Romanticism in Poetry: Definition & Characteristics

Romanticism in Poetry: Definition & Characteristics
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  • 0:03 What Is Romanticism?
  • 1:04 Characteristics
  • 2:06 Societal Issues
  • 3:04 Children and Nature
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Romanticism influenced all artistic disciplines, and was particularly influential in poetry. In this lesson, we'll look at the definition and characteristics of Romantic poetry and look at several examples of.

What Is Romanticism?

Although it is hard to determine the starting date of Romanticism, scholars agree that it began during the late 1700s. At its core, Romanticism is the defiance of the establishment and the buttressing of individualism. Intellectuals advocated for individuals to follow ideals instead of established conventions. The embracing of individual liberty became a major poetic theme during the Romantic period. Major poets who ascribed to Romantic principles in their poetry were William Blake, Lord Byron, and William Wordsworth.

Romanticism in poetry can be defined as the development of individualism and an embrace of the natural world in poetic form. Many Romantic poets revered idealism, emotional passion, and mysticism in their works. Furthermore, a large emphasis was placed on the imagination, which was in response to the neoclassic tradition, a movement that favored science and reason.

Characteristics

A main feature of Romantic poetry was the discarding of highbrow language, which was not accessible to the common man, in exchange for the everyday vernacular. For example, in William Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, he prefaces the collection by stating, 'ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society' can be used in terms of poetry, and cites that readers accustomed to haughtier language may not enjoy the work. Wordsworth, like many other poets at this time, believed that poetry should be democratic, seeking to reach all men. Thus, many of the poems use common language and eschew scholarly language.

For example, the opening stanza of Wordsworth's ''We Are Seven'' discards heightened language for:

A simple child, dear brother Jim,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

The vocabulary is simple and does not overstretch itself, which was a common in poetry prior to Romanticism.

Societal Issues

Exposing large societal issues and advocating against powerful establishments, such as the church, are common characteristics in Romantic poetry. Lord Byron addressed social issues using satire, irony, and a focus on plain reality within his poetry. He continuously criticized the British monarchy.

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