Romantic Era Essay, Research Paper
When we think of romance or romantic we often associate the term
with love. People talk about how they want their significant others to be
more ?romantic?. But what does the term ?romantic? really mean. Does it
mean giving flowers, spending an evening alone by candlelight, bringing
home extravagant gifts, or reciting beautiful poetry. Within today?s
society it can mean any one of those things and many more. But in the
late eighteenth, early nineteenth century (1780-1830)Romance was
considered something different altogether. To the Romantics of this era
romance was a way of life. It was their whole life. Romance was their
way of expressing themselves to the fullest as they rejected the old ways
and ideas. This is a far cry from our idea of romance today.
The Romantic Era, otherwise known as the Age of Emotion,
represented a radical reaction to the political, social, intellectual, and
artistic climate of the 18th century, which saw itself as the Age of Reason.
It was a reaction against a view of the physical world increasingly
dominated by science, and a rebellion against the emphasis on the material
and on ?common sense?. Romantics believed that their real links were
with Nature rather than with the urban social existence. This was one of
the many qualities that set the Romantic poets apart from earlier poets.
In Nature they saw beauty, and out of this came their inspiration. Each
Romantic poet tended to have his own individual views on Nature. For
some Natures inspiration was subject matter in and of itself. Others
gave Nature moral qualities, while still others used Nature as a means of
discussing their personal crisis. While Nature was often the topic of
poetry for romantics it was Imagination that was the key to their poetry.
The Imagination was no longer just a faculty for creating fictions. For
the Romantics it was a means by which they could communicate truth,
and as different as the poets of this era were they all shared the belief in
the importance of Imagination. What they did not share was the religious
beliefs and social truths of their society. For the first time in English
Literature the poets failed to find Christianity satisfying. Through
Imagination, romantic poets were able to seek out their own concept of
spiritual truth. In actuality Imagination was the key to their existence.
They believed that without it they were nothing, and with it they could
glimpse the inner most secrets of the Universe. It was John Keats that
once wrote ? I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart?s
affections, and the Imagination?. The Romantics fascination with
Imagination also accounts for another of their concerns-childhood. They
believed that children saw things more clearly than adults did. Children
did not have reason, habit, and customs to cloud their innocent minds.
They valued the freshness and immediacy of child like intuition over
adult reasoning and experience. Another favorite subject of the Romantic
poets was the poet himself. Examples of this would be Wordsworth?s The
Prelude, or Byron?s Don Juan. In these poems the poet expressed the
world as he experienced it. For the Romantic artist the individual was a
being of infinite potential. When discussing the Romantic Era we must
remember that the term ?Romantic? itself was not applied to any of these
poets during their lifetime, either by others or by themselves. The
importance of this was that they were not consciously following any
school of thought and not trying to prove any particular theory. The
very essence of the Romantic Movement was not the rebellion against
society, rules, and conformity; the very essence was the poems themselves.
As a society today we have lost the vision, the power of words, and
the imagination the romantic poets once shared. We have distorted the
term romantic to mean something shallow in comparison to what it once
meant. We have, in a sense, become exactly what the romantics fought
so hard against. A society based on materialism, ignoring the beauty of
nature around us. ?Romantic? literature today consists of steamy
romance novels that have little or no imagination. The plot consists of,
Man meets Woman, Man and Woman fight, Man and Women have sex,
Man and Woman realize they are in love, and live happily ever after.
Obviously this is not great Romantic literature, but this is what our
society considers Romantic. At what point did we loose our ability to
appreciate Nature and use our imagination. The Romantic poets were
correct in their assumption that children see things more clearly than
adults do. In their childlike simplicity they are still able to use their
imaginations and explore worlds yet undiscovered. Even the Bible says
to be, not childish, but childlike. But as our society continues circling in
the mad whirlwind of materialism, one day even the child?s imagination
may be no more. The great Romantic poets are long past, their poetry
never to be forgotten, and their passion never to be rekindled.