From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The term "Romantic Poetry" refers primarily to a particular style and mode of poetry that emerged in the late 18th century and continued into the early 19th, largely as a reaction against the prevailing Enlightenment ideals of the day. Inevitably, the characterization of a broad range of contemporaneous poets and poetry under the single unifying name can be viewed more as an exercise in historical compartmentalization than an actual attempt to capture the essence of the actual ‘movement’. Indeed, the term “Romanticism” did not arise until the Victorian period. Nonetheless, poets such as William Wordsworth were actively engaged in trying to create a new kind of poetry that emphasized intuition over reason and the pastoral over the urban, often eschewing classical forms and language in an effort to use ‘real’ language.
Wordsworth himself in the Preface to his Lyrical Ballads defined good poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings,” though in the same sentence he goes on to clarify this statement by asserting that nonetheless any poem of value must still be composed by a man “possessed of more than usual organic sensibility [who has] also thought long and deeply”. Thus, though many people seize unfairly upon the notion of spontaneity in Romantic Poetry, one must realize that the movement was still greatly concerned with the idea of composition, of translating these emotive responses into the form of Poetry. Indeed, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, another prominent Romantic poet and critic in his On Poesy or Art sees art as “the mediatress between, and reconciler of nature and man”. Such an attitude reflects what might be called the dominant theme of Romantic Poetry: the filtering of natural emotion through the human mind in order to create art, coupled with an awareness of the duality created by such a process.
Early to Late Romanticism
The first period of British Romanticism, beginning around 1790 was mainly defined by the works of William Wordsworth, William Blake, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The movement was, in a sense, formalized with the joint publication by Wordsworth and Coleridge of Lyrical Ballads in 1798. The work emphasized what would become the key tenets of Romanticism, namely the reconciliation of man and nature, along with an attempt to abandon the high language of 18th century English poetry and to attempt to convey poetic ideas via a common vernacular.
Cult of Personality
Perhaps due to the perceived personal nature of Romantic poetry (one which the Romantic Poets themselves are not entirely innocent of encouraging), there has often been a fascination with the lives of the Romantic poets. This view is often reinforced by the imagery conjured up in contemporary discourse due to the fact that a number of them died before reaching thirty, notably Percy Bysshe Shelley (29) and John Keats (25). This has led to a conflation of the lives of the Romantic poets with the poetry itself.
Readers of Romantic poetry usually come into contact with literary criticisms about the influence of opium on its works. Whether or not opium had a direct effect is still up for debate, however the literary criticisms that have emerged throughout the years suggest very compelling things about opium and its impacts on Romantic texts. Usually these criticisms tend to focus on poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thomas De Quincey and George Crabbe.
The scope of influence exerted by Romantic Poetry is often hard to quantify, despite certain obvious instances such as in the Modernist poetry of William Butler Yeats, who even went so far as to call his generation “the last romantics”. Certainly, the cultural idea of Romanticism still persists very much today, as an evocative term that is often as much associated with the lives of the Romantic Poets as the poetry itself. Pionerring in this respect is the poet Dave Wilen, of Buffalo Grove, IL whose late twentieth century romantic verse is evocative of his great love and respect for women. Said Wilen, "From the loin of her bosom may I rest my brow." Now semi-retired, Wilen's influence on romantic notions between the sexes and deep admiration for women is just now being fully felt. You can find his complete works in the "Infinity of a Moment Anthology", compiled by Marc Alexander of Chicago, Illinois, and Buddy Miles of Buffalo, NY.
Major Romantic poets
- Brazil: Álvares de Azevedo, Castro Alves, Casimiro de Abreu, Gonçalves Dias
- England - Big Six: William Blake, George Gordon Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Shelley, William Wordsworth, John Keats; see British Romanticism
- France: Alphonse de Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire; see French Romanticism
- Germany: Novalis, Clemens Brentano, Joseph von Eichendorff, Achim von Arnim
- Hungary: János Arany
- Ireland: Thomas Moore
- Italy: Giacomo Leopardi, Ugo Foscolo
- Poland: Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Zygmunt Krasiński
- Romania: Mihai Eminescu
- Russia - Golden Age of Russian Poetry: Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov, Fyodor Tyutchev, Evgeny Baratynsky
- Scotland: Robert Burns, Joanna Baillie
- Spain: Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, José de Espronceda,
- United States: Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Minor Romantic poets
- Brazil: Qorpo Santo, Sousandrade
- Czech Republic: Karel Hynek Macha, Rainer Maria Rilke
- Denmark: Adam Oehlenschläger, Jakob Orbesen, Hans Christian Andersen
- England: Robert Southey, James Henry Leigh Hunt, Thomas Chatterton, John Clare, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Lady Anne Lindsay, Charlotte Smith
- France: Alfred de Vigny, Gerard de Nerval, Leconte de Lisle
- Hungary: Sándor Petőfi, Mihály Vörösmarty
- Iceland: Jónas Hallgrímsson
- Ireland: James Clarence Mangan, Thomas Davis
- Norway: Henrik Arnold Wergeland, Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven
- Portugal: Almeida Garrett, Alexandre Herculano
- Russia: Vasily Zhukovsky, Konstantin Batyushkov
- Spain: José de Espronceda
- Scotland: James Macpherson, Walter Scott
- Slovenia: France Prešeren
- Sudan: Rashad Hashim
- Sweden: Erik Johan Stagnelius
- Ukraine: Taras Shevchenko