Felicia Hemans And Jane Taylor Essay, Research Paper
The literacy world of the 19th century saw an emergence of female writers into the male dominated profession of poetry. Many men felt as though their profession was being invaded. They resented women entering the public sphere. This mentality in part helped influence which women were able to write and what they wrote about. Felicia Hemans and Jane Taylor are both women poets that emerged during the 19th century. Both women have used their poetry to help expand on traditional notions of romantic poetry during their lives.
In order to define romantic poetry on must look towards Bronte and Hemans male contemporaries at the time since their works influenced many other writers of that time. William Wordsworth and Coleridge both wrote criticisms on what made a good poet and what factors made up good poetry. In Biographia Literaria, Coleridge defines the poet and poetry. He sees a “distinction from the poetic genius itself which sustains and modifies images of the own mind ” (Coleridge, ). He believes in the power of exciting of the reader by using new “colours of imagination ” to adhere to the truth of nature. In the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth describes the principal object of poetry to make the incidents of common life interesting by tracing our nature. He wanted to use “the beautiful forms of nature” to write simplistically so that many could understand it. He attributes great poetry to a certain type of person:
“For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; but though
this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but a man who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility had also thought long and deeply.” (Wordsworth, 226)
The most important part of this quote is the use of word ‘man’ for it already excludes women. Women were not seen as equal players in terms of writing.
Felicia Hemans was one of the most prolific, critically admired, best selling poets of her generation as well as one if the first women to make a living by publishing her writing. Hemans emerged as a successful “poetess” and was celebrated. Her poetry was so popular that many were public favourites, memorised, and some even set to music. Poems such Casabianca and England’s Dead classified Hemans a poet of imperial and domestic ideology. Hemans work demonstrates many of the traditional genres of the time such as nation and the individual, war and peace, the lives of female domestic lives, and the child martyr. A prime example of this is in the poem Casabianca:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm -
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form.
The flames rolled on – he would not go
Without his father’s word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.
He called aloud:- ‘Say, father, say
If yet my task is done!’
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.
‘Speak, father!’ once again he cried,
‘If I may yet be gone!’
And but the booming shots replied
And fast the flames rolled on.
Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waiving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair;
And shouted but once more aloud,
‘My father! must I stay?’
While o’er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.
They wrapt the ship in splendour wild,
They caught the flag on high,
And streamed above the gallant child
Like banners in the sky.
There came a burst of thunder-sound-
The boy-oh! where was he?
Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea!-
With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part;
But the noblest thing which perished there
Was that young faithful heart!
This relation of a child dying is a common theme of romantic poetry. This poem tells a tale of war and family relations. This poem helps to expand on romantic poetry ideals. Hemans verse expanded on the traditional notions of Victorian women’s poetry. She was the ideal women writer. Many of her other poems encompass the pure long-suffering female which Victorians idolised. This position allowed her to write poems that actually had deeper meanings. Hemans work turns her anger at society inward and romanticises death as the only solution. Heman writings commented on the social situations of the time. She insists that readers confront the violence of war, it’s child martyrs and the female victims that suffer from their position in life.
Hemans popularity wore off as time went on and her words were buried under the works of her male contemporaries. It is not until recently that her works have been resurrected and examined as literary texts of their own merit. The twentieth century reader uses these texts to analyse how gender functioned in the 19th century. By reading women writers of the time we are able to form a better view of what it was like to live and write in the 19th century.
Another women who expanded on the traditional genres or romantic poetry is Jane Taylor. Taylor’s poems like most of the poems of this time have a definite double meaning. She writes from the position of “happy fulfilled woman hood”. In The Poppy and The Violet, Taylor uses the metaphor of a flower to symbolise women. In the Violet, the flower takes on many characteristics that women are expected to have. Words such as modest, lovely, bright, and fair are used to describe the flower. The flower knows nothing of this beauty and is content to bloom hidden away.
Yet it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused its sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade
The use of nature is another example of how she expanded on notions of romantic poetry. She delves into the relationship between the poet and nature. This binary relationship reflects other relevant binary relationships, namely, the masculine/feminine and subject/object relationships. This is interesting because the poet is female and still her writing reflects the ideals of the men around her. Her poem does make the woman the object to be gazed at and admired reinforcing patriarchal ideas surrounding writers of this time.