the expected “Nevermore” does Poe become angry and demand that the Raven leave his presence. The Raven denies the request and remains sitting, still perched on "the pallid bust of Pallas just above (Poe's) chamber door” (Giordano). The line between reality and a dark subconscious imagination is extremely hard to grasp with authors like Poe but that is what makes their writing so intriguing to examine.

Whether it is examining the human soul in comparison to sunlight, identifying as an old tree in the wind, or wrestling with demons and dark, morbid thoughts of a lost love, the American Romantic authors have all commonalities. All of the authors reject the concept of defining themselves by reason and logic and they focus on intuition, emotion, and imagination. The Romantics were extremely influential to American literature and art in general. The impressions that the Romantics left upon art and culture will remain for a very long time.


Updated: Apr 04, 2022
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Emotion, Nature and Spirituality in the Romantic Era of the 1800's. (2022, Apr 04). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/emotion-nature-and-spirituality-in-the-romantic-era-of-the-1800-s-essay

Emotion, Nature and Spirituality in the Romantic Era of the 1800's essay
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