English Poerty Essay, Research Paper
Poetry was very common in England during the late 1700 s and early 1800 s. Poets at this time were thought to be very intelligent and sensitive. The poets of this time were called the younger Romanticists. The older Romanticists no longer supported radical causes or championed the oppressed. The younger Romanticists poets quickly and noisily took up the cry for liberty and justice (Reed, xxvi). Three prime examples of such poets are George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron), John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. These men were all pushing for liberty, appreciation of natural beauty, and justice for the oppressed. The only sad thing is that only one of the three lived to the age of thirty, and he died at the age of thirty-six.
George Gordon was born on Jan. 22, 1788, in London. At 17 he entered Cambridge University. He read much literature but cared little for other subjects. The public reacted unfavorably to Byron’s often scandalous conduct, and in a fit of temper he left England for Italy. There he wrote additional cantos for “Childe Harold”; “Manfred,” a verse play; and “Don Juan,” a half-romantic, half-humorous poetic version of the old Spanish story. Byron became interested in Greece’s struggle to free itself from Turkish rule, and he went to Greece to help organize the revolt. He died of a fever at Missolonghi (now Mesolongion) on April 19, 1824, at the age of thirty-six. Byron influenced the youth of his day more than any other Romanticist. “Byronism” was a mood adopted by thousands of young men (Frye, 619-626).
John Keats was born in London, England, on Oct. 31, 1795. He did not spend his early years close to nature, as did many poets, but in the city of London. There was, however, born in him an intense love of beauty. Keats had no desire to reform the world or to teach a lesson. He was content if he could make his readers see and hear and feel with their senses the forms, colors, and sounds that his imagination brought forth. Keats was apprenticed to a surgeon in his youth and studied surgery faithfully for six years, but his heart was elsewhere. At 22, he gave up his profession and devoted the rest of his short life entirely to the writing of poetry. In 1818 his first long poem, “Endymion,” appeared. It was harshly attacked by the reviewers of the day. Other troubles also crowded upon the young poet. He was in money difficulties, and he was tormented by a hopeless love affair. He rapidly developed tuberculosis. He died in Rome on Feb. 23, 1821. Among Keats sonnets are “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” and “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be” (Bate, 733-737).
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in Warnham, Sussex, England, on Aug. 4, 1792. Shelley entered Oxford University in 1810. He was expelled six months later for writing a pamphlet attacking religion. On July 8, 1822, Shelley was drowned while sailing with a friend off Livorno, Tuscany. His body was recovered and cremated on the beach. Although he died before he was 30, the English lyric poet Percy Bysshe Shelley created masterpieces of Romantic poetry. Among them are such lyrics as “The Cloud,” “To a Skylark,” and “Ode to the West Wind.” Shelley thought of himself as a reformer. He wanted to free mankind, “To purify life of its misery and evil.” Shelley’s schemes for reform, however, were often impractical. His poetry became the vehicle for his idealism (Richards, 671-678).
These three poets were alike in many ways. The men led tough, productive, but all too short lives. These men changed ideals in society and changed standards in poetry. The changes they made are immortalized in their poetry and will be read by many generations to come.
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Frye, Northrop. “George Gordon, Lord Byron.” Major British Writers. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. New York: 1967.
Reed, Albert Granberry. English Literature: The Romantic Period. Charles Scribner s Sons. New York: 1957.
Richards, I.A. “Percy Bysshe Shelley.” Major British Writers. Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. New York: 1967.